How Much Does a Patent Search Cost?

By Lee Hall, J.D.

How Much Does a Patent Search Cost?

By Lee Hall, J.D.

A patent protects your exclusive ownership of something novel and unique—usually an innovative design or an improved mechanical process or invention—and the search and application process can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Conducting a search for a patent is a way to avoid paying for an unsuccessful application. Conduct a search yourself for free, have a private law office handle the search for a fee, or consider low-cost options between these two ends of the spectrum.

Two men brainstorming in lab with robots on desk

The main reasons to apply for a protection on your innovation include:

  • Chances to earn revenue from selling or licensing your innovation
  • Credibility in the marketplace for both the innovation and the creator
  • Exclusive rights to use and market the results of your creative work

Government-Run Searches on Applications

Note that U.S. Patent and Trademark Office examiners check existing patents and pending applications upon receiving a new application. An innovator does pay for the examiners to complete this task. The USPTO website lists the search fees that an applicant must pay.

Examiners reject an application that is too much like an existing patent. In this case, the applicant forfeits the application fees, including the search fees. Thus, a thorough search prior to filing an application saves money.

Methods of Searching for Similar Patents

To find out if something similar to your invention already exists:

  • Conduct a search by using the USPTO database yourself at no cost.
  • If you prefer, go to the USPTO headquarters or regional office to conduct your search.
  • Alternatively, search all registrations going back to the first one issued in the country at a Patent and Trademark Depository Library. These libraries have helpful staff, and they exist in every state. The USPTO offers a directory so you can plan your trip.
  • You can find helpful software on the internet simply by searching for the term "patent search software."
  • Search Google Patents. The database, which has better text searching functions than the USPTO, goes back to the very beginning of the U.S. patent system.

Another way to complete the search process is to get legal assistance carrying out your search. Whereas searching on your own is free, acquiring assistance will likely be costly.

Alternative Ways to Cover Patent Search Costs

An inventor or small business with limited resources might qualify for free attorney assistance through the Nationwide Pro Bono Program. This service results from the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. The law encourages the USPTO to support intellectual property law offices in providing assistance to innovators who need it. The basic requirements are a maximum household income, an understanding of patenting, and an actual invention, not just an idea for one.

You might also be able to find a licensee willing to pay for the search and registration process. Inventors who negotiate fee coverage with a licensee avoid spending application fees for a concept that might not ultimately be a commercial success.

A useful innovation is a contribution to society. It is also your intellectual property. A patent gives you the statutory basis to protect your rights in court and stop others from using your idea without your permission. Conducting a thorough search using the method that fits your situation is well worth the typically low cost.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.