How Much Does A Patent Attorney Cost? What Should I Expect?
This is the sixth post in my series entitled “How To Find A Patent Attorney: My Guide for Performing Your Own Patent Attorney Search.” If you read the previous posts, you should have made a list of potential patent attorneys that you are interested in hiring. Now it’s time to make sure that they are who they say they are.
This is the seventh post my series entitled “How To Find A Patent Attorney: My Guide for Performing Your Own Patent Attorney Search.” If you read the previous posts, you should have performed a patent attorney search and verified the credentials of the patent attorneys on your list. Now it’s time to discuss the patent attorney costs and expectations that you should have of the patent attorney and they should have of you.
What You Should Expect From Your Patent Attorney:
Professionalism — Patent attorneys and patent agents should never be rude or condescending to you or your staff.
Responsiveness — You should expect responses to emails and voice mail by the close of the next business day unless you receive an out of office message. Patent attorney who cannot respond to email and phone calls, cannot be trusted to handle your work.
Timeliness — You should expect your projects to be delivered on time.
Competence — You should expect your projects and tasks to be performed correctly the first time, every time. If there are mistakes, the patent attorney should fix them free of charge.
Candid Communication — Your patent attorney should be able to confidently guide you through the entire process, and let you know what to expect regarding strategies, deadlines, and costs.
What You Should Not Expect From Your Patent Attorney:
Marketing — Patent attorneys usually lack the skill, desire, and resources to provide marketing advice or consumer studies.
Sounding Boards — Patent attorneys are usually smart, good listeners, and confidential. However, if we are charging you our billing rate, you probably cannot afford to bounce your ideas off of us. Pick an invention that you want to patent or an innovative product that you want to market, then contact a patent attorney.
Quick Responses — Patent attorneys need to minimize disruptions to concentrate and work efficiently. Most will not be able to respond to your email or phone call within a few hours.
Business Planning — Patent attorneys are in the business of providing patent services, not business plans. Patent attorneys can help you make strategic patent decisions for your business. However, patent attorneys are not in the business of figuring out if you need a patent, if you should patent it yourself, or how you can make money with your patent and/or business.
Warning: Asking a patent attorney these questions is like asking a car salesperson if you should buy a car, if you should build your own car, or how you can make money with your car? Some patent attorneys may be more interested in making the sale than helping your business. I recommend that you figure out the answer to these questions before you even contact a patent attorney.
Patent Attorney Costs
Many patent attorneys can be touchy or evasive about the cost of their services. This reluctance to talk about fees is partially because they do not want to scare off potential clients, and partly because attorneys hate to trap themselves in estimates. However, it’s your money and you have the right know in advance what much a service is going to cost.
There are basically two types of service fees for patent attorneys: hourly rates and flat fees. If you know the difference, skip down to “Patent Attorney Service Fees” below.
An hourly rate is where the patent attorney performs a task on your behalf, and charges you for the amount of time spent performing a service. Hourly rates are usually charged in units of every 6 minutes, and can be charged for just about anything that you agree to in the engagement letter. For example, your patent attorney may charge you an hourly rate for things like travel time or phone calls.
The benefit of an hourly rate is that you might save money if the patent attorney can provide the service quickly. Another benefit is that the patent attorney has an incentive to spend as much time as necessary on your project to do a good job.
The disadvantage of hourly rates is that the patent attorney may drag their heels on a project to increase their billings. Another disadvantage of hourly rates is that the patent attorney may nickel-and-dime you to death for every little thing.
If you agree to an hourly rate, I highly recommend that you obtain an estimate in advance and in writing. I also suggest that you request that they warn you if a phone call or email is being billed as part of the hourly rate, especially if they are calling or emailing you when you didn’t request it. I have heard of clients forbidding their patent attorneys from calling or emailing them unless it’s an emergency.
A flat fee is where the patent attorney performs an agreed upon task on your behalf, and charges you a standard fee for the service, regardless of how long the service takes.
The benefit of a flat fee is that you know exactly how much you will be charged for a service, and you do not need to be worried about how long you spend on the phone. The disadvantage of a flat fee is that patent attorney has every reason to spend as little time on your project as possible, which may result in your patent attorney providing poor legal service. The other disadvantage of a flat fee is that the patent attorney must be efficient to make this billing structure work. If you start consuming too much of their time, they may actually withdraw as your attorney and hand your money back.
The third disadvantage of a flat fee occurs when you unknowingly deviate from the service you have requested. For example, you request that your patent attorney prepare a response to an Office Action. Then ask or approve of your attorney filing an information disclosure statement (IDS). Even though they are submitted together, the IDS may not be part of the flat fee. Make sure you know what the flat fee covers, and ask when you are not sure.
Watch your bill for hidden expenses. Many larger law firms charge by the minute for long distance phone calls, by the page for faxes, by the page for photocopies, etc…
Patent Attorney Service Fees
Each of the following is based on the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) 2015 Report of the Economic Survey. The AIPLA has about 15,000 members, most of which are patent attorneys. This survey is based on their responses. Sometimes, I combine groups and estimate the numbers, so these should be considered ballpark numbers.
Hourly Rate for Solo Practitioner
- 5 or fewer years of experience: $180 – $240, average $200
- 5 – 24 years of experience: $220 – $350, 5-6 years has an average of $300
- 25 – 34 years of experience: $290 – $400, average of $340
- 35 or more years of experience: $250 – $480
Hourly Rate of Associates
- Less than 5 years of experience: $200 – $310, average $260
- 5 – 9 years of experience: $250 – $400, average $330
- 10 – 24 years of experience: $300 – $500, average $410
Hourly Rate of Partners
- 5 – 9 years of experience: $250 – $350, average $300
- 10 – 14 years of experience: $300 – 350, average $300
- 15 – 35 years of experience: $350 – $690, average around $500
Cost of Preparing and Filing a U.S. Utility Patent Application
- Chemical or Biotech Application: $8,000 – $15,000, average $11,000
- Electrical or Computer Application: $8,000 – $12,000, average $11,000
- Mechanical Application: $7,000 – $10,000, average $9,000
Responses to Office Actions
Responses are usually the largest cost of getting a patent after filing the patent application.
- Low Complexity Response to an Office Action: $1,800 – $2,200, average $2,000
- Chemical or Biotech Response to an Office Action: $2,100 – $4,000, average $3,500
- Electrical or Computer Response to an Office Action: $2,100 – $3,500, average $3,300
- Mechanical Response to an Office Action: $2,000 – $3,500, average $3,000
- Validity Opinion: $5,000 – 15,000, average $13,000
- Infringement Opinion: $5,000 – 15,000, average $12,000
About 33% percent of Patent Attorneys use flat rates for patent preparation and patent prosecution.
In general, although there is no upper limit, you can expect to pay a total amount of $20,000 – $30,000 to draft a U.S. patent application and have it issued as a U.S. patent. That does not include patent maintenance fees.
Hope This Helps!
The next post in my “How To Find A Patent Attorney: My Guide for Performing Your Own Patent Attorney Search” series will cover “How To Get The Most Out Of A Free Consultation.” Click here for the next post.