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You have a great idea for an invention. Now what?
Likely, you already know that, without a patent, anyone can make and sell your invention. The process to obtain a patent, though, is both complex and confusing. It requires knowledge of not only patent law, but also a certain amount of scientific knowledge and an understanding of the Patent and Trademark Office.
An experienced patent lawyer guides you through the entire process. Before you hire one, though, it helps to have an idea of what a patent attorney charges.
Why Hire a Patent Lawyer?
Patent attorneys help their clients obtain patents in four main ways: conducting a patent search, narrowing the scope of your patent, preparation and filing of your patent application, and then refining and resubmitting your application when necessary.
The first step is always the patent search, to ensure that a patent for your invention or idea does not already exist. If one does, the attorney then works with you to narrow the scope of your patent, defining what makes it unique and differentiates it from what is already out there. He or she also may file a provisional patent application. You have likely seen this with products advertised as "patent pending."
Preparing the patent application comes next. It includes a description of similar inventions, outlines and describes the application of your idea, and includes a legal description. The value of a patent attorney becomes clear during the preparation and filing stage.
Finally, the Patent Office often rejects an initial patent filing. When this happens, your attorney works with you to perform the necessary adjustments and resubmits.
Average Fees of a Patent Lawyer
Whenever you hire an attorney, costs vary greatly depending on where you live, the size of the law firm, and the attorney's credentials. Hourly rates vary widely, from $150 to $500 or more per hour. Large urban areas nearly always fall on the upper side of that scale.
Experience also plays a role in billing rates. Patent attorneys with the most experience, seven or more years, charge between $300 and $550 per hour. Those with at least three years' experience typically charge between $200 and $350 per hour. A new patent attorney, or one working alone, charges between $150 and $250 per hour. Total attorney fees depend on the complexity of your invention. The average fees on a simple invention range between $5,000 and $10,000. For a moderately complex invention, expect to spend between $10,000 and $15,000. Finally, complex inventions start at around $15,000 and go up from there.
Beyond the attorney's fees, you accrue various legal costs, such as patent filing fees, drawing fees, and administrative costs. Filing fees vary widely, but expect to pay at least $300, and up to several thousand. Drawings of your invention average around $100 per drawing, but may be higher than that.
What Affects Attorney Fees
Law firm size and experience go a long way toward determining attorney fees. For starters, larger firms tend to charge more, in part because they hire the top attorneys in their area. In addition, they hire experienced support staff, to help ensure all-around topnotch legal representation.
Of course, this doesn't mean that you can't find great talent at a smaller firm. In addition, smaller firms have fewer clients, meaning they have more time to devote to your patent application.
Typically, attorneys prefer to charge an hourly rate, as it offers them a number of protections. First, if the attorney works for a law firm, billable hours help demonstrate his or her value to the team. Second, many clients who are charged a flat rate, either consciously or unconsciously, take advantage of the flat rate and use up much of the attorney's time on phone calls, emails, and other "checking in" behaviors.
Most attorneys charge a retainer before they begin work on a case. Typically, this represents a number of hours at the attorney's normal hourly rate. If a patent attorney charges $250 per hour, he or she may request a retainer for $2,500, or 10 hours of his or her time.
Payment for work performed comes out of the retainer. When no funds remain, the attorney either requests payment in the form of another lump sum of hours, or bills you monthly for hours worked.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you have a great idea you'd like to patent, schedule a free consultation with a patent attorney. He or she will explain the process and work with you to file your patent so you can start making money off of your invention.