What is a realistic cost estimate for obtaining a utility patent?

Why write another post on patent costs when I’ve already written several articles, such as initial filing estimates, start-to-finish costs, prices of Office Action responses, and more? If you search for “how much does a utility patent cost” online, you may get some rough numbers. What may be difficult to find is a helpful summary of the utility patent process, and associated costs along the way.

My goal with this post is to shed some light on the utility patent process so that you will have a better understanding of the costs involved in getting a utility patent. It may help to think of the utility patent process in three stages:

  1. Initial filing;
  2. Responding to Office Action(s);
  3. Grant, if application is allowed.

Keep in mind that the final stage of allowance is by no means guaranteed. The path to an allowance of a utility patent may be long and uncertain.

How much does it cost to draft and file a nonprovisional utility patent application?

Attorney’s fees for drafting a nonprovisional utility patent application may range from $8,500 to over $16,000. A number of factors will affect our fees for the initial drafting and filing of a nonprovisional patent application, including:

  • complexity of technology;
  • number of embodiments (examples); and
  • number of different aspects of invention (e.g., system with multiple unique components, device plus method).

As of the date of this post, the standard USPTO fee for the initial filing of a nonprovisional application is $830 for a small entity (e.g., individual inventors or company with fewer than 500 employees). Additional USPTO fees will apply for any excess claims (e.g., beyond 3 independent and 20 total claims) and multiple dependent claims. Illustrator fees can range from $250 to over $800 depending upon the complexity and number of figures. Expect these out-of-pocket costs to range from $1,100 to $2,000 for a small entity.

To sum it all up, our cost estimate for the initial drafting and filing of a utility nonprovisional patent application will range from $9,600 to $18,000. For an invention of low to medium complexity, an initial filing estimate of $12,000 may be feasible depending upon the number of embodiments.

How can you control upfront patent costs?

While the complexity of your innovation might not be adjustable, you do have some control over the number of both embodiments and aspects of the invention to pursue initially. Decreasing your examples and/or components may reduce the initial patent filing cost.

Suppose you have a new system with four components or aspects, each of which is potentially patentable. You may choose to start with covering one or two more urgent aspects. This may reduce the initial filing cost, but there will still be a price to pay in covering the remaining aspects later. Also, you will have the disadvantage of a later filing date for adding the new matter in continuing applications.

Middle stage: ongoing patent prosecution costs

With a nearly 90% chance of receiving an Office Action in a utility patent application, you should expect and budget for responding to rejections. Recent patent statistics indicate a median of approximately four Office Actions to reach a granted utility patent application. Keep in mind that this median would include cases across various technology centers which vary widely in the Office Actions per Grant (OGR) ratio. Perhaps a more relevant metric would be the Office Actions per grant ratio, which varies widely.

Therefore, it is entirely possible that you may have to deal with four Office Actions if you choose to keep fighting against challenging claim rejections or difficult patent examiners.

The cost of responding to a patent Office Action ranges from $900 to to $2,800. The price of an Office Action response depends on these factors:

  • number of prior art references cited by the Examiner
  • number of claims to be amended or added
  • whether an ineligible subject matter rejection under Section 101 needs to be addressed
  • any required drawing corrections
  • any allowable claims or subject matter

In certain situations, it may make sense to talk to the Examiner before filing a written Office Action response. Conducting an Examiner Interview costs $600 at our firm, and we usually recommend this strategy for making further progress. A productive Examiner Interview can save you thousands of dollars and several months of time by avoiding a further Office Action.

If you receive a second Office Action, it will most likely be a “final” Office Action. Most Final Office Actions will require the filing of a Request for Continued Examination (RCE) that incurs a USPTO fee starting at $680.

If multiple Office Action response have not resulted in a satisfactory, you might need to consider an appeal which starts at around $5,000.

If you have any related patent applications (e.g., foreign applications or other US applications dealing with similar technology), you may have to file an Information Disclosure Statement (IDS) to submit known prior art.

Finish line: allowance and issue fee

If you reach the goal of obtaining a Notice of Allowance, you will need to pay the issue fee. Our firm charges a flat rate for paying the issue fee and sending the original patent certificate to the client, which will total approximately $1,100 for a small entity.

What are average costs for a typical utility patent application?

Let’s walk through a timeline of a typical utility patent application and associated costs:

  • Initial filing: $12,000 (for technology with low to medium complexity)
  • Filing an IDS: $200
  • Office Action #1: $2,500
  • Office Action #2 with Interview and Request for Continued Examination: $3,800
  • Office Action #3: $2,200
  • Office Action #4: $2,200
  • Payment of Issue Fee: $1,100

Based on the above hypothetical scenario of four Office Actions to allowance, the total cost estimate would be roughly $24,000 for an invention of low to medium complexity. Several factors may increase the cost, such as:

  • greater complexity of technology, higher number of examples/embodiments, etc.;
  • Restriction Requirement;
  • extensions of time for Office Action responses;
  • additional Office Actions;
  • additional Examiner Interviews;
  • appeal.

An appeal would add several thousands to the cost and a couple of extra years to the timeframe.

For an invention with low to medium complexity, it would be reasonable budget $24,000 for a utility patent application with the expectation that costs may increase due to the factors discussed above. Think of this estimate more as a floor as opposed to a ceiling for utility patent costs.

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Vic Lin

Startup Patent Attorney | IP Lead Partner at Innovation Capital Law Group
We align ourselves with Davids fighting Goliaths. Our registered patent attorneys work as a team to equip startups and founders with solid IP rights that facilitate funding, growth and sales. Email or call us so we can get to work on your IP: (949) 223-9623 | vlin@icaplaw.com