When an inventor has a fantastic idea for a new product, it makes sense to attempt to obtain a patent. Obtaining a patent is an involved process requiring time and money. In most cases, it’s sensible to hire legal counsel to write and prosecute the application. That’s because it will be examined by attorneys who work with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It’s their responsibility to decide whether or not a patent should be granted, and they may make legal arguments against patentability that would be difficult for an inventor to respond to without legal counsel.
Applications and patents essentially go through three stages, at each of which fees are due. Whether or not you proceed with legal counsel will substantially affect how much money you spend at each of these stages.
Stage 1: Drafting and Filing
If you choose to independently prepare and file your application, your expenses will be minimal. Individuals, sole proprietorships and other small businesses are entitled to a reduced fee schedule at the USPTO. A typical filing fee is between about $400 and $1,500. Inventors who work with an attorney may spend between $5,000 and $10,000 during drafting and filing. Most of this goes to attorney fees. However, you’re likely to get much greater scope of protection if you let a professional do the work.
Stage 2: Prosecution
Even the most well-written patent application may initially be rejected by the USPTO. When this happens, the applicant must respond to the rejection, commonly called an Office Action, within a stipulated time period. It’s possible for the applicant to respond without an attorney. In most cases, there is not a fee for doing so. However, the applicant acting on their own may have great difficulty overcoming the USPTO’s objections. Working with an attorney will cost anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000 for a suitable response.
Stage 3: Issuance and Post Issuance
An issue fee must be paid before a patent can be issued. This costs between $250 and $1,000, and the cost goes up if an attorney pays the fee for you. Maintenance fees must be paid to keep the patent alive. Maintenance fees are due at three different points throughout the patent’s life and become increasingly expensive. They begin at just $400, but the third maintenance fee can be as little as $1,850 or as much as $7,400.