The cost of obtaining a patent, as a small entity, can seem reasonable at around $12,000 in fees to the USPTO and WIPO over the life of your patent. However, this does not begin to consider the other costs of patenting, including preparing your application and responding to multiple office actions with the help of a patent attorney. In total, the average cost of patenting an idea is approximately $56,500, which still does not include the resources required to invent a novel technology or enforce your patent.
This estimation is per BlueIron IP, a patent financing and insurance firm, and supported by the results of the American Intellectual Property Legal Association’s Report of the Economic Survey.
Of course, before you can patent a product or process, you have to invent it. The vast majority (95%) of inventions don’t reach the market. On average, a single patent is filed for every $1 million in R&D.
At this point, it’s valuable to begin patent searching to ensure you’re prioritizing technology most likely to be commercialized and deliver ROI. While prior art research is not without cost, it represents a small portion of the total average cost of patenting, at about 8%. Comprehensive patent search early and often in the innovation lifecycle can lower the total cost of your patent. Cutting costs here likely means more office actions later, significantly increasing how much you pay your patent attorney, and even running the risk you don’t have a patentable invention at all.
When R&D yields a novel, nonobvious, and useful invention eligible for patent protection, it is time to write your patent and file it with the USPTO. If you’re doing so with the help of outside counsel, you will receive a quote from the patent attorney for the initial cost of submitting a patent application. At this point, cheaper is not necessarily better. You want a high-quality patent application that will, when issued, offer a strong patent. Again, cutting costs in the early stages of obtaining a patent will likely increase the total cost to patent your idea, as a lower-quality application will require more office actions.
Filing a patent application is only the beginning. If you’re unfamiliar with the patenting process, you may be surprised to learn that the cost of a patent application is just the beginning. The often hidden and always variable cost of office actions, or working with your patent agent and attorney to modify your claims to meet USPTO standards, have arrived. Patents undergo an average of 4.2 office actions. Each round of revisions gives your attorney the ability to charge you for their additional time; there are also Request for Continued Examination fees payable to the USPTO.
Every year, companies and inventors spend $2.5 billion to address office actions. Tools like IQ Ideas+™ reduce this back-and-forth (and therefore associated costs) by helping engineers and researchers prioritize novel ideas, design around prior art, and write strong invention disclosures for their IP and legal partners.
The estimated cost to file a patent from BlueIron IP includes the fees required to maintain your patent as a small entity in the US. Each additional country or region you seek to protect your technology in increases the cost of patenting. Not only do you need to file and maintain your patent with each office but you must pay to have your patent translated as well.
Having the USPTO grant your patent is certainly cause for celebration, especially when you know it is a strong patent with high monetization value.
However, in order to ensure no other entities are using your technology to profit, you may need to actively enforce your patent. Depending on the situation, the legal and lost opportunity costs associated with enforcement can range from a few hundred thousand dollars to millions of dollars.