Patent Application Fees – Three Main Steps

A common question from clients is “How much does a patent application cost?”  Generally speaking, the legal fees to prepare a patent application may range from $5,000 – $30,000+ depending upon various factors.  To determine how much a patent application will cost, there are three main steps involved:
  1. Determine the Patent Quality Level Needed for the Invention;
  2. Determine the Experience Level of the Patent Attorney (Not Law Firm) Needed to Achieve the Desired Level of Patent Protection; and
  3. Determine the Estimated Billable Time Needed by the Selected Patent Attorney to Achieve the Desired Patent Quality Level.
We will discuss each of these three steps below.  However, there are some initial matters to consider to give you some perspective on patent application fees.

Initial Considerations for Patent Application Fees

Patents Applications Are Not a Commodity

First, patent applications are not a commodity where they have some standard fixed price.  We realize that some clients believe that all patent applications should be done for low fees.  However, the reality of preparing a patent application requires such clients seeking lower fees to expect to receive lower quality.  If you don’t care about the quality of patent protection you receive, then by all means seek out the lowest bidder.  However, if the quality of patent protection is important to your business then it is imperative that you identify the patent quality level you need and what patent attorney is going to provide you with this quality. As famously stated by John Ruskin (1819-1900):
It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little.  When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that is all.  When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.  The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it cannot be done.  If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

USPTO Has No Standard Form for Patent Applications

The USPTO has no standard form for inventors or patent attorneys to complete for a patent application.  Every patent application must be custom drafted to include (a) a detailed written description of the invention, (b) patent claims directed at the scope of patent protection sought, and (c) patent drawings that fully illustrate the invention.  Many patent applications are 30-60+ pages in length after they are completed.

The Patent Application Must Fully Disclose the Invention – And All Embodiments Thereof

It is imperative that the patent application fully disclose the invention and all embodiments of the invention otherwise there is no point of doing the patent application in the first place (see John Ruskin’s quote above!).  Only an experienced patent attorney can prepare a quality patent application that will satisfy your patent goals.

Flat-Fee vs. Hourly

Some inventions are straightforward and we can provide a flat-fee quote for preparing the same.  However, some patent applications are less straightforward and may have unknown variables requiring them to be prepared at our hourly rate.  Hourly rates for quality patent attorneys typically range between $400 to $600+ per hour.  If you prefer a flat-fee quote, this will require the patent attorney to know exactly what the invention is and all of the embodiments you want included prior to drafting the patent application.

Step #1:  Determine Patent Quality Needed

It is important as a client to determine the Patent Quality you need for each specific invention.  The level of Patent Quality will vary for each individual invention based on various factors.  When determining the level of Patent Quality you are seeking, you should ask yourself the following questions:
  1. What is the potential value of the invention?
  2. What are your patent goals for the invention?
  3. What is the scope of patent protection you need for the invention?
  4. What is your patent budget?
  5. Are there any current infringers?
  6. Do you have any competitors likely to copy the invention?
  7. How fast do you need patent protection?
  8. What is your risk tolerance for mistakes by the patent attorney?
  9. Do you need foreign patent rights (e.g. Germany, Japan, China)?
You can rank each invention that you need patent protection for on a scale of 1 (Lowest Patent Quality) to 10 (Highest Patent Quality) based on your answers to the above questions.

Step #2:  Select a Patent Attorney with Required Experience

After determining the Patent Quality needed for the invention, you then need to find a patent attorney that has the technical background and experience needed to prepare a patent application with this level of Patent Quality.  Simply stated, the higher the Patent Quality needed for the invention the more experience your patent attorney will need. Finally, don’t forget that you need to like your patent attorney as this is basically a marriage for 2-3+ years!  Make sure to speak with your patent attorney on the phone or online video conference to ensure that you have a level of comfort with who they are as a person since significant trust is required throughout the patent process.

Step #3:  Estimated Billable Time Needed

Once you have determined the level of Patent Quality and the experience level of the Patent Attorney needed, the only remaining question is how much Billable Time will be needed to prepare the patent application.  Your selected Patent Attorney will review your invention and discuss with you the level of Patent Quality you want for the invention.  In determining the legal fees for preparing a patent application, at least the following factors will be considered to determine their estimated Billable Time on the project:
  1. What level of Patent Quality does the client expect?
  2. What type of technology is involved?
  3. How complex is the technology?
  4. How much structure must be disclosed in the patent application?
  5. How much functionality must be disclosed in the patent application?
  6. How many embodiments of the invention must be disclosed in the patent application?
  7. How many pages of written description will be required to fully disclose the invention and all of the alternative embodiments?
  8. How many sheets of drawings will be required to fully disclose the invention and all of the alternative embodiments?
  9. How much time will be needed to communicate with the client and the inventors about the patent application?
  10. How experienced is the client with patents?
As can be seen, there is no mathematical formula to determine the total legal fees for a patent application.  Based on the above information, the Patent Attorney will then either provide you with a flat-fee quote to prepare the patent application or an expected range of legal fees if preparing the patent application at their hourly rate.  As an example, if your Patent Attorney has an hourly rate of $500 per hour and expects at least 20 hours to prepare your patent application, they will typically quote you a flat-fee of at least $10,000 (20 hours x $500/hour) or give you a range of $10,000 -$12,000 if billing hourly instead.

Get Started Today with Neustel

We have a free Patent Information Packet if you would like to receive more information about our law firm.  To receive a fee quote for preparing a patent application from Neustel, the first step is to complete our Invention Disclosure Form.  If you have any questions, give us a call at 1-701-281-8822 or e-mail at