Your SaaS has integrated unique key features, and you want to protect them from competitors by utilizing a software patent. This sounds like a good idea in theory, but there are some obstacles you will need to consider before putting the plan into action. One of the biggest questions we are asked by SaaS founders is: how much does a software patent cost?
This article will help you understand the financial aspect of securing patents for your software.
Software Patent Cost Breakdown and Overview
If you are willing to take the “do it yourself” approach, then the patent could cost you as little as $750 to file. Patenting software is a complex process that, if not done the right way from the beginning, could lead to the loss of your legal rights. Hiring a licensed patent attorney can help you avoid most issues with this process and drastically improve the quality of your patent application. Your cost will ultimately depend on the complexity of your software invention and the patent attorney or law firm you hire. At The Rapacke Law Group, we pride ourselves on helping startups protect their valuable intellectual property for a transparent flat-fee, which means there is no hourly billing or charges for calls or emails while working on your matter.
Several elements go into the total cost of your software patent. The first step is conducting a prior art search before drafting and filing the application. Law firms typically charge from $1,500 to $4,000 or more to perform a comprehensive prior art search to identify similar issued patents and published patent applications that may present a bar for your registration. After the prior art search is complete, your attorney can help you determine whether moving forward with a patent application is the best decision based on the results, and to what extent you may be able to claim patent protections. In addition to the prior art search, you will need an attorney to prepare and file your software patent application. The patent application preparation can cost $10,000 to $20,000 or more, plus the filing fees, to draft and file depending on the complexity of the software and the type of application being filed.
If you need to amend your application or if you receive an office action, there may be additional costs involved to defend your application and pursue registration. In many cases, your attorney can help identify possible paths to registration by conducting an examiner interview to get to the root of the cited refusals and responding to the office action.
A provisional patent is a smart investment before you release your invention onto the market. This gives you “patent pending” status and protects your ideas. Hiring a patent attorney to assist you with this can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 or more.
If you’re ready to apply for full patent protection, then you will file a non-provisional patent application. You’ll need to do this within one year of filing for a provisional patent. The estimated cost for this application is between $10,000 to $20,000 or more.
GUI Design Patent
For many startups, it’s just as important to protect the look and feel of the software interface. This is done through a design patent. It is smart to pair your design patent with a utility patent application where applicable. This approach protects both the functionality and appearance of your software. Hiring a licensed patent attorney to help you draft your design patent application can cost between $2,000 to $5,000.
Why Does It Cost So Much to Prepare Patent Applications?
The time, knowledge, and monetary costs required to file a software patent application are significant, but the potential benefits can be even greater. Consider the following when determining whether to get a patent for your invention: what is the software worth? If you are looking at small potential returns in product sales or revenue, or if there would not be any advantage or benefit to preventing competitors’ access to the same, then it may not be worth the investment to pursue a patent. However, if the software could generate substantial income or provides a competitive edge for your company – the financial investment may be justified. Always weigh potential costs and benefits before embarking on this path; patents can cost thousands over time, but the intellectual property they protect could be worth much more.
Choosing the Right Patent Attorney
Cost alone should not be the only determining factor when choosing your patent attorney. It isn’t wise to blindly choose the cheapest or most expensive patent attorney that you can find. Instead, consider a variety of factors to help you determine which patent attorney is going to provide you a quality service that fits your needs.
Ask the attorney what practice area they focus on. It should be similar to the type of patent that you wish to pursue. Research the attorney’s reputation and experience, and read reviews of previous clients’ experience. Ask for an explanation of the fee structure; it should be clear and transparent so that you can easily understand what you will owe. Pay attention to the method and speed of communication. You should be able to easily communicate with your attorney.
Is a Software Patent Worth Pursuing?
Pursuing patents for your software is well worth it. The key to making the investment worthwhile is to create a strategic IP protection plan for your software and company. Start by analyzing why your customers are interested in your software. Are they buying your product because of a novel feature your software has that they haven’t found elsewhere? Your clients aren’t just shopping for software, they are shopping for a solution to a problem.
Think of your software as a tool to achieve something useful and tangible. This helps you to view your software in a similar light as the USPTO, and helps you understand what elements of your software you can patent and whether or not it’s worth pursuing.
A mobile app that will be fleeting in popularity may not warrant extensive patent protections; however, core elements of your industry-specific software that have potential for longevity or applicability or other arenas may be worth the investment. Create an intellectual property roadmap that will guide your decision-making. This ensures that your company purposefully secures patents and protects your software’s valuable intellectual property.
Start the Software Patent Process
The first step in patenting your software is to speak with a licensed patent attorney. Preferably a patent attorney that focuses on software patents. During the consultation is your opportunity to ask questions about the patent process, the fee schedule, and find out how well you communicate with the lawyer.
If you are considering patent protection for your software, feel free to schedule a free consultation today with one of our skilled patent attorneys.