Everyone knows that the patent application process takes time.
(article continues below)
What is less well-known is that obtaining a patent for your invention also requires a sizeable cash investment. In addition to filing fees, many applicants find it helpful to recruit the services of a qualified patent attorney. But how much should you expect to pay for a decent patent lawyer?
As you might expect, patent attorney fees vary widely. You can spend anywhere from $50 - $300+ per hour for legal advice and services. However, the national average rate continues to hover in the $250 - $275 per hour range. In exchange for their fee, the attorney will review the patent search and give a professional opinion as to whether or not the invention is "patentable". If the likelihood of approval is strong and the investor is still interested in pursuing the patent, the attorney then prepares the application, files it, and offers advice about how to respond to correspondence from the U.S. Patent Office. You should know that many patent attorneys do not do the patent search themselves, but outsource it at a fixed rate of $300 - $600, which you will be expected to pay above and beyond attorney fees.
Why the variation in patent attorney hourly rates?
More experienced patent lawyers command a higher fee based on the assumption that their experience will lead to a more expedient patent approval process. Since this may or may not actually be the case, it's worth your time to check references of past clients to determine how effective the patent attorney is at facilitating the process.
But experience isn't the only reason for the wide variation in attorney rates. Geography also plays a major role in the price you will pay for patent advice. Major urban markets like New York, Boston, and California cities lead the pack with averages around $325 - $350 per hour. Chicago, Washington D.C., and Texas-locales also tend to run higher than the national average. On the hand, deals can be found in non-traditional markets like Florida where there are a large number of patent attorneys eager for business.
Still, the most significant variable in the cost of a patent attorney is the number of hours the attorney needs to review the invention and file the application documents. Basic inventions (e.g. paper clips) typically rack up $4,000 - $6,500 in fees while fees for more complicated inventions (e.g. telecommunications networks) can run in excess of $25,000.
How to minimize patent attorney rates.
From a cost perspective, it is to your advantage to minimize the amount of time your attorney spends on your application. Although eliminating the attorney altogether might not be a wise move, you can minimize the attorney's hours by doing some of the work yourself or by using a patent agent. A patent agent is an expert in the patent process and costs about half as much as a patent attorney. By employing a qualified, reputable patent agent who is willing to work closely with a patent attorney, you can reduce the attorney's hours and save a little cash.
Similarly, you may be able to save money by doing some of the footwork yourself. However, unless you really know what you're doing, leave the heavy lifting for someone who has the experience and credentials to get the job done right.