If you are a startup, small business, or solo inventor and are on a limited budget, how can you get a cheap patent?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is designed to allow individuals to get a patent themselves without the help of a lawyer. You can write the patent yourself, submit it and pay the filing fees.
Is this method free? No. You will always have to pay the filing fees to get your patent examined and then pay the issue fee once it is allowed. The fees range between $430 and $860 depending on if you are a micro entity or a small entity. Although it is not free to file yourself, you will still be getting a cheaper patent.
If $430 to $860 is still too expensive, you can file what is called a provisional patent application. A provisional patent is a placeholder patent application that allows you to claim patent pending status for up to one year and then decide whether to invest the larger amount for a full patent application (non-provisional patent application) that will be examined and can become an issued patent application. The cost to file a provisional patent application yourself is between $70 to $140. The downside to the provisional patent application is that at the end of the one year time period you will lose all patent rights to the invention if you do not file the non-provisional patent application.
One strategy startups with a limited budget use is to file the provisional patent themselves for the $70-$140, test the product/invention out in the market during that year period to see if it is valuable, and if it is, have a patent attorney prepare the non-provisional patent application.
If the budget allows, it is recommended to use an experienced patent attorney to prepare and file your provisional or non-provisional patent application as they can help you avoid issues down the road and draft a patent application that is more valuable.