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How Much Does a Patent Cost and Why Does My Invention Need One?

By John DiGiacomo

A patent is a legal protection that is provided under US law that gives the owner an exclusive right to make, market and sell an invention. Generally, the term of the patent “monopoly” is twenty years (but that varies somewhat with the type of patent).

Under current US patent laws, there are three types of patents that can be obtained — utility patents, design patents and plant patents. For utility patents, it is also possible to file a provisional patent application (which costs less, at least initially). In simple terms, utility patents protect inventions that are useful and generally fall into three categories — machines/devices, methods and systems. Design patents protect the design of an invention like its three-dimensional shape or its ornamentation. Plant patents protect distinct and new varieties of plants that can be reproduced asexually (that is, through cloning).

With respect to the cost of obtaining a patent, the costs will vary depending on the type of patent sought, whether a provisional patent application is filed and on the relative complexity of the invention. Complexity is often correlated with the number of distinct patent claims. In general, the higher the number of claims, the higher the cost. This is one reason that design patents are relatively less expensive since design patent applications can contain only one claim. As a general estimate, legal fees can be in the following ranges:

  • Utility patent (standard complexity) — $10,000 to $20,000
  • Utility patent (complex) — $15,000 to $35,000
  • Design patent — $4,000 to $10,000
  • Plant patent — $10,000 to $35,000 (plant patents can be complex)

As noted, provisional patents can be filed for utility patents and the legal fees range from $4,000 to $7,000. The lower costs are because provisional patent applications are less involved than full standard applications. Note, however, that the provisional patent application must be converted to a full application within one year. There are good reasons for filing a provisional application first, but inventors must be aware of the time deadlines and the additional costs necessary for the full application.

The above cost ranges are for legal fees and services. However, the US Patent Office charges a number of fees. The fees vary depending on which type of patent you are seeking and on whether the inventor is a standard-sized business or is considered a micro-entity or small entity. Micro-entities are charged the lowest fees. As an example, here are the various fee ranges for a utility patent:

  • Basic Utility Patent Application Filing Fee: $80 to $320
  • Search Fee: $175 to $700
  • Examination Fee: $200 to $800
  • USPTO Issue Fee: $300 to $1,200
  • Patent Maintenance Fees (over the first 11.5 years): approximately $3,500 to $14,500

Note that these fees come due at various points during the patent application process.

Why does my invention need a patent?

You need a patent to ensure that you can obtain the maximum monetization of your invention. As noted above, a patent gives the inventor the exclusive right to make, market and sell the invention. On the flip side, that means your competitors can be PREVENTED from copying and selling your invention. Owning a patent allows you to sue for infringement of your patent and to recover money damages. You have spent a lot of time and energy creating your invention. Without a patent, some competitor can copy your invention and begin making, marketing and selling your invention. If that happens, all the sales and profits go to your competitor. In fact, there is a danger that if you fail to obtain a patent, then your competitor could file for the patent and prevent YOU from making, marketing and selling your invention.

But I just want to license or sell my invention!

Even if you have no plans to make, market and sell your invention, you still need a patent to protect your invention from being copied by others. Without a patent, no business has an incentive to pay a patent licensing fee or to purchase your invention. Without a patent, they can just start using your invention for their own purposes. These are among the reasons why obtaining a patent is a good business investment.

Contact Revision Legal

For more information or if you have an invention or design that you want to patent, contact the patent lawyers at Revision Legal at 231-714-0100

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