The fee for patent attorneys is going to vary quite significantly depending upon the geographical market and the attorney’s level experience. Based on 2001 economic data, the national average is about $252.00 per hour, the national median is $240.00 per hour, the 25th percentile is $198.00 per hour and the 75th percentile is $300.00 per hour. Cities like Boston and New York tend to be the most expensive (add about $75.00 to each number), with California close behind (add about $50.00) to each number. Texas, Chicago and Washington, D.C., also tend to be more expensive than most other parts of the country, but not as significantly so when compared to Boston, New York and California.
Since 2001, according to available survey data, the national average has largely remained in the $250 to $275 per hour range, but that estimate seems low if you ask me. In major cities the per hour average continues to be at a premium, and you should expect to pay much higher, perhaps even double. Additionally, it needs to be understood that this national average takes into account all patent attorneys and agents, which means that a good number of extremely low costs service providers are driving down the averages. If you are looking for experienced patent attorneys at a reputable firm you should anticipate hourly rates to be somewhere between $275 to $400 per hour in areas outside major metropolitan areas and somewhere between $400 to $800+ per hour in major metropolitan areas.
If you are going to simply hire patent attorneys to do everything for you I would seriously consider hiring patent attorneys who are located in a non-traditional patent market. For example, the firm I work with – Zies Widerman & Malek – is headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, and my own satellite office is in Leesburg, Virginia. This means the office I am close to a metropolitan center, but the overhead is far more reasonable than a downtown office overlooking the city. Additionally, because the primary office for the firm is in Florida where the overhead is low, we can offer extremely competitive rates even when the work is being done by experienced patent attorneys. The cost of doing business for patent attorneys in non-traditional markets is typically much less than for attorney’s in New York City, so you may be able to afford to have a partner with many years of experience work on your invention for less than you would have to pay an associate with little or no experience at a New York City law firm. Nevertheless, you should not just race to the firm with the lowest prices. Invariably, those offering bargain pricing are going to provide you with comparatively less time and service. Be sure to do your homework before hiring patent attorneys offering low fees.
With respect to the estimate of how many attorney hours it would take is difficult without a good deal of information about the invention and/or what if any other, similar inventions are in the prior art. Here is an idea of what you might expect.
The first step in the process is usually undertaking a patent search to determine whether moving forward make sense. While you can and should do your own patent search, at some point in the process you will likely want to obtain a professional patent search, which itself usually runs from $500 to $1,000, with the price depending upon how detailed you want the search. If both a US and an international patent search is desired the cost does go up. It is important to understand that the cost of the patent search is a fixed, non-negotiable cost in many cases because the patent attorney will routinely outsource the search to firms who specialize only in finding prior art, much like is commonly the case in real estate transactions where attorneys hire title search companies who provide the information necessary for the attorney to review. For more information on patent searches CLICK HERE.
Upon receiving the patent search the patent attorney will review the search and issue a patentability opinion (either verbal or in writing, depending upon your preference and other considerations). The price of the patentability opinion can range quite a bit depending upon the complexity of the prior art found, as well as the volume of prior art found. Additionally, a patentability opinion can and frequently is influenced by the complexity of the inventors inventions itself. The low range ballpark figure for a patentability opinion would be $1,000.00. Again, it is important to remember that the complexity of the field of invention and number of related patents greatly affects the likely expenditure. If all you are looking for is an attorney who will answer your questions about a search and not actually provide a patentability opinion you should expect to spend about $250 to $500 for a consultation.
After the search and the patentability opinion or consultation it is up to you the inventor to give the green light to their patent attorneys. These days it would be very rare for a review to result in an opinion that nothing could be patented. There is likely something that can always be protected. The question you will likely have to address is whether the likely protection that can be achieved is worth the expense of filing a patent application.
If you give the green light your patent attorneys will start working on the application. It is very difficult if not impossible to give a ballpark estimate without knowing a good bit about the invention and how complex the invention is. For example, I strongly suggest that new clients start with a patent search so that we can learn about the invention and the prior art. This has benefits because it may be the case that moving forward does not make sense, if you do move forward the patent application will be better because you will know what traps may lie ahead and it gives us the ability to provide a flat fee quote that we can stand behind.
If you feel you need the assistance of a patent attorney I can help. Please contact me and I will get back to you as soon as possible. I have been helping independent inventors and start-up companies since 1998. I have developed a unique process efficiently and effectively creates patent applications with the cooperation of the inventor. This process reduces costs and creates a better product because rather than doing all the drafting I work together with the inventor to create the patent application. This process uncovers many additional aspects of the invention that can be protected and results in a far more detailed patent application than is typical.