An initial question I frequently get asked by inventors or start-up companies going through the patent process for the first time is “How much does it cost to obtain a patent?”
This is a difficult question for a patent attorney to answer, but as an initial ball park figure estimate at least $7000.
This price includes government fee associated with filing a patent ($625), a government fee associated with having a granted patent ($1,170), and patent attorney fees ($3500 filing fee and $1500 for communications with the patent office). Although, $7000 is a decent amount of money, these costs are spread out over 3-5 years and some of the fees are only required if you actually obtain a patent.
More so, these costs are not required in all cases. For example, a decent way for inventors and start-ups to receive patent protection for their inventions while saving costs is filing a provisional application ($1500 attorney’s fees + $125 government filing fee). For more details see my blog post about “provisional applications.” Inventors and start-ups can save costs by having a patent attorney draft and file a provisional application that enables another to make/use their invention, and then within a year try to obtain further funding for their invention, determine what the market base for their invention is and/or improve their invention.
If after a year, the start-up has been unable to obtain further funding or has moved on to another product, they have only lost $1625 while they have preserved there claim to their invention for the whole year.
On the other hand, if the company decides there is a large market base for their invention or they have obtained funding for their invention, they can have a patent attorney convert the provisional application to a full utility application. The full utility application will have more details and cover a broader scope of protection than the provisional. As a note, full utility applications are examined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office 1.5-4 years after they are filed. In that time period if an inventor/company decides there product is not marketable or other considerations that have caused them to stop pursuing obtaining a patent, certain fees do not have to be paid.
To that end there is an initial step of the patent process that I recommend for start-ups and first time inventors, which is obtaining a search report and opinion from a patent attorney. A patent search is important because it can give the inventors and your patent attorney an idea about whether it even makes sense to pursue a patent in the first place. Before spending $6000 to find out that there are already similar products as your invention, the search report may result in an opinion from your patent attorney, that although your invention is great someone has already patented it. Thus, the company is only out $800. Unfortunately, patent searches do not come with guarantees, but the goal of the patent search is for you and your patent attorney to be fairly confident that you can receive a patent (95%) for your invention.
A “no stone unturned” search is not possible and not economically wise and to reach higher would take many thousands of dollars, and to reach near certainty would require millions of dollars, so the search that is undertaken is reasonable given the value of the invention. Patent searches and opinions also allow your patent attorney to determine what is known in the art, so they can draft a patent application that gives an inventor even broader protection than their initial invention.