How much a patent costs depends on several factors

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all cost estimate for obtaining a patent. Many variables will affect the overall cost. The type of patent sought will significantly dictate both initial filing costs and the ongoing prosecution costs. Generally, utility patents are significantly more expensive than design patents. What can be tricky are the ongoing patent prosecution costs after an application has been filed, especially when it comes to utility nonprovisional applications.

Ballpark initial filing costs

Since initial filing costs are easier to estimate, here are ballpark estimates for the initial drafting and filing of particular patent applications (assuming the applicant is a small entity with fewer than 500 employees):

  • Design patent application: approx. $1,500 to $2,000
  • Provisional patent application drafted by the inventor(s): approx. $990
  • Nonprovisional patent application drafted by our firm: between $7,600 to $19,000

Though it is prudent to consider overall costs to patent a concept, I would recommend that entrepreneurs focus primarily on initial filing costs and figure out what their budgets can afford. Our firm offers flat rates for design and utility patent filings.

A great deal can happen in the couple of years following a patent filing, not only in the life of the patent application but also in the life of a startup company. You might raise capital, enter into licensing agreements, start selling product or even get acquired.

Rough estimates of total patent costs

Design patents generally have a greater level of certainty in the application process due to high rates of allowance. Utility patent applications, on the other hand, are generally unpredictable. You should expect the unexpected with utility patents.

That being said, it may still be helpful to get a rough estimate of costs so that you have some idea of what you’re getting yourself in the patenting process. Keep in mind there will always be outliers. For the vast majority of patent filings handled by our firm, we can roughly ballpark the estimates of the patent application process from start to finish:

  • Design patent: approx. $2,000 to $3,500
  • Utility patent: approx. $15,000 to $40,000

If the potential to spend up to $40K to get a utility patent gives you sticker shock, I would argue that it’s better to be advised of that possibility upfront.

Why are utility patent costs so unpredictable?

Simply put, most utility patent applications will get rejected. According to this Yale study of utility patent applications filed from 1996 to 2005, over 86% of all filed utility patent applications received a first rejection called a non-final Office Action, and over 38% of all filed utility applications received a second rejection called a Final Office Action. If your claims are being rejected over prior art, each response to an Office Action may cost between $1,500 to $3,000.

Design patent costs are much more predictable due to the high allowance rate of approximately over 84% as of the time of this post.

How much do international patents cost?

Foreign patent costs vary widely by country. Each foreign patent office has their particular local rules and examination guidelines. International patent costs can easily exceed $100,000 for a single patent family depending upon the number of foreign countries desired. There are strategies to streamline international patent prosecution in order reduce foreign patent costs.

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Vic Lin

Vic Lin

Startup Patent Attorney | IP Lead Partner at Innovation Capital Law Group
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