Intellectual Property Advice

Patent Attorney Hourly Rates

How much do patent attorneys cost? We discuss patent attorney hourly rates and fees.

Everyone knows that the patent application process takes time.

Patent Attorney Hourly Rates

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.

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Conversation Board

What do you pay your patent attorney? If you have advice on hiring a patent attorney, please post a comment.

  • Bruce Burdick, JD posted on 5/16/2010
    Bruce Burdick, JD
    For small inventors, the best value can be obtained from semi-retired, home-based former corporate registered patent attorneys. They have the expertise, time and honesty to advise you like they have in the past advised some of the world's top patenting companies. Of course, being semi-retired they are selective in what they do. The way to find them is to go to (Patent Office website), click on the word Patents, scroll down until you find Attorney & Agents and click on that to get the search engine, search your locale and look for an registration number below 30,000 which will generally mean the attorney is old enough to be retired, then call and ask if they are still accepting clients, if they are retired, and what their rates are.
  • White, S posted on 7/7/2010
    White, S
    Anyone know a good patent attorney that is reasonable in price and honest, good communicator?
  • Patent Troll posted on 2/28/2011
    Patent Troll
    It's not just how quickly you get through the process, it's matters what you end up with at the end, if the PTO issues you a patent. Good patent attorneys have well-rounded experience in patent enforcement and prosecution, and know how to argue for claims of broad and proper scope. Seeking by reg number is not the way to go. I know excellent patent attorneys with reg numbers in the 60Ks that have substantially more experience and know-how than those with smaller reg numbers. What matters is attorney training, ability to communicate, and ability to handle technology generally--not just the narrow field you wish to seek a patent in, but technology generally.

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