Rethinking Patent Costs

The other day I was speaking to a business owner.  She regretted not seeking patent protection sooner and more often for various innovations developed by her company.  When we discussed average costs, she was surprised that the costs were considerably lower than what she thought they would be. 

Provisional patent preparation and filing costs will depend on the approach you take to filing.  There are basically two approaches to provisional patent filing.  The first is the “cheap and cheerful” approach that requires that basic structure and function of the invention be communicated in the application with appropriate drawings, photos, and/or data or other relevant information. 

The second provisional filing approach is to treat the provisional the same as a utility application.  This means that the application will be written in a more formal, structured style as required for utility applications, including a set of claims, formal drawings, etc.  The cheap and cheerful application can be free if you file it yourself.  The US Patent and Trademark Office website has an inventor assistance center that provides basic information and help with filling out patent filing forms. Costs for provisional applications range from free if you do it yourself to an average of $4000, according to the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA).  I think this figure is high and would recommend shopping around.   See my previous post on selecting the right patent attorney for your invention.

Regular utility applications will cost more because they are more formal in nature and require drawings that comply with the U.S. Patent Office rules.  However, if you go the more formal route first and file your provisional application as if it were a utility, then you only incur the cost once, except for additions and/or changes.  Memories fade and attentions turn to other priorities.  I believe the best approach is to prepare your provisional one time.  In the long run, if there are few additions or changes, the cost is less than doing it twice.  The average cost of a utility application is $7000 according to the AIPLA.  Again, I would get more than one estimate and look at smaller firms and locations in areas where the cost of living is less. 

At the end of the day, if you are self financing, it is still a significant spend.  However, if your patentable innovation is at the core of your business, you can’t afford not to seek protection. 

What’s the take away here?  Don’t write off your ability to protect your invention with a patent before speaking to at least two or more patent professionals.  Protecting your innovative developments is critical to any organization.  Having the right person to help you make that decision is important.  The Law Office of Kathleen Lynch PLLC is designed to help businesses such as yours keep ahead of the game.   The first telephone consultation is free.  Email us at