Trying to determine the cost of a patent might seem daunting, but if you take it in pieces, you’ll see it’s not that difficult. This article breaks down the various costs of filing a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
What Is a Patent and How Much Does It Cost?
A patent is a title or grant issued by the USPTO that gives legal rights and protections to an inventor in exchange for disclosing their invention to the public. It allows the inventor to exclude others from making, selling, or using the invention for a period of time. Patents can be granted only to the actual inventor for something new, nonobvious and useful.
Basic patent fees vary based on:
- Type of application (provisional or non-provisional)
- Type of patent (utility, design, or plant
- Size of entity (large, small, or micro)
- International patents
Other costs of patents include:
- Search fees
- Examination fees
- Attorney and patent agent fees
|Typical Patent Costs for Different Entities|
|Large entity||Small entity||Micro entity|
|Utility basic filing fee||$280||$70||$70|
|Design and plant basic filing fee||$180||$90||$45|
|Search fees||$120-$600 depending on type||$60-$300 depending on type||$30-$150 depending on type|
|Examination fees||$460-$720 depending on type||$230-$360 depending on type||$115-$180 depending on type|
These are the most current fees from the USPTO.
Types of Patent Applications
Provisional Patent (PPA)
A provisional patent application (PPA) is like a “hold the date” patent application. It secures “first to file” status for the invention, while not requiring all of the processes of a non-provisional patent. The paperwork required for a PPA is shorter, and there is a lower fee than for the regular patent application.
A change to the patent law, the America Invents Act of 2011 (as amended in 2013), allows the person or business that files first to receive the patent (in most cases). The provisional patent was put in place to help inventors file quickly. The provisional patent isn’t the final filing; the actual non-provisional patent must be filed within a year or the filer must start over.
Utility Patent (General Non-Provisional)
You can also skip the provisional patent and go right to the non-provisional patent, called a utility patent. A utility patent, which includes internet patents, can be granted to anyone who invents or discovers "any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof." A utility patent is examined by a patent examiner and may be issued as a patent if all the requirements for patentability are met.
A design patent application costs less than a full utility patent. It’s for “a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.” In other words, it’s about appearance, like a new dress or shoe design, for example.
This type of patent is for the invention or discovery of an asexually reproduced (cultivated, like hybrids) “distinct and new” plant variety.
There may be additional fees, charges, and surcharges for these types of patents, and the costs may change.
Size of Business or Filing Entity
The list of patent fees on the USPTO site includes reduced fees for small entities and micro-entities, which vary based on the regular patent fees. Here’s what the USPTO says about these designations:
- The small entity has 500 or fewer employees and affiliates and it includes independent inventors and non-profits. The application fee reduces the fee amount by 50%.
- The “micro-entities” fee amount is for qualifying small businesses that have less than a specific amount of gross income and are classified as a small entity (with fewer than 500 employees), as defined by the USPTO. As of 2021, the maximum qualifying gross income for this status is $206,109. The fees are reduced by 75%.
Patent Search Fees
You can’t hope to get a patent without conducting a search on current patents and patent applications to make sure your patent is new and different enough to get accepted.
There are several options for doing a patent search:
- The USPTO will do the search for you for a fee.
- You can do a quick search on terms and other fields.
- You can also do the search yourself. The USPTO has a helpful patent search tutorial.
- If you plan to patent internationally, the USPTO has a list of patent collections worldwide.
The best way to get a thorough, complete search is to have a patent attorney or patent agent do it for you. This cost may be high, but it could be worth it.
The U.S. is party to several treaties and international agreements to help owners of inventions protect their rights in their home countries and abroad. If you want to pursue international protection for your patent, you might want to begin with this USPTO article on the subject. Then, get help from a patent attorney or patent agent who works in this specialty.
Other Patent Fees
You might encounter other fees during the patent process, or your patent attorney or patent agent might suggest them. The amounts of these fees depend on the size of your filing entity. Some other common fees are:
- Examination fees for international applications
- Drawing fees
- Service fees
Patent Attorney and Patent Agent Fees for Patent Applications
Patent attorneysand registered patent agents usually work on an hourly basis, with a retainer as a minimum. A patent attorney can help you create your patent application, but only a registered patent agent can file the application.
These fee depend, once again, on the complexity and competitive nature of the patent, and also the expertise of the professional. They can range from $300 to over $1,000 an hour.
Look for a patent attorney who is also a registered patent agent who specializes in the type of product you want to patent.
Tips for Keeping Your Cost Down
For a simple do-it-yourself utility patent for a small business, you might pay as little as $1,000, and up to $15,000 or more for a complex, competitive patent filed by a specialized patent attorney.
To keep your patent application costs at a minimum, do as much as possible of the preliminary work yourself.
- Make sure your product meets the requirements that allow it to be patented.
- Do a preliminary search yourself, then get a patent agent or attorney to do a comprehensive search.
- Check out the competition, including an online search of current patents.
- Go through the patent application to see what’s required, then start working through the list filling in as much information as you can, so you can save an attorney’s time.
- Interview prospective attorneys and patent agents to check their expertise, fees, and fit with what you want.
The more you can do yourself and the better you research the competition, the lower your patent application costs. And, of course, the better chance you have of getting your patent application accepted.