This article is part of a larger series on Starting a Business.
A patent’s cost varies depending on its type, complexity, and if you hire an attorney. In general, you can expect the following costs to file a patent:
- USPTO fee (government): $50 to $700
- Maintenance fee (renewal): $400 to $7,400 per year
- Patent lawyer (search and application): $1,000 to $10,000
- Total patent cost: $1,500 to $15,000
For a specific type of patent, expect to pay:
- Utility patent (product): $5,000 to $15,000
- Design patent (aesthetics): $2,500 to $3,500
- Provisional patent (utility pending): $1,500 to $3,000
If your business is on a tight budget and cannot afford a patent attorney, consider using an online legal service. LegalZoom provides patent services including a consultation with a USPTO-certified attorney, patent search, and technical drawings by an illustrator. Get started with LegalZoom’s patent services today for $199 to $899, plus federal fees.
Common Patent Costs
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the federal agency that grants US patents and registers trademarks. Regardless of the patent, you’ll pay three categories of fees through the USPTO: filing, search, and examination.
The fees collected by the USPTO include:
- Filing fees between $50 and $700: A USPTO filing fee is related to processing your patent application. The cost depends on factors such as the type of patent and whether you file electronically.
- Search fees between $40 and $660: These fees are associated with a patent search that reveals existing inventions or applications similar to your invention.
- Examination fees between $150 and $760: These fees cover the USPTO’s review of your patent application.
The USPTO’s Fee Schedule includes a detailed summary of search, filing, and examination fees associated with each type of patent.
Tip: The USPTO charges fees based on the size of the business filing the patent application. A company with over 500 employees pays the full fee. A “small” business under 500 employees pays 50%. A one-person “micro” inventor pays 25% of the full filing fee.
Patent Maintenance Fees
The utility patent requires a renewal fee. Due three times over the life of a patent, the fees range from $400 to $7,400. The cost depends on the size of the business filing and age of the patent.
If unpaid, your patent protection expires. The rights under the patent lose enforceability. Consider these renewal costs when applying for a utility patent.
Patent Attorney Costs
A patent attorney has expertise in intellectual property (IP) law and helps inventors navigate the patent application process. Patent lawyers typically bill their fees hourly, although some work on a flat rate. The hourly rate for a patent attorney varies, but expect the total cost to be anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.
Patent lawyer fees cover:
- Performing a professional patent search: Your attorney will perform a search of the USPTO database to determine whether your idea is similar to an existing patent or application.
- Drafting the patent application materials: A patent lawyer will prepare the application materials to include the necessary information and meet the USPTO’s formatting requirements.
- Negotiating and interacting with the USPTO: Many patent applications involve complex or confusing information. Your patent lawyer may need to communicate with the USPTO to answer questions and provide clarifications. They will also defend your patent if the application is initially objected to or rejected.
Types of Patents & How Much They Cost
There are two major types of patents: utility and design. You can also obtain a provisional patent, which gives certain inventions patent-pending status for one year. Patent costs depend on the type of patent and the complexity of your idea.
Types of Patents at a Glance
|Type of Patent|
People who want to protect an actual product or tangible thing
People who want to protect the aesthetics or design of a functional item
Those who want patent-pending status while they develop an invention or prepare a nonprovisional utility or plant application
1. Utility Patent Cost
Utility patents account for 90% of patents issued by the USPTO. They protect the creation of useful products, processes, or machines. For example, Apple has numerous utility patents on its iPhone, making it illegal for businesses to copy or imitate the product without a licensing arrangement.
A utility patent cost ranges from $5,000 to over $15,000, including lawyer fees. If properly maintained, it lasts for 20 years.
The breakdown of utility patent costs include:
- USPTO Filing Fees: $75 to $700
- USPTO Search Fees: $165 to $660
- USPTO Examination Fees: $190 to $760
- Maintenance Fee: $400 to $7,400
- Lawyer Cost: $3,000 to $10,000
Utility patent applications must include detailed descriptions of how the invention works. Because of the thorough explanations, the application process can be lengthy and expensive.
Though expensive, utility patents are necessary for those who want to prevent others from manufacturing, selling, using, or distributing their products or inventions without your permission.
Utility patents also require maintenance or renewal fees after three, seven, and 11 years of being in effect.
If you’re on a tight budget and cannot afford a patent attorney, consider using LegalZoom to prepare and file your utility patent application. It charges $3,099, plus federal filing fees ($430 to $1720). LegalZoom will ensure your application is correct and file it with the USPTO. It will also follow-up as the application moves through the review process.
2. Design Patent Cost
A design patent protects the aesthetics or design of a functional item. For example, Google has a design patent for its homepage because it’s considered a distinct feature of the overall search engine.
Design patents cost between $2,500 and $3,500, including patent lawyer fees, and last for 14 years.
The breakdown of design patent costs include:
- USPTO Filing Fees: $50 to $200
- USPTO Search Fees: $40 to $160
- USPTO Examination Fees: $150 to $600
- Maintenance Fee: NA
- Lawyer Cost: $1,500 to $3,000
A design patent application is simpler than a utility application. It only needs to include an illustration of what the invention looks like with limited text. If you want to protect the appearance, design, shape, or general ornamentation of an invention, like a computer, you need a design patent.
A design patent is less expensive than a utility patent. However, you can still save considerable money by using LegalZoom instead of an attorney. For $1,099 plus federal filing fees ($240 to $960), they’ll do a design patent search, prepare your application, and review your design drawings to ensure nothing is inaccurate or confusing. Then, when ready, LegalZoom submits the application to the USPTO.
