In the US, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) requires inventors to successfully complete a patent application process before they’re recognized as the patent owner and granted the exclusive right to manufacture, license, or sell their invention.


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Completing the patent process is involved and can be difficult to navigate as a layman. This is why the services of patent lawyers and agents are so valued by inventors and innovators.

Although inventors may choose to file on their own, many rely on a patent lawyer or agent’s services rather than learn the ins and outs of getting a patent. To determine whether hiring a patent lawyer is the right approach, it helps to know what they can offer prospective patent holders and why they’re uniquely qualified to help innovators protect their rights.

What Does A Patent Lawyer Do?

A patent attorney is a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property protection and the process of filing for patents through the USPTO. US patent lawyers generally prepare, manage, and submit patent applications on behalf of an inventor.

They also assist clients in producing and organizing all documentation related to the invention, design, trademark, etc. Once the patent is filed, these attorneys can represent clients for patent-related litigation, advise on licensing agreements and disputes, and provide other services related to their client’s intellectual property, domestically and internationally.

Patent lawyers have special qualifications that make them uniquely capable to deal with the issues that might arise when filing a patent. They also work to ensure all intellectual property rights are maintained and protected throughout the patent term.

Although there is some overlap in their services, patent lawyers shouldn’t be confused with intellectual property (IP) lawyers. IP lawyers do not specialize in patent law and are not required to maintain the certifications of a USPTO-licensed attorney.

Patent lawyers must have a bachelor’s degree in a scientific or technical field related to the type of patents in which they specialize. They must hold a Juris Doctor degree and license to practice law in at least one U.S. state or territory.

Apart from these qualifications, patent lawyers must be registered with the USPTO. Such credentials are part of what makes these attorneys so in demand by independent inventors and companies that specialize in new technology.

How Much Does A Patent Lawyer Cost?

A patent lawyer typically charges about $10,000 to prepare and file a patent application. This often does not include government filing fees, annuity fees, and subsequent costs over the 20 years of the patent term.

This is why potential patent holders are advised to budget between roughly $20,000 for each patent they wish to file through the services of a patent attorney.

Hiring other professionals who can offer patent application preparation and filing—without related legal services—can reduce the cost somewhat. For example, the hourly rate of a patent agent can be 50 percent less than that of a patent lawyer.

However, outside of representing an inventor before the USPTO, these professionals will not offer additional legal services to their clients.

Patent Filing Without A Lawyer

Alternatively, patent writers can be hired to draft patent applications on behalf of inventors, who can then apply for a patent without the services of an attorney or agent. Inventors without representation can also save costs by drafting a preliminary or provisional patent application.

A provisional patent application can then be submitted to the USPTO through a less formal and stringent process. This enables an inventor to disclose the details of their invention and secure a priority date for patent filing while giving them a year to complete the standard patent application.

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