Individual inventors and small companies are always concerned about the cost of obtaining patent protection. Some patent attorneys attempt to assuage these worries by advertising “flat” or “fixed” fees for patent services.
However, generally, if the fee is “fixed” then the service will be “fixed” also.
What does this mean?
It means that patent attorneys are not going to spend an unlimited amount of time on your patent application for a fixed fee.
Therefore, they may limit the amount of time they will spend, by, for example, limiting
the number of drawings, the number of drafts of the patent application, the
number of claims of the patent application, and/or the number of pages of the
They may also simply spend a certain amount of time for the “fixed” fee
and then request a further fee if more time is required.
The following example illustrates how patent attorneys may “fix” their service:
Sam, the patent attorney, agrees to file a patent application for Johnny Inventor
for a “fixed” fee, however Sam limits the number of drafts of the patent application to two. Johnny gives Sam a one page invention disclosure. Sam, prepares a first draft of a patent application, with questions for clarification regarding some aspects of Johnny’s invention disclosure. Johnny provides a second disclosure with answers to some of Sam’s questions. Sam prepares a second draft of the patent application, has further questions for
clarification, but states that any further draft will require further fees. Johnny provides answers to the questions in the second draft but states that he doesn’t think he should have to provide a further fee for another draft.
The problem is that Johnny’s invention may have many aspects to it and Sam may
never completely understand all of them. Sam and Johnny may go back and forth a seemingly endless number of times, with Johnny constantly providing clarification and/or new details. Sam, the patent attorney, has to have a way of limiting the amount of work he does for the “fixed” fee, or he will grow old working on one patent application.
Johnny could request that Sam file the second draft of the application, without the
second draft questions or any clarification to them. However, generally speaking, more detail in a patent application can often be helpful in providing support for getting a
patent application approved. In addition, if the patent application is filed without some detail concerning the invention, that detail cannot be added in later after the filing date, if it is considered to be “new matter”.
Thus, “fixed” fees for patent applications are somewhat problematic. The inventor wants a “fixed” cost, but also wants a good chance of getting a patent which may require going beyond the “fixed” fee.