Obtaining a patent is a crucial step for those who are serious about safeguarding an invention or an intellectual asset. This is because patents offer protection against the unauthorized use, duplication, or deriving of profit from the patent owner's original invention, product, design, creative work or process. Patent applications approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) generally offer protection for 20 years from the date that the patent application is first filed. However, like many things surrounding intellectual property patents, this timeframe may vary depending on the type of patent granted and its associated maintenance requirements.
In order to secure a patent, one must first file a patent application with the USPTO. The application requirements and associated processes will vary depending on the type of patent needed to secure one's intellectual property. Similarly, the costs associated with this pursuit will also vary in response to a wide range of influencing factors. While an exhaustive list of these factors is impossible to enumerate here, our goal is instead to provide a comprehensive starting point for those who are interested in learning more about patent costs and fees.
It is important to note that the most effective way to determine the type of patent needed for a given piece of intellectual property, as well as the best way to estimate its associated costs, is by seeking out an experienced patent specialist. While it is entirely possible to get a rough idea of the potential costs and fees you may encounter, this estimate is made significantly more accurate under the guidance of an experienced professional.
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In the world of patent law, it is difficult to give a definitive figure that would accurately capture the average cost of a patent across the board. This is because the nature of patents and their respective processes are always affected by a significant number of variables. A more thorough discussion of these variables are discussed at length below, but for the sake of brevity, the following ranges, outlined in the table below, provide a reasonable set of expectations based on the relative complexity of a given piece of intellectual property.
Before diving into the cost breakdown of a given patent, it is important to get familiar with the most common cost-influencing factors that you are likely to encounter. Taking each of the following into consideration during the initial planning stages of your patent application will aid in preventing surprises from arising later on. Again, your best bet for warding off unanticipated costs is to speak with a patent specialist, but these factors can function as a solid starting point for better understanding your potential expenses.
As mentioned previously, a patent search is a necessary step in the application process. The goal of this search is to identify any currently authorized patents, as well as published patent applications, which resemble your invention in some way.
The conclusion of this search determines whether your invention is truly novel. You can generally expect the entity conducting this search to use the patent classification system and keywords related to your invention in order to conduct their search.
It is possible to conduct your own patent search, and doing so may help you better understand the patent process. Further, conducting this search yourself may also save you time and money later, in the event that you can successfully present your findings to your patent attorney. However, completing a thorough search may prove difficult to those who are new to this process. You may run the risk of spending an unnecessary amount of time lost in a search or even overlook important information. Avoiding this common pitfall is one of the benefits of using a patent specialist.
Regardless of who is performing the patent search, you can expect to pay the standard USPTO charges for search and examination fees. These fees will generally vary by the type of patent you are applying for.
At this point in the patent application process, the primary focus is on compiling a thorough and sufficiently detailed draft of your application materials. At a minimum, these materials include the:
The size of your draft will ultimately depend on the type of patent you are applying for, as well as the complexity of your invention. The general takeaway here is that the more you must include in the application draft, the more time you will spend collecting and organizing all the relevant information. Further, the quality of your application materials may also demand that sufficient time is dedicated to this stage of the process. On both of these fronts, the time spent on this stage may translate to increased costs as well. While attorneys' rates vary, you can expect this stage of the process to cost you around $XXX to $X,XXX.
Once your application is ready, you can move on to the filing stage of the process. There are a number of fees the USPTO charges to file your application, and these fees will, again, vary depending on the type of patent you are applying for and how many claims your patent application contains. The patent attorney will also outline their individual rates for handling the filing process, but you can expect to spend roughly $XXX to $X,XXX. at this stage.
The next stage in the patent application process is that of prosecution.
During this stage, your patent attorney will correspond with the Patent Office in an attempt to convince the examiner that your invention is worthy of a patent. The costs associated with this stage involve paying your patent attorney for the time they spend corresponding with the Patent Office. While attorneys' rates vary, you can expect this stage of the process to cost you around $XXX to $X,XXX.
The prosecution stage leads to one of three potential outcomes for your patent application: issuance of the patent, an appeal of the rejected application, or the abandonment of the patent application. It is usually the case that patent lawyers are heavily involved in this stage of the process as well, and this should factor into your estimated costs. Handling the issuance phase of the process usually costs around $XXX to $X,XXX, while navigating an appeal comes out to roughly $XXX to $X,XXX.
If your attorney is successful in the prosecution stage of the patent process, your invention or intellectual property will receive a patent. In this scenario, the USPTO charges an issuance fee.
If the patent applicant is unsuccessful in the prosecution stage, the patent applicant may choose to appeal the decision of the examiner to an independent board for review as to whether the examiner is correct. This process requires paying further fees to the USPTO as well as any corresponding attorney's fees.
Ongoing maintenance fees are required by the USPTO in order to maintain the active status of a patent. If these fees, or any applicable surcharges, are not paid in a timely manner, your patent will expire.
Patent costs and fees can vary dramatically by type in addition to all of the factors previously covered. This is because patent types are designed either to cover specific kinds of intellectual property, to cover intellectual property for a limited period of time, or to cover intellectual property internationally. Since patent types vary by nature, the amount of time, level of difficulty and complexity, and even baseline costs, will also vary. These factors will ultimately affect your total expenses.
A provisional patent is a special kind of patent that grants 12 months of protection in the form of a patent-pending status. Provisional patents are a good idea if your invention is still in its development stages, but close enough to completion that a stronger, non-provisional patent application is on the near horizon.
The provisional patent is typically the least expensive type of patent available since its duration is considerably shorter than non-provisional patent alternatives. The total cost of securing a provisional patent will ultimately derive from each stage of the patent's lifecycle, coupled with your attorney's fees:
Utility patents are probably the most well-known type of patent. These usually cover tangible products and require extensive, technical documentation within their applications. However, utility patents can cover relatively simple items or extremely complex inventions. The total breakdown of a utility patent's costs consists of:
Design patents are intended for intellectual properties that are less concrete than utility inventions. This can cover the aesthetic design, creative process, or the function of a particular piece of intellectual property. To apply for this type of patent, your application may consist almost entirely of pictures, sketches, drawings and corresponding descriptions of your design. Additionally, design patents are often hard to search for, which may increase your costs. The total cost of securing a design patent will look like the following:
Plant patents are an interesting modern development. This type of patent covers new plant types that are either grown under very specific conditions or are asexually reproductive. The patent essentially prevents others from using, copying, or profiting from a new plant's unique characteristics. A successful plant patent requires a full botanical explanation as to what makes their plant unique, as well as images or sketches to visually demonstrate unique features. After factoring in attorney's fees, you can expect the associated costs of a plant patent to consist of the following:
The international patent is one of the more expensive patent options available. The application must be filed with either the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) or with the desired country directly. Because this patent will span a large geographic area, the patent application has the potential to become large and complex, and increasingly costly. The final breakdown of an international patent's costs will resemble the following:
Seed IP takes pride in our deep knowledge of IP law and the many advanced degrees that our associates bring to the world of patents. We strive to leverage this legal and technical expertise to address every client’s business needs and objectives. With decades of experience under our belt, Seed IP is dedicated to serving our diverse communities by helping clients protect their patents. If you are interested in pursuing a patent to protect your intellectual property, contact our specialists today.