I had a client call me last week for the sole purpose of venting. It seems that she had received an office action from the USPTO and was upset over how much it was going to cost her to have her attorney answer the office action. Her telephone call caused me to reflect and resulted ultimately in my feeling that I needed to blog about this particular issue.
First, it’s important to always bear in mind a simple truth: inventing is expensive. There is no way around it. If you are going to pursue your invention, it is going to cost money. The exact amount of money varies from case-to-case depending on the complexity of your invention.
Second, it’s important to keep things in perspective: obtaining a patent for the invention isn’t the most costly part of the process. However, it does seem to be the one that draws the most ire. It will cause you less stress if you keep in mind that these fees are paid over a period of years not all at the same time.
To give you a better sense of how involved the process actually is, here’s a list of the most obvious costs in the patenting process:
- The first step is to have a professional search done.
- Second, you need a review of the search by an intellectual property attorney before you meet with an engineer or make final adjustments to your design.
- Third, have an intellectual property attorney draft an application for a utility or design patent.
- Fourth, when you’re ready to file, there are filing fees that have to be paid to the USPTO. This is in addition to your attorney’s fees.
- After you’ve waited anywhere from 14 to 36 months, you should receive your first office action. You will be charged for the attorney’s time to draft a response to this first office action.
- Additionally, if you’re not diligent and you fail to file your response before the appointed deadline, you’ll have to pay a penalty to get your patent out of “abandonment”. This is what it is called when you don’t respond in time.
- Next, if there are no further office actions (generally not the case) and you get this far, there is a “Notice of Allowance”. This means that the USPTO will issue your patent if you pay them the next fee which is around $800.
- Once your patent issues, however, you’re still not done: there are maintenance fees that you have to pay periodically during the life of your patent. All of the fees are listed on the USPTO website and your attorney can give you a list so that you know what to expect.
Don’t be caught off guard. Always ask “what is this going to cost”. Educate yourself on the patenting process. There are plenty of resources out there. We try to make sure every inventor knows what to expect, but you have to pay attention.