Patents are expensive and time-consuming; before you decide for sure to file your patent application, go through all of your options to make sure that you are making an informed decision.
For example, even a simple patent application can cost $5,000 to $10,000 to prosecute through the USPTO. Complex applications, such as those for pharmaceuticals, can cost well over $100,000. It is difficult to estimate costs prior to filing and even more difficult to determine whether an individual or company will step forward to oppose the application. Of course, these are rough estimates for your initial estimate but note that costs:
• Typically vary substantially (technology area, etc.).
• Like the process, are spread out over time, typically several years.
• Come with no guarantee of success, roughly half of the patent applications filed will result in a granted patent.
• Include attorney fees, drawing creation, filing fees, professional prior art research, handling of the USPTO’s office actions, and patent publication fees.
• Do NOT include your time or your employee expenses.
• Do NOT include USPTO maintenance fees. The first one is due at the three-year mark.
• Are not refunded if you do not get a patent.
You can expect that the fastest turnaround time to file a patent application is around two to three months, but the more typical time is three to eight months. From first filing to grant (assuming it is granted) typically takes several years, depending on the area of technology involved.
Of equal importance is the idea of licensing. Many people think they have the world’s next BIG invention and imagine making millions on it. The truth is otherwise. Most patents are never licensed. Many of those that are licensed in bulk (Some companies buy them for a few dollars each by the hundreds or thousands). If you are serious about inventing and serious about patenting, you must research opportunities carefully and be prepared to work hard to find a licensee or other support. Then, you must also understand that licensees don’t just throw money at patents. Their worth has to be proven. Think of it like publishing- many more books are written than published and most that are written don’t make their authors rich.
While some people like the thought of getting a patent for bragging rights, make sure those brags don’t cost more than the end result. Have a plan in mind. This plan should include costs, goals, and projected results, at the least.
Keep your information confidential until it has been filed with the USPTO and protected by a patent if you can. Your attorney or agent can certainly advise you otherwise.
Worst case scenario: Brag about the specifics of your idea, especially to large groups of people in a public setting. The U.S. is somewhat lenient in that it allows you to still get a patent if the application is filed within 12 months of the idea becoming public. Europe and most countries use the concept of absolute novelty- any prior disclosure of the idea ends any quest for a patent.
Definitely learn about Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and their use.