3. Provisional Patent Cost
A provisional patent grants a “patent-pending” status while you develop your invention, secure financing, or prepare your nonprovisional utility or plant application. Provisional patents last for 12 months, during which you must file a nonprovisional application. It may be one of your first legal steps when starting a new business.
Obtaining a provisional patent costs between $1,500 and $3,000, depending on the invention’s complexity.
The breakdown of provisional patent costs include:
- USPTO Filing Fees: $70 to $280
- USPTO Search Fees: Not applicable
- USPTO Examination Fees: Not applicable
- Maintenance Fee: NA
- Lawyer Cost: $1,000 to $3,500
Typically, an inventor uses a provisional patent to protect their idea and give themselves time to develop it further. Or they may need the time to market it to investors. After 12 months, it’s essential to submit a nonprovisional patent application. Otherwise, the provisional patent will expire, and you’ll have to apply for another one.
For example, if you filed a provisional patent April 30, 2020, you must file a corresponding nonprovisional application by April 30, 2021. This process increases your cost because you’ll pay for two applications instead of one.
LegalZoom has created software to help you navigate the process to file your provisional patent. The software will assist with submitting your invention design to the USPTO for $199 plus the federal filing fee ($70 to $280). All of LegalZoom’s patent products come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
How To Reduce Your Patent Costs
There are four significant ways to reduce patent costs. You can save money by ensuring your invention is complete before filing an application and by streamlining the process. It’s best to be proactive about the contents of your application, instead of reactive when an issue arises.
To reduce the cost of obtaining a patent:
1. Create the First Draft
Before engaging a patent attorney, create a first draft of the patent application using an online legal service’s document library. This strategy can reduce the number of billable hours an attorney spends on the document. If you already have an attorney, ask them to provide a template so you can produce a first draft and save on drafting fees.
2. Patent a Complete Invention
When you’re developing an idea, it’s tempting to file for a patent before the invention is complete. However, submitting an incomplete invention or design will waste your patent lawyer’s time and increase your legal expenses. Reduce patent lawyer fees by finalizing the details of your invention before filing your application.
3. Thoroughly Describe Your Invention
Provide your patent lawyer an extremely detailed description of your invention. This will help avoid confusion, limit back-and-forth between lawyers and the USPTO, and reduce patent lawyer fees.
4. Start With a Provisional Patent
If you want to obtain a utility patent but are still figuring out the details, apply for a provisional patent first, saving you money in the short term. This patent will give you time to start your new business centering around your product and develop it. Remember, when you eventually file for a nonprovisional (standard) patent, you’ll also have to pay for those costs as well.
Pros & Cons of Getting a Patent
Patents are an excellent way to protect intellectual property but aren’t always the best option. There are several advantages of filing a patent, such as increased credibility and a competitive edge. However, the filing process is costly and doesn’t offer permanent protection.
Pros of Getting a Patent
- Security: Makes your investment worth it because it prevents people from stealing your idea.
- Intellectual property: Once patented, an invention becomes your intellectual property.
- Competitive edge: Holding a patent ensures that your competitors cannot legally use the same design or rely on the same functionality as your invention.
- Credibility and business value: A patent can improve your chances of selling an idea or service based on your invention. It prohibits competitors from stealing your IP.
- Revenue: Though not required to sell a product or service, patents give inventors rights to revenue from licenses to their inventions.
Cons of Getting a Patent
- Lengthy application process: The application process for obtaining a patent can last several years.
- Liability/patent defense: When you obtain a patent, you become responsible for defending it.
- Transparency: Filing for a patent requires you to make every proprietary detail of your invention public.
- Limited coverage: A patent only gives you rights to the specific product described in the patent.
- Maintenance: Maintenance fees are required at three times during the life of a patent and add to the overall cost of a patent.
Frequently Asked Questions About Patent Costs
What Is a Poor Man’s Patent?
A poor man’s patent is a document containing details of your invention that you mail to yourself and keep unopened. The patent applies the first-to-invent approach and uses the letter’s postmark as the invention’s conception date. The first-to-invent system was replaced with a first-to-file rule in May 2013, rendering the poor man’s patent obsolete.
Should I Get a Provisional or Nonprovisional Patent?
We recommend provisional patents as a lower-cost way to protect intellectual property while developing an invention. They’re a great way to protect inventions while completing development, arranging financing, or preparing the nonprovisional application. Though more inexpensive than a nonprovisional (standard) patent, they only last for 12 months. You’ll still have to pay for a nonprovisional application.
How Do I Find a Patent Attorney?
If you need a professional to guide you through the patent application process, consider Rocket Lawyer’s Find a Lawyer feature. On the website, choose “Copyrights, Trademarks, and Patents” in the pulldown menu and select your state. Rocket Lawyer will provide contact information, qualifications, and standard fees for local patent attorneys.
How Much Does It Cost To Patent a Name?
It is impossible to patent a name because patents are only appropriate for inventions, designs, and plants. If you’d like to protect a name, learn more about trademarks vs patents and if you should follow through with the trademark process.
What Is a Plant Patent?
Plant patents make up 0.3% of all patents granted. They are for newly-invented plant types that are reproduced under certain conditions. These patents do not apply to bacteria, as well as some types of plants. The average cost of obtaining a plant patent ranges from $4,500 to $8,000, including patent lawyer fees, and they last for 20 years if properly maintained.
Before approaching a patent attorney or online legal service, it’s best to learn as much as you can about patents. Consider drafting up your own patent first with a standard patent template. Even a little knowledge will help you have a more effective conversation with an attorney. Additionally, by drafting the basics of your patent application, you may save an attorney time and pay fewer billable hours.