Patent Law & Patent Applications
Be inventive. We protect your ideas with patents and utility models. Patents and utility models protect the technical ideas behind an invention.
We support you with our know-how in all aspects of patent law and utility model law. Firstly, we advise you regarding the filing of applications for patents and utility models. Even after the issuance of such rights, we are there for you to secure your rights, such as cease and desist letters or legal proceedings for infringement of your rights. Furthermore we represent you regarding oppositions or revocation proceedings before the relevant patent offices.
We responsibly manage your portfolio of intellectual property rights. For patents and utility models fees must be paid at regular intervals, so that the rights do not expire. For this, we monitor the deadlines and ensure timely payment of renewal fees.
What is a Patent?
A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the Patent and Trademark Office. Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed. Patent grants are effective only within the country for which is was filed. Under certain circumstances, patent term extensions or adjustments may be available.
The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the country or “importing” the invention into the country. What is granted is not the right to make, use, offer for sale, sell or import, but the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention. Once a patent is issued, the patentee must enforce the patent without aid of the patent office.
How our lawyers help before you file your application
A lawyer’s experience is most helpful before you file a patent. Many of the problems encountered during the process can be avoided by writing the best possible application before you submit it to the Patent and Trademark Office, the institution that reviews and issues patents. Here is a list of areas where an attorney is most helpful in the drafting phase of the application.
- The attorney will include many alternatives to the patent specifications, describing the patent in as many different ways as possible. This will help the patent examiner—the official that ultimately issues or rejects your patent—understand how the invention works in different cases.
- The attorney will conduct a thorough prior art search and write specifications in the application that underscore your invention's novel aspects. Prior art refers to all of the patents, inventions, and contributions made in your field. A novel aspect is the part or parts of your invention that make it different than what has come before - a novel aspect must also be so unique that an expert in the field couldn't have reasonably figured it out on their own.
- The attorney will be carefully draft the application so it considers alternative approaches to the invention to help the examiner know that you've covered all the possible details describing how your invention works.
- The attorney will consider how the patent will affect the business needs of the invention's market, and keep your business needs in mind as well.
- The attorney will include an exhaustive list of references to prior art, pointing out anything that is related to your invention. This shows the examiner that you've done your research and you know exactly how your invention will impact the market, the public, and industry as a whole.
If you are filing a patent application, even a provisional application, you can pay a lawyer for a few hours to look it over and provide some notes. If you are writing a utility application ask for some specific help: get help coming up with alternative embodiments, look over your prior art search and to draft some proper claims.
Even a small amount of help when you draft the application can spare you a lot of trouble during patent prosecution—the phase of the process where you have to defend your claims against the examiner's arguments for why your application isn't acceptable. Getting the patent wrong may make your patent difficult or impossible to enforce after it issues.
How Much Does it Cost?
A patent can cost from $900 for a do-it-yourself application to between $5,000 and $10,000+ with the help of patent lawyers.
A patent protects an invention and the cost of the process to get the patent will depend on the type of patent (provisional, non-provisional, or utility) and the complexity of the invention.
The Cost of Each Patent Application Type
Before you can think about patent costs, you must come up with a unique product idea that doesn't copy prior art. Prior art is any idea or product that already exists. After you have an original idea, you are ready to file a patent application.
The cost of filing a patent application can usually be divided into three parts: United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) filing fees, lawyer fees, and drawing fees.
When you think about how simple or how complex ideas and inventions can be, you can understand why patents have different costs. More complex inventions cost more to patent than simpler designs. Patent lawyers can give you more exact estimates after they review your invention.
Patent costs vary based on many factors, including the patent application type. You'll find two key types of patent applications: a provisional patent application and a non-provisional patent (also called an utility patent application).
Provisional Patent Application
Think of a provisional patent application as a preliminary patent. After you successfully file a provisional patent application, you have one year to file for a non-provisional patent.
Although a provisional patent isn't considered a true patent, it protects your intellectual property for 12 months the way a non-provisional patent would.
Filing a provisional patent application can cost as low as $65. However, provisional patent applications typically cost between $5,000 and $9,000 plus legal fees.
Non-Provisional Patent Application
A non-provisional patent (also called a utility patent) is a full patent which protects an inventor's intellectual property for as long as the patent is in effect.
Filing a non-provisional patent application is more expensive and costs about $900. This total also includes search and review as well as examination fees which cost around $220. Once you add legal fees, non-provisional patents usually cost between $8,000 and $15,000 or more.
Filing a non-provisional patent with lawyer fees will usually cost the following for each invention type:
- An extremely simple invention, such as a paper clip or coat hanger, will cost between $5,000 and $7,000.
- A relatively simple invention, such as a board game or umbrella, will cost between $7,000 and $8,500.
- A minimally complex invention, such as a power hand tool or camera, will cost between $8,500 and $10,000.
- A moderately complex invention, such as a ride-on lawn mower or a cell phone, will cost between $10,000 and $12,000.
- A relatively complex invention, such as a shock-absorbing prosthetic product, will cost between $12,000 and $14,000.
- A highly complex invention, such as an MRI scanner or satellite technology, will cost between $14,000 and $16,000.
- A software-related invention, such as an automated system or a business program, will cost more than $16,000.
A design patent (U.S.) is another, more limited, patent option which protects a product's unique appearance only.
Design patents are commonly used to protect apparel and fashion pieces, the shape of medical products, and the way manufactured goods look. A fashion house might patent a handbag to make sure competitors don't copy the bag's design features.
