The following information is for general guidance only. Certain assumptions as to applicable circumstances have been made, and fees and exchange rates current at the time of writing have been used.  It cannot therefore be taken as a definitive cost estimate or quotation that may relate to any specific case.  More precise estimates for a particular case can be provided by a Dehns attorney on request.

The patent system is a complex network of interconnected national and international systems, but this complexity imparts flexibility and means different strategies can be adopted depending on the technology in question, its potential market and route thereto, and, of course, budget. The following will set out the paths most commonly taken and the sort of costs that could be expected at each stage. Dehns can advise you on appropriate strategies to meet your needs, and work with you to ensure that strategy is dynamic and continues to serve your needs as your business and technology develops.

In most cases, the first 30 months of a patent’s life cycle takes the application to pendency in a final selection of countries and/or regional collections of countries. As a rule, beyond that point it is no longer possible to pursue patent protection for the invention set out in that application in additional states. This means that all filing decisions will be complete by that point and all filing costs incurred.

Beyond that point, the patent application will be examined by the national/regional patent offices and, if that examination is passed, the application will mature into a granted patent. There will of course be costs involved with those stages, but these are extremely variable and so beyond the scope of a generic guidance article such as this. A Dehns attorney can advise further on more specifically defined hypothetical examples if required.


Stage 1: 0+ months

The first stage in obtaining patent protection for an invention is the filing of a first patent application (a so called “provisional” or “priority” filing) which fully describes the invention in technical terms and which sets out the scope of protection desired. In essence, the examination by patent offices mentioned above assesses whether the patent application as filed meets the necessary requirements for technical description and whether the scope of protection is justified in view of what information is publicly available on the date it is lodged with a patent office.

To get to the point of filing that first application, the document setting out the invention and scope of protection being claimed (the “patent specification”)  must be prepared. The quality of this document directly affects the outcome of the whole process and if errors of substance or judgement are made at this stage it is almost always impossible to rectify them. As such, it is considered prudent to use an experienced patent attorney to prepare this document.

The costs of Dehns preparing the provisional patent specification will vary depending on the complexity of the invention in question.  A straightforward mechanical technology with a limited, well-defined field of use may cost £4,000-6,000. An invention in the chemical or ICT fields, or a more complex engineering art may cost £5,000-8,000. A software or AI driven invention may cost £6,000-9,000 and, in the biotechnology field, costs of £7,000-10,000+ are not unusual.

The costs described above assume that we are provided with a comprehensive description of the invention and all necessary experimental background and drawings. Further costs may be accrued if such materials require preparation or processing by us. The above costs also allow for a small amount of analysis of the literature closest to the invention. Further costs may be accrued if we are asked to undertaken additional literature analysis and/or the landscape of prior disclosures is unusually complex and/or very closely related to the invention.

Once the specification of the patent application is prepared, it is our standard practice to lodge it with the UKIPO and request a search of the claimed invention. Official fees of £210 would be due at that point. If the application is filed at a different patent office, e.g. for compliance with national security laws there will likely be additional costs because a local will need to be involved.


Stage 2: 12+ months

The second stage must take place no more than 12 months after the date of the provisional filing. Various options are available and which are most appropriate will depend on the circumstances of the case, in particular commercial outlook and available budgets.

The following figures assume that the patent specification in question is of a limited size, and so does not attract excess page fees or excess claims fees, and that complex drawings and biological sequences listings are not required. For more complex specifications, costs may be proportionally higher on account of their typically larger size.

The simplest option at the 12-month point is to complete the provisional application thus limiting the eventual portfolio to a single patent and thus protection in a single country. For a provisional application filed at the UKIPO, this conversion will cost around £500 including official fees of around £100.

The other options, which can be pursued in addition to or in place of the completion option, pertain to the pursuit of patent protection in territories beyond that of the country of the provisional filing, e.g. by filing national, regional or international patent applications which claim “priority” to the provisional filing. Any such applications will take the filing date of the provisional application as the point in time defining the state of the publicly available information (so called prior art) against which the invention claimed in such applications is assessed.

At this juncture it is possible to supplement the application with further information and/or experimental results. The costs of this are proportional to the amount of new material being inserted and the work required to update the specification. Costs of a similar magnitude to the original drafting costs might be incurred if large scale revision or additions are made.

The most common route to take at this point is to file an international (Patent Cooperation Treaty) application. Such an application covers almost all states of the world, including all of those considered of most relevance for patent protection for most technologies. If such an application is pursued, decisions on the final repertoire of countries in which patent protection will be obtained is deferred by a further 18 months. This makes it an attractive option for applicants who would like more time to raise funds and/or who are uncertain as to the geographical extent of patent protection they require, but who do not require urgent patent protection.

The costs of filing a standard international application as defined above, claiming priority to the provisional filing and using the specification of the provisional filing, is in the order of £5,700, which includes approximately £4,000 of official fees.

If at this time an applicant is more certain of the geographical extent of patent protection they require, or they require protection more rapidly, and sufficient funds are in place, a decision can be taken to proceed directly into national or regional phases at the 12 month point rather than delay to the 30-month point.

Key patent jurisdictions for many applicants include the US, European Patent Office (a regional office which grants a patent covering up to 45 countries, including some non-European states), Japan and China.

The costs of filing and requesting examination of an EPO application of standard size claiming priority to a UK provisional application and using the specification of the provisional filing, is in the region of £5,500, which includes £4,000 of official fees. Being EPO practitioners, there are no extra local attorney fees to pay.

The costs of filing a US application of standard size claiming priority to a UK provisional application and using the specification of the provisional filing with some adaption to US practice is in the region of £2,500-3,000, which includes £600 of small entity official fees and £900 of local attorney fees. The fees are double for larger entities.

The costs of filing an application of standard size in Japan or China claiming priority to a UK provisional application and using the specification of the provisional filing with some adaption to local practice is typically between £5,000-6,000, which includes £4,000-5,000 of official fees and local attorney fees. The local fees are higher in these countries because translation of the English language provisional text is required at the time of filing.


Stage 3: 30+ months

For international applications filed at the 12-month point, a further 18-month period of pendency takes place before decisions on the final list of countries must be taken. This of course delays costs, and allows time for funds to be raised and for commercial strategies to be refined. Patent filing decisions can therefore be aligned to those evolving circumstances.

In addition, during those 18 months the international application undergoes a search and preliminary examination. If the results of international search and examination are considered insurmountable, a decision to drop the application can be taken without having incurred the costs of proceeding into multiple national/regional phases.

The costs of analysing the results of the international search and emanation, and advising on likely outcomes and next steps will vary depending on the extent and complexity of the issues raised, but could range from as little as £500 for a straightforward mechanical technology, to as much as £4,000+ for a software/AI driven invention or biotech invention.

Assuming a decision is taken to proceed further beyond the international phase, at this point costs are proportional to the number of countries/regions in which the application is taken forwards. The costs described above for filing applications in the US, EPO, Japan and China at the 12-month point are much the same as the costs of converting an international application into US, EP, JP and CN phases. Thus, a full complement of these four states would amount to an approximate total outlay of £19,000+ at the 30-month point. Of course, a wider filing series would require a still larger budget. A Dehns attorney can provide estimates for specific countries of interest.