How long and how much for a patent?
The short answer is it takes about 22-30 months and costs about $12,000-$14,000. Before you abandon all hope, read below to find out more about the patent process.
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the average time it takes to get a patent is about 25 months. If you want to expedite the process you can pay an extra fee ($1000-$4000) to the USPTO to get prioritized examination utility patents you can cut the time down to 6 to 12 months.
A good patent attorney can help you with the process from start to finish, including:
Patent Searching & Analysis (1-2 Weeks & $500)
This step is optional, but it can help you understand what other inventions are out there, what may be novel/unique about your invention and if you may be infringing some else's patent.
Prepare a Patent Application (2-4 Weeks and $5500)
If the patent search turns up nothing, you're ready to draft a patent application. It usually takes an attorney 2 to 4 weeks depending on the attorney's workload, the complexity of the invention, how much information is provided from the applicant, and any changes necessary.
Office Actions (18 months & $3500-$5000)
An office action is a rejection from the patent office indicating that your patent is not patentable because it is not novel or is obvious compared to previous inventions.
As life is full of rejections, don't get too worried if your patent application gets rejected. Typically a patent application gets 2-3 Office actions before it gets allowed. This is because the Examiner at the USPTO may require you to identifying how your invention is different, clarify the scope of your invention, and/or change how many inventive features you are claiming.
Each Office action you takes 2-3 months to receive from the Examiner and 1 month to respond.
Abandonment or Allowance (3 months & $0-$800)
After you have gone a few rounds with the Office action you typically get a pretty good idea if your patent application will be allowable you should be abandoned. If you abandoned your patent application, it doesn't cost you anything. If your patent application gets allowed, it usually takes a couple months once you get the notice and cost about $800.
Maintenance Fees (3.5 years/$800 - 7.5 years/$1800 - 11.5 years/$3,700)
If your patent application gets allowed and issue into a patent, then the USPTO charges maintenance fees for up to 11.5 years after issues if you want to keep your patent active. You pay the first fee of $800 at 3.5 years after the patent issues, the second fee of $1800 at 7.5 years, and the third fee of $3,700 at 11.5 years.
Depending on the patent and the invention you may decide to keep the patent active the entire length of the patent or let it go abandon once it is no longer valuable.
Why does it take so long and cost so much?
At any given time, the USPTO has hundreds of thousands of patent applications being examined. In 2012, 542,815 applications were filed. As of 2014, there were only 7,966 examiners and a backlog of 604,692 patent applications. With the amount of examination required, this causes longer wait times. High-traffic fields such as computer software have even longer wait times. Also, some applicants will fight the USPTO's decision, further slowing the process.
Patents are expensive. Depending on the invention and the business they can be a great investment or a waste of time and money. To help you understand if a patent is right for your business/invention, talk to an experienced patent attorney.