With legal fees for preparation and filing, getting a design patent usually costs between $2,500 and $3,000 including a $140 examination fee.
Factors That Can Affect a Patent's Cost
While the type of patent is the largest part that affects costs, other factors can also play a part:
- The size of the business or the type of person applying for a patent. Individuals pay less than small businesses (in the U.S.). Large firms pay the most for their patents.
- The invention's technology. If the invention has much technology behind it, it will be more expensive than one that doesn't rely so much on technology.
- Market opportunities for the invention. In a strong market, inventors will often spend more money to make sure their invention has the best protection.
- Similar products with patents. In a crowded marketplace, inventors need to make more effort to show that their new products are unique enough to get patents.
- Geography. Protecting the idea behind an invention in several countries requires more money.
More Costs Connected With Filing Patents
Most inventors pay other costs to file their patent applications. While the patent office decides if an invention is original by using its own patent search, many inventors pay between $1,000 and $3,000 for professional patent searches before they send their applications.
A patent search lets inventors know if their ideas are unique enough and worth spending time and money to develop.
A professional patent search with opinion will usually cost the following for each invention type:
- An extremely or relatively simple invention will cost between $1,000 and $1,250.
- A minimally complex invention will cost between $1,250 and $1,500.
- A moderately complex invention will cost between $1,500 and $1,750.
- A relatively complex invention will cost between $1,750 and $2,000.
- A highly complex invention will cost between $2,000 and $2,500.
- A software-related invention will cost between $2,500 and $3,000.
If a patent has more than three claims, an extra $220 applies per claim. When more than 10 claims are present, $52 per claim applies.
Many patent applications include professional drawings. Getting these drawings can typically raise an application's cost by between $300 and $500.
Legal fees may also go higher if a client needs a lot of patent prosecution during the application's patent-pending phase. Prosecution costs can become higher as inventions get more complex. Inventors can expect to spend the following on prosecution costs:
- $2,500 to $4,000 and above for a basic mechanical invention
- $3,000 to $7,000 and above for a complex mechanical invention
- $2,500 to $7,000 for a basic electrical or software invention
- $3,500 to $7,500 for a complex electrical or software invention
Many patents get rejected after they're filed. Inventors can appeal their cases to reverse the USPTO's decision, but appeals cost more money. Filing a written response usually costs between $2,000 and $5,000. Inventors may speak to patent examiners in person, but a face-to-face meeting also costs several thousands of dollars.
Inventors must also pay maintenance fees every few years to keep their provisional patent valid.
Inventors who change their patents must also pay amendment fees. With new legal fees, amendments usually cost between $2,200 and $3,500.
Inventors may also face other fees during their patents' prosecution and 20-year terms, including:
- Extension-of-time fees
- Post-issuance fees
- Financial service (administrative) fees
- Trademark processing fees
Example of Costs for a Patent
With so many costs, you might not understand how much a patent might cost for a company. Imagine an inventor with a small startup firm wants to patent a unique alarm clock. This inventor might expect the following costs:
- Patent search with a lawyer's opinion: $2,000
- Creating and filing a provisional patent application: $2,500
- Filing the utility patent with the USPTO: $130 (cost for small entity)
- Non-provisional patent application based off provisional filing: $10,500
- Filing fee to the USPTO for non-provisional patent application: $800 (cost for small entity)
- Professional illustrations for non-provisional patent application: $400
- Total cost: $16,330
The inventor here could have saved $130 by skipping the provisional patent application, but the person wanted the 12-month period for more market research to refine the design.
What is a PCT patent application?
A PCT patent application is a Patent Cooperation Treaty patent application. The Patent Cooperation Treaty is the international treaty that defines the patent rights granted between the contracting states. Presently, with few exceptions, nearly all industrialized nations are signatories to the PCT. The PCT patent application is a single application filed at one of the international receiving offices (of which the USPTO is one) that grants the applicant the right to file future national patent applications in any of the contracting states. It is commonly referred to as an international patent application.
A PCT patent application is similar to a provisional patent application in that it secures a priority date from which additional applications may be filed, but does not itself mature into a patent. At its most basic, a PCT patent application functions as a placeholder in time allowing you to postpone the expense of filing individual national patent applications in each of the countries for which you want to pursue protection. By filing a PCT patent application you incur a single initial filing fee (currently approximately three thousand dollars), but postpone all of the additional expenses of the national patent process for approximately 30 months from the application’s priority date. This gives the patentee time to assess the value of the invention and analyze the potential markets throughout the world before making more significant investments in international patent protection.
Multinational corporations rarely have difficulty in determining whether or not to file a PCT patent application. If the product(s) covered by the patent will be sold and used in international markets, then international protection will likely be pursued. Conversely, local businesses that do not have an international presence don’t have international market share to protect and will likely not pursue protection. The difficult decisions often fall on the start-up, the entrepreneur and the expanding businesses. For them, international protection may be of little value today, but it may be exceptionally valuable down the road. For example, an entrepreneur looking to license or sell his invention may limit his market of buyers if the invention cannot be protected outside of the US. Similarly, the start-up or the expanding business may lose out on an opportunity to capitalize on their innovation in new markets if they do not secure their rights.
There are times in which filing a PCT patent application may add an unwanted layer of expense and delay in your overall patent strategy, but for many situations filing a PCT patent application is a great opportunity to secure your rights internationally while postponing significant monetary investment. I can help you determine your best course of action and help you analyze the costs and benefits of filing a PCT patent application for your invention.