What Should an Attorney Charge to File and Prosecute a Patent Application?
Not surprisingly, one of the first questions clients usually ask me is “how much does it cost to get a patent?” While there are some government fees that apply regardless of which attorney you choose to file and prosecute (i.e. prepare the application and shepherd it through to issuance) your patent, the attorneys fees can vary.
For a utility patent on a simple invention that doesn’t involve software, high tech, or extremely complicated chemistry, a budget of $12,000-$15,000 over the period that the patent is pending is a reasonable cost. This cost covers a substantial amount of work at two stages.
Preparation of the Patent Application
A patent application is a legal document. A simple application is generally at least 15 typewritten pages long, and also includes a series of professional drawings. The application must also be accompanied by a number of lengthy forms. It often takes 20-30 hours to prepare a simple application. Of the $12,000-$15,000 budget mentioned above, it generally costs about $7,000-$9,000 to prepare a non-provisional patent application.
Responding to the Rejection
Along the way, there’s a better than 90% chance that your patent application will be rejected; I’ve discussed why that’s a good thing. Still, the patent attorney has to prepare a response to that rejection. Depending upon the nature of the rejection, it could cost anywhere from $1,000-$5,000 to respond. Sometimes the response may require an interview with the examiner, which takes about two hours of preparation and one-half to one hour for the interview. As the client, you may have some control over the fees at this stage, since you can choose how to respond to the rejection (which is called an “office action”). A response that costs more may result in the issuance of a stronger patent than going with a less expensive choice.
Design Patents, Government Fees and the Retainer Letter
A design patent is not as expensive. A budget of about $3,000-$5,000 is reasonable for this kind of patent, because it’s not as complicated to prepare and because design applications are generally not rejected.
I mentioned government fees above. Some of these fees are charged when you file your application; others are charged when the patent is issued; and yet others are maintenance fees to keep your patent in force once it has been issued. For details about these fees, you can check out my post on the subject, or find the information on the USPTO website under fees.
Finally, some attorneys include the cost of the drawings in their fee, while others charge separately. When you sit down with an attorney for the first time, a budget that sets forth what the attorney fee covers and what you’re responsible for directly should be in the retainer letter that the attorney will have you sign to start the project.
Where Do These Numbers Come From?
Every other year, the American Intellectual Property Law Association (of which I’m a member) surveys its members about how much we charge for various activities. They report the results broken down by the number of years the attorney’s been practicing, where the attorney is located geographically, and the size of the law firm. Smaller firms generally charge less than large firms. On the other hand, large firms offer a variety of attorneys with different experience levels that may be best suited to your case. It’s up to you to decide what’s the best type of attorney and firm is a good fit for you and your budget.
As a patent attorney, I understand that obtaining a patent is more expensive than many other aspects of starting a business (such as, for example, registering a trademark). But a patent is often a business’s most valuable asset. Isn’t it worth it to get it done right?
Patricia P. Werschulz
Werschulz Patent Law, LLC
23 North Avenue East
Cranford, NJ 07016