Quick Summary

Getting A Low Cost Patent

Getting A Low Cost Patent

1. Understand the process - it starts with an application

2. Pick the right type of patent application

    a) Provisional Patent Application

    b) Non-Provisional Patent Application

    c) Design Patent Application

3. Know the cost timeline

4. Look into Special Programs

Getting A Low Cost Patent

7 min read time

Cash is a critical resource, we get that. Some companies may be cash flush. Others may operate at the leanest of lean. Whatever your position, cash is the lifeblood. Knowing where, when, and how to spend that resource can make or break you.

Patents are another resource that can dramatically impact a company. Patents impact position in the market, valuation, and other elements.

So, you probably ended up here because you are savvy and trying to find a good cash-spend-to-intellectual-property balance. We can help you out. Here's some options and pointers.

1) Understand the Process - It Starts With an Application

There are several options available to someone seeking patent protection. All of them start with an application.

In an application, you request that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or other national entity grant you a patent.

If everything goes well, they will grant your request. THEN you will have a patent. Getting the patent itself is not immediate. It's a process that usually takes a non-trivial amount of time.

It takes, on average, about 25 months.

2) Pick the Right Type of Patent

Picking the right type of patent application is crucial.

The common forms a patent takes are as follows:

    A: Non-provisional Utility Patent Application

    B: Provisional Patent Application

    C: Design Patent Application

The most common patent application is a non-provisional utility patent application. While non-provisional applications are certainly the most common, there are other options as well.

We’ll go through each to give you an idea of what you can expect. The coverage and cost tend to very with each. With this article, you can learn how you might be able to reduce cost without sacrificing coverage.

A: Non-Provisional Utility Patent Application

Non-provisional Utility applications (we’ll just call them “utility applications”) are the most common road to patent protection. Upon filing a utility application, you are allowed to use the “patent pending” label on corresponding products, processes, services, etc.

The main cost here is in the time needed for the attorney to draft your application. That cost is centered in two general areas:



There are other elements to an application but let’s focus on these for now.

For the drawings/description, you can cut down on the time an attorney needs by preparing a good batch of drawings (preferably with labels/numbers) and a written description that references each of those drawings one-by-one.

Here, you want to be thinking of different variations and ways that someone might change up your invention (for better or worse) to get around any protection you might get.

For the claims, there is less you can do because claim language is incredibly sensitive and tedious in its formal legal requirements.

However, one helpful hint is to identify the one or two aspects that truly sets your invention apart from what is already out there. Think about each point of novelty and distill it down as far as you can.

Try to provide one sentence for each new aspect - be as clear and concise as possible here. The quicker and more in-tune your attorney is with the novel nature of your invention, the better they will be able to craft your protection.

B: Provisional Patent Application

Provisional patent applications are a unique tool. Provisional patents are cheaper, but are far more temporary. They serve as a placeholder but do not directly result in an issued patent. Instead, this application expires one year from the date it is filed. So… why is this such a popular tool?

First, it gets your foot in the door by saving your date. If you can’t foot the cost for a full utility application, a provisional is a good idea. If you aren’t fully sure of your market and if there is a good opportunity to compete, a provisional will help you. You can get to that one-year mark without the full cost of a utility application. In other words, it may be a way to get started without fully committing the funds.

That lower commitment is, in part, because the provisional patent application has no formal requirements. For example, your drawings can be pictures taken with your phone of something you scratched out on a napkin. The description can be your slide deck for your presentation. You don’t even need to have claims (there’s a significant cost savings already)! It's significantly less work for you and your attorney (reducing legal costs).

There are downsides. In order to get a patent, you’ll need to roll that provisional into a utility application. So the full cost of a utility is there. It's just a way to break it up and set off some of the cost.

While the provisional is flexible, if done right, your provisional can save you a lot of time/money on the utility application as well. We always recommend drafting the provisional application to intentionally transfer directly into a utility application. In other words, we recommend drafting the drawings/description just like you would for a utility application.

That being said, where cost is a major driver, the provisional can give you the flexibility you need to jump in.

Don’t have funds to formalize those drawings for direct re-use in the utility application?
Hand sketches will work.

Don’t quite have all the different variations and descriptions ready?
We can file without.

The flexibility is great.

There is one caveat. You want to make sure you disclosure everything you would like to patent before that early provisional application date. If new information is added when you file the utility application, that will take the later utility application date.

C: Design Patent Application

Design patent applications are a great way to capture the design elements of your product. If you want to protect design element that don’t necessarily impact the operation or function of your invention, the design patent is for you. That way, you can protect the parts of your product that give your invention a distinct look and feel that is recognized by consumers in your market.

For example, some high profile design patents include the Statue of Liberty, Apple iPhone™ design, Corvette taillights, and many others.

These applications are drawing heavy.

Design patents only include a single claim referencing the drawings. However, the drawings will be how your design patent lives or dies. You can save cost here by providing sufficient material to your patent attorney up front. That way, they can help them minimize the amount of time they spend recreating your invention in drawing form.

CAD models and other formal drafting resources are often most helpful. If you already have those, providing them to your attorney will save you money.

3) Know the Cost Timeline

Patent costs are usually frontloaded in the preparation of the application. However, there are ways to stretch out those costs over time. That can lessen the sting.

Knowing when those costs will occur can help to plan for them. That way, you can lessen the financial burden of securing your intellectual property. In the case of a provisional application, you can get patent pending at a reduced cost first, Then you can start selling product/services with that patent pending marking.

That will give you a year before you need to take on the cost to file the full utility application. From there, you’ll wait for an Examiner to be assigned and for a first “Action” to be issued on your application. The time from filing the utility application to the first Action is between 12 and 18 months (16.2 months at the time of the writing of this article).

From there you have a couple months to respond to the Action with any corrections, changes, or arguments you might need to submit (3 months and up to 6 months total with a ramping extension fee).

An average of about 2 Actions can be expected. Once your application is allowed, you’ll need to pay a filling fee and then maintenance fees thereafter. Maintenance fees are at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years after issue. Maintenance fees are relatively small and are discounted for smaller companies.

4) Special Programs

The USPTO also supports two options that provide free legal assistance. These options help with patent application preparation, filing, and prosecution services to inventors who cannot afford an attorney.

The first of these programs, the Patent Pro Bono Program, seeks to match qualified inventors with volunteer patent professionals.

The second option, the Law School Clinic Certification Program, allows law students to provide the services under the supervision of an approved supervising attorney, who is a registered patent practitioner who also has practical experience. All volunteer practitioners, students, and faculty-supervising attorneys function independently of the USPTO.


Getting A Low Cost Patent

Getting A Low Cost Patent

1. Understand the process - it starts with an application

2. Pick the right type of patent application

    a) Provisional Patent Application

    b) Non-Provisional Patent Application

    c) Design Patent Application

3. Know the cost timeline

4. Look into Special Programs

Next Steps

If you're ready to apply IP protection to your business, find out how we can specifically help you.

It's risk free, and doesn't cost you anything.

Just call us, or schedule a Zoom call at a time that's convenient for you.

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