The Cost of Obtaining a Patent

There can be a significant cost to patent an idea, but the cost of not getting a patent can be greater. A patent issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an official notice to the world that an inventor has an intellectual property right to an invention. If you neglect to get your idea patented, it’s available for anyone else. Because the term of patent protection in the United States is 20 years, inventors can capitalize on their efforts if they make the initial investment in getting the idea patented. Cost of patent has to be weighed against the value of obtaining it.

Why Apply for a Patent?

Patenting an invention prevents others, including competitors, from copying or using the idea covered by the patent. This is the hidden profit of a patent—the owner has exclusive rights to the invention for 20 years. An inventor factors patent cost into the value of the patent’ rights. The patent owner can dispose of his or her invention by selling the patent application or the actual patent right – entirely or partially. The patent owner can also profit by licensing the patent’s use. The law of patents is found in Title 35 of the United States Code (USC).

There are three types of patents:

      1. Utility Patent. The patent law defines a utility patent as “any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” This is the most common type of patent application. There are 3 kinds of fees for a utility patent:
        • filing fee of $380;
        • search fee of $620;
        • examination fee of $250.

        If the application is approved there are two additional fees, a publication fee of $300 and an issue fee of $1,740. There are also fees for processing the order and a charge for expediting the order. If you’re an independent inventor or a small organization you get a break: all the fees are cut in half. For a utility patent you also pay maintenance fees after 3.5 years ($1,130), 7.5 years ($2,850) and 11.5 years ($4,730).

      2. Design Patent.  A design patent may be granted “to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.” There are four different fees for a design patent:
        • filing fee of $250;
        • search fee of $120;
        • examination fee of $160;
        • an issue fee of $990.

        Added to the total cost are fees for the processing and expedition. Periodic maintenance fees are not required for design patents.

      3. Plant Patent.  A plant patent may be granted to an inventor “… who has invented or discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber propagated plant or a plant found in an uncultivated state.” There are four different fees for a plant patent:
        • filing fee of $250;
        • search fee of $380;
        • examination fee of $200;
        • an issue fee of $1370.

        Added to the total cost for a plant patent are processing and expedition fees. Periodic maintenance fees are not required for plant patents.

      Other Costs

      The detailed schedule of all fees is found in Title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
      Attorney’s fees can’t be overlooked unless the inventor decides to file all the paperwork himself. The fees can range from $6,000 to $11,000 for a utility patent and under $2,500 for a design or plant patent.

      Money Well Spent

      Patent costs should be viewed as a necessary ingredient in obtaining a valuable asset. The ability to have exclusive rights to an invention for 20 years combined with the right to sell or license the patent can make the cost of obtaining a patent seem insignificant.