The costs of obtaining a patent depend primarily on the geographical scope, the complexity of the application, and the duration of the grant procedure.

A simplified calculation: Expect a national patent to cost at least 5,000 € until grant. Comprehensive protection in Europe starts from 15.000 €. For rights that are effective in the major countries of the world, you have to expect at least 30,000 €. Also costs of more than 100,000 € are not uncommon. Furthermore, you have to reckon with several thousand euros for renewal fees in each country until protection expires.

So, do not underestimate the cost of patenting! Depending on the geographical scope of the protected rights and the length of the existence they can be substantial. In case of complex inventions, extensive correspondence with patent offices and headwinds from competitors, costs can rise significantly.

In principle, three types of costs arise for inventors/applicants: Patent office fees during application phase, fees for patent attorneys (or other service providers such as translators or patent searchers), and annual maintenance fees for renewal of protection. The section below provides a more in-depth analysis of the different categories. Alongside there is an outline with the biggest expected roadblocks and ways to avoid them.

Important national offices
DE GB CN JP US
Application filing fee 40 € 30 £ 950 ¥ 15.000 ¥ 280 $
Search report 300 € 130 £ – € 600 $
Request for examination 350 € 100 £ 2.500 ¥ 118.000 ¥¹ 720 $
Granting fee – € – £ 255 ¥ – € 960 $
Total 690 € 260 £ 3.705 ¥ 133.000 ¥¹ 2.560$²

¹ plus 4.000 ¥ per claim
² 50% or 75% reduction for small entities/individual inventors

 
European Patent Office or PCT application at WIPO
EP PCT
Application filing fee 210 € 1.330 CHF
Designation fee 580 € – CHF
Transfer fee – € 100 CHF
Search report 1.285 € national fees
Request for examination 1.805 € p to 2.000 CHF
Granting and issuing fee 915 € – CHF
Additional costs per country National validation¹ National fees
Total Minimum 4.795 € ~3.000 CHF²

¹ These emerge because of translations etc. and can in total account for 1,000-3,000 € per country.
² In addition to fees for the PCT application, costs occur in respective national phases. A PCT application simplifies the process and shifts the decision where to pursuit protection to the future for several months. However, reduced costs only arise, if national offices concede discounts for PCT applications.

The tables show that costs of patenting occur to a minor degree due to patent office application fees. Comparatively high are fees at the US patent and trademark office (USPTO). However, because of the size of the US market, they cannot be compared with fees in “small” European countries.

The advantage of an EP is merely the reduction of national fees. In case of an EP application, extensive national filings are not necessary, only a national validation with fewer requirements is demanded.

Patent attorney fees depend on the scope and complexity of your invention. A scale of legal fees as in case of lawyers does not exist, they are agreed individually.

Although patent attorneys sometimes offer lump sums for preparing a patent filing and subsequent prosecution, attorney offices usually charge based on hourly rates. These can differ significantly and are in most cases between 150 € and 500 €.

Simple applications can be filed requiring less than 10 hours. More complex applications with a large number of pages, drawings and patent claims will need more work. For a regular application, the expected attorney fees typically vary between 3,000 and 6,000 €.

In addition, during examination costs can arise depending on the number of replies to communications from the office. Usually, these will range from 1,000 and 5,000 €. The higher the effort corresponding with patent offices, the higher the effort for patent attorneys. All other fees are subject to individual practices of attorneys. Some might charge fees for representation before the patent office, some might ask for reimbursement of expenses.

When applying for an EPO patent, additional costs for national validation procedures might arise, e.g. for translation of documents or appointment of national agents in designated states. Validations in countries where no translation is necessary (especially DE, GB, and FR), should be less expensive.

  • Preparing application filing: approx. 3,000-6,000 €
  • During examination phase: approx. 1,000-5,000 €
  • After patent grant (for maintaining the patent): approx. 100 € per country and year
  • National validation of EP patents (per country): 1,000-3,000 €

In summary, attorney fees for obtaining a national patent are usually between 5,000 and 10,000 €. Fees when applying via an EP application with subsequent national validation depend largely on the number of designated states.

For protection in the most important European markets, the total costs can sum up to approx. 15.000 €. There are however cases where the total costs can exceed this sum easily.

 

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Important national offices and European Patent Office
 
DE GB CN JP US EP
1rst year – € – £ 900 ¥ 2,300 ¥1 – $ – €
2nd year – € – £ 900 ¥ 2,300 ¥1 – $ – €
3rd year 70 € – £ 900 ¥ 2,300 ¥1 1,600 $ 465 €
4th year 70 € – £ 1,200 ¥ 7,100 ¥1 – $ 580 €
5th-9th year (total) 930 € 450 £ 8,400 ¥ 78,400 ¥1 3,600 $ 5,650 €
10th-20th year (total) 12,100 € 4,000 £ 70,000 ¥ 677,600 ¥1 7,400 $ 17,160 €
Total 13,170 € 4,450 £ 82,300 ¥ 770,000 ¥1 12,600 $2 23,855 €

¹ additional fees per claim
2 Fees due after 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years. 50% or 75% discount for small entities/individual inventors

 

The compilation of annual maintenance fees reveals that costs escalate over the validity period. In fact, they exceed application fees significantly. The closer a patent is to the end of the duration, the higher annual maintenance fees.

EPO maintenance fees have to be paid until a patent is granted. Afterwards, only national fees have to be paid in designated states.

 

Please be aware that your actual fees and costs might differ considerably from “typical” amounts. Each invention is different and so are individual protection mechanisms.

Status: January 2016

Rough Estimation and Assessment of Total Costs

After having read the preceding sections, you might have realized that it is not an easy task compile a universal cost statement. Broadly speaking, most notable costs arise from a professional supervision and annual fees.

Obtaining a national patent will generate costs of at least 5,000 € until patent grant. Depending on the country, further costs of 5,000 to 15,000 € will arise until expiry.

Obtaining a European patent will generate costs of at least 10,000 € until EP patent grant and at least further 1,000 € per designated country. For patent renewal, annual fees have to be paid to national offices which sum up to 5,000-15,000 € each, as stated in the preceding paragraph. When protecting all important local markets in Europe, the costs can easily exceed 30.000 €. In case of large patent families, the costs can even go to 100.000 € and beyond.

Furthermore, you should be aware that enforcing your property right might generate additional costs. Depending on amount in dispute, those legal costs can exceed the mere costs of obtaining a patent.

A more detailed description of patent costs can be found in the book “Gewerbliche Schutzrechte” by Dirk Rebel (in German). In addition, the patent law firm Plate Schweitzer Zounek provides a brief overview of costs in a variety of countries.

 

How to Reduce Costs?

First and foremost, costs can be reduced by choosing the right patent attorney. Use the Patent-Pilot patent attorney search to find a representative who is experienced in your field of expertise and can truly assess your invention. He can work effectively and cost-efficiently, and thus, increase the quality of your patent application while saving time and money during the examination phase.

Moreover, patent offices partially reduce fees for small entities and individual inventors. For example at USPTO, fees are lowered to up to 25% of fees described above. At DPMA, procedural costs legal aid can be requested (information sheet in German).

Additionally, at DPMA, annual fees can be cut in half, if the owner declares to be prepared to grant licenses in exchange for an adequate compensation.

 

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