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How to Apply for a Patent (and How much do patent lawyers cost?)

A robust intellectual property portfolio is a key part of any company’s success. Securing your IP ensures that you have the exclusive rights to the commercialization of your efforts, input, and ideas. In addition to securing you the right to profit off your work (and genius), it is a key requirement if you are looking to secure investment, or if you want to exit.

One of the most important aspects of your intellectual property strategy will necessarily be to apply for a patent for your inventions or designs. A patent provides the patent holder with the exclusive rights to use, sell and make an invention for a limited period of time. Patent applications are generally cumbersome and intricate – the stakes are high, after all. If you are going to incur the costs of applying for a patent (and we strongly advise that you do), it might be worth your while to also hire a patent attorney.

Why rely on a patent attorney?

There are many free resources online that can give you all the essential information you need about patent applications. See, for example, our own free e-book chapter on IP proctection, as well as our guidance for getting an international patent.  However, there are a few services that only a patent attorney can provide, and they might be well worth paying for.

Strategic patent advice: Securing a patent is, unfortunately, not a mere matter of formalities. Patent applications are often rejected. One of the many reasons for this is that the scope of the patent description might be such that the USPTO does not consider it to be a new invention. Another reason is, for example, that certain inventions (such as software) are not easily patentable as utility patents but might fare better when patented as designs. All of this information is constantly changing, industry specific, and something that a knowledgeable patent attorney will have the latests insights on.

Patent searches: An invention is only patentable if it is novel, new, and useful. Often, you have a brilliant idea for which there is already a patent out there. When this happens, you can either abandon your patent application before spending more money, or you can amend your invention description so that it meets all requirements. To do this, you need to do a patent search, something with which a patent attorney can help.

Narrow the patent scope: Patent attorneys have experience in writing patent applications. This experience translates into a very valuable skill: narrowing the scope of a patent description correctly so that investigators can reasonably conclude that the invention is unique. Getting the scope right is not merely a matter of knowing your own invention well, it is also about knowing the industry and the USPTO investigating attorneys. Here patent attorneys are definitely indispensable
Preparing, submitting, and resubmitting patent applications: patent attorneys are able to help with all the technical details of submissions of provisional patent applications, final applications, dealing with requests for further evidence, and resubmitting in the case of office actions or anything else. It is ultimately up to you to decide how much you’re prepared to pay for that assistance.

So, how much do patent lawyers cost?

The actual cost of your patent attorney will depend on the attorney’s experience, the industry that you operate in, the intricacies of your invention, and the location of the attorney.

Here are a typical breakdown of patent attorney fees, although you’ll be able to find attorneys who are much more expensive, and much cheaper.

Doing preliminary patent research: $800
Drafting and filing a provisional patent application: $2,000
Drafting and filing a nonprovisional patent application:$5,000
Providing a response to an office action: $1,600
Additional work: $200 per hour

Some patent attorneys have different fees schedules depending on the type of invention in question (electrical inventions vs mechanical inventions, for example). Others have introduced start-up packages that might result in some cost savings for small companies.

Options for saving on costs

If you are bootstrapping, there are ways to save on patent attorney costs.

You might consider drafting and submitting the provisional patent application yourself, although this is not recommended if your invention is complex or the scope delineation might be tricky
This may sound counterintuitive, but be sure to start with an experienced and well-regarded patent attorney. Getting everything right the first time saves a lot of money (not to mention time). If you have an attorney that won’t have to spend time on office actions and additional work, you will end up saving.
Do your own patent research as far as possible to make your patent attorney’s work as easy as possible. This saves on time, and billable hours.
Consider getting a single attorney to assist you in your company’s overall intellectual property strategy. If you take the long view of your total strategy, you might be able to better determine when to file for patents, and when to rely on another mechanism for IP protection.

Affordable patent attorneys at LawTrades

If you’ve discovered a new way of doing things or invented a new product, a patent lawyer can help you maximize the commercial value of your work by drafting and filing patent applications. Our expert patent attorneys offer competitive rates and expert, accessible advice for all your IP needs.