Cost of Doing a Patent Search
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The Cost of Getting a US Patent Search
There is no single answer for what it costs to get a patent search. Depending upon the method you use, it could cost anywhere from $200 to $5000.
The large range of potential costs is based primarily on the method and thoroughness of the search that you require. There are many services in the market that do preliminary searches of issued patents in the United States. They will search a limited number of databases for a limited number of keywords.
On the other end of the spectrum, hiring a patent search professional to do a comprehensive search of patent applications in various countries could be quite expensive. It gets more expensive depending upon the complexity of the patent and the need to search in various fields of art for conflicting patents.
In this article, we discuss the various methods and considerations for carrying out a patent search. We relate this process to the expectations of the individual and the potential costs for the service.
Why Carry Out a Patent Search?
First of all, you need to determine whether your invention is capable of patent protection. This is often called a “validity” search. If not, it would be a waste of time and money to move forward with the patent application process.
Second, you need to know if what you are inventing has already been the subject of a foreign or domestic patent application. Depending upon the purpose, this is called a “novelty” or an “infringement search”. If so, it could be a limitation on you producing and selling or licensing rights to your invention. If you ultimate objective is to commercialize your invention, you will have to know if someone else has the right to stop you from doing so.
Third, doing a patent search can provide you very good information and examples of how to go about patenting your invention. Filing a patent is more of an art than a science. You are trying to secure the broadest protection for your invention possible. A poorly-filed (narrowly-defined) patent application will do very little to protect your invention from copy by competitors. Researching existing patents will give you an idea of how to capture your rights in broadest fashion possible.
Lastly, you want to know what technology currently exists for your industry. This is called a “state of the art” search. If you have an invention that you hope to commercialize, it will need to meet a consumer need or want. Identifying a valid consumer need or want (and determining the strength of that need or want) is not easy. It will help you to understand what inventions exist in the industry that currently address that need or want. It will help you assess the validity of your concept or invention.
Doing a Patent Search Myself?
First off, you can do the patent search yourself. There are many, many free and paid resources out there that will allow you to search for patents.
Some of the most notable free patent databases are Google Patent, Patentscope, Espace, and the USPTO websites. Collectively these databases allow for a very detailed search (both within the United States and Internationally) for current and prior patent grants.
These search databases offer a number of search functions and criteria, such as simple and advanced search, keyword searches, author searches, category search, classification codes, etc.
There are also a number of paid search databases that offer these same services. Some notable firms in Thomas-Reuters, Delphion, PatBase, and Patent Lens.
It is not highly advisable for an amateur patent searcher to pay for these private search tools. They generally have very detailed (often complicated) search features that the free databases do not have.
These tools or functions, however, are better suited for patent search professionals. An individuals well versed in patent search and how to maximize the capabilities of a search database can use these tools to carry out a more effective search. An amateur cannot.
We advise the patent amateur who decides to carry on the difficult process of effectively searching existing patents to begin with the free databases. Used correctly, they can provide all of the value you need.
Hiring a Patent Search Firm
Another option for searching patents is to hire a high-volume patent search firm. These firms provide low-cost patent solutions.
Generally, they do not provide a large number of patent search options or customization. They generally allow the individual to pay for a national patent search or international patent search.
I do not have many good things to say about these firms. Generally, they perform a cursory search of the claimed invention in either a free or paid database.
The search tends to be cursory in nature. These firms do not take a lot of time to really understand the novel and useful elements that can be claimed on the invention. If the searcher does not fully understand the characteristics of the invention, it is nearly impossible to perform a thorough patent search.
In summary, you end up getting what you pay for with these search firms. Their low cost yields a low-value result. You can expect a cost ranging from $200 - 750 for a nation and/or international search.
The best way to identify these types of firms is that they tend to bundle together all sorts of services along with the search. For example, they combine a patent search with drafting, filing, prosecution, etc.
They generally offer no guarantee regarding the quality of the search. Instead, they focus on sucking more money out of the client through additional services that will ultimately be fruitless.
What About Hiring a Professional Patent Searcher?
Professional patent searchers are the most expensive. These individuals work at professional firms (generally law firms) and have extensive credentials.
They work personally with the client to fully understand the subject invention. Then they develop a plan for carrying out a thorough patent search. The extent of the search will be based upon the client’s needs.
These individuals generally employ the previously mentions paid patent search databases. They have extensive training and skill in using these databases.
These firms often provide some form of guarantee regarding the quality or accuracy of their search services.
Of course, this type of service is the most expensive of the options. The cost of the services will vary based upon the nature of the invention and the extent of the search.
For example, a complicated invention that has numerous potential claimed elements in a very esoteric field will be more expensive than a search of a relatively simple invention.
Also, if the inventor wants both a national and international search, this will be more expensive. Searching for active and in-active patents is more expensive than an active patent search. If the inventor desires a search of pending patent applications, this is a far more difficult process and can be much more expensive.
The fee for the patent search will either be an hourly rate or a flat fee. In some instances the patent searcher will charge a combination of these. This is generally a base fee and hourly rate after a certain number of hours of search.
In summary, once again, you get what you pay for. A patent search of this nature will range from $1500 - 10s of thousands of dollars. Again, it all depends upon the invention.
Is the Preliminary Search the Only Thing that Costs?
No. After obtaining the patent search, you will need to write the patent application. This can be an expensive service if you use an attorney or patent agent.
Also, you will need to pay the filing and examination fees. One of these fees includes a patent search fee carried out by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
If the patent is approved, you will be required to pay between $165 - 660, depending on whether the filer is an individual or business (and business size matters).
The USPTO also charges maintenance fees payable throughout the life of the patent. The rate changes based upon whether the inventor is an individual or business (and the size of the business).
Visit the USPTO website to learn more about the applicable fees associated with filing and obtaining a utility patent.