Some of the different types of patent fees include application fees, patent search fees, patent maintenance fees, provisional patent fees, and international fees. Each country, through its patent office, determines the types of fees it may assess. Fee amounts vary and are subject to change. A patent office is a governmental agency charged with granting or denying applicants a patent.
The basic type of patent fees is an application fee. When an inventor submits an application for a patent, he or she must pay an application fee. The fee helps to