How Much Does a Patent Cost?
Lowered expectations may make your patent a successful one
on September 17, 2018
Updated on February 8, 2021
Most inventors believe that, if they receive a patent, interested investors will flock to them with offers to buy it. Unfortunately for inventors, “only about 5 percent of patents are ever commercialized,” says Deborah Peacock, an intellectual property attorney at Peacock Law in Albuquerque, “which means that 95 percent aren’t.”
So, most likely, you won’t get rich off your idea.
“I tell people they may make a new car—that could be a good result,” Peacock says. “Patents are very, very expensive. They can often cost $25,000 to $35,000 over a few-year period. You may lose all that money; you may only make that much money; and, only rarely, are you going to make that million.”
Since the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) works on a first-to-file system, it’s important that you file as soon as you have an idea that may be patentable. Peacock recommends applying for a provisional patent application, which costs around $3,000. The application gives an inventor a one-year patent pending—meaning they have a year to shop the patent around.
“If you don’t find anybody who’s interested in that year, we suggest you drop it,” she says. “Or, we go ahead with a formal application at the end of that one-year period, and that usually runs about $7,000 to $10,000 dollars.”
Peacock notes that going to trade shows is a good way to get in touch with potential individuals or companies who may be interested in your work. “Don’t have a booth there or pitch your product there,” she says, “but find the companies who might be a good fit for you. And then, when you get back … you start calling those companies.”
According to Peacock, however, most companies don’t like to buy patents, as it’s an expensive process up-front. Instead, companies prefer to license patents, meaning they’ll pay a smaller fee right away, and as they sell the technology, you’ll make a percentage.
“With a licensing model, you can just sit at home and check your mailbox once in a while for your check,” she says. “Licensing is preferable for most people that don’t have a company that’s involved in manufacturing already.”
If you’re looking to have an attorney help license your patent, you’ll pay them on an hourly basis. Peacock notes that you may pay between $5,000 and $10,000 by the time you’re done.
Generally speaking, patent attorneys are more expensive than other attorneys, because they have to obtain an extra license from the USPTO. Plus, Peacock adds, “we’re engineers or scientists.” She states that, within the industry, their services can range from $150 per hour to $1,200 per hour.
As with most intellectual property firms, Peacock’s often works with inventors from the idea stage and onward. If you think you’ve got an invention that hasn’t been patented yet, reach out to an experience intellectual property attorney as soon as possible. They can help you do a patentability search, make licensing connections, negotiate agreements and, if there is infringement, help enforce your patent.
If you'd like more general information about this area of the law, see our patent law overview.