The short answer is “Usually quite a bit.” The longer answer involves the question, “How much is it worth,” because a “do-it-yourself” patent or one handled by an inexperienced patent attorney usually is not worth the fancy paper it’s printed on.
But you probably want some details.
The process of obtaining a patent involves several stages:
- Research and analysis of the technology (including interviewing the inventor)
- Writing the patent specification
- Writing the claims (which define the legal rights granted by the patent)
- Filing the application
- Filing corresponding applications in foreign countries (or reserving the right to do so later)
- Dealing with rejections (office actions) from the patent examiner
- Receiving a Notice of Allowance
- Considering strategy for continuation patents
- Paying the Issue Fee
- Receiving and checking the issued patent
- Paying annuity fees to maintain the validity of the patent
If we focus on the first three steps, a skilled patent attorney will normally charge between $5,000 and $25,000 to research and prepare the patent application for filing. If an “average” could be given, it would be in the range of $9,000 to $ 15,000. Stand-alone patent attorneys will sometimes charge less, but they present significant risks because they usually lack docketing systems and may not be following the latest legal developments. The cost depends on several factors, including:
- The technology involved. Applications to protect mechanical devices are usually easier to prepare, unless your invention has very little innovation. In that case, the patent attorney needs to be creative to find a way to protect your idea. Pharmaceutical patents require special knowledge, as do many other fields. If you really need someone with a Ph.D (few do), expect to pay more.
- How prepared you are. If you have good documentation of your invention, if you are concise in talking with your attorney, if you respond quickly and effectively to questions and to reviews of the patent application, then you will save money.
- The size of your law firm. Larger law firms typically charge more because they simply have more overhead and more staff to assist with keeping track of things. If you have a large patent portfolio, that may make sense. If you don’t, we obviously think small firms are more cost-effective.
The government fees associated with filing a patent application depends on the number of claims and the size of the entity that owns the patent. Larger entities pay full price, small entities pay half price, and “micro” entities pay even less, but must meet a more challenging set of requirements to qualify. Typical fees for a small entity are about _______.
Dealing with rejections (office actions) can be as expensive as preparing the initial application, because office actions require significant time to analyze and prepare legal briefs. Every patent application will receive at least one office action and it is not unusual to receive 2-4 of them. An application that received no office actions was probably very poorly drafted because the claims are too narrow to be useful. The cost of responding to each office action can be $ 1,500 to $ 4,500.
Once the patent is allowed, you have several weeks to pay the issue fee to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That fee is $ 960 (or $ 480 for a small entity).
The above information does not include the cost of protecting your patent in other countries, assigning the patent to new owners, extending deadlines to give more time for analysis by your attorney or your staff, or several other possible expenses.
Returning to what I said above, if you don’t use a skilled patent attorney, you are likely to save a lot of money and end up with a poorly done patent that looks nice on the wall but is worthless to your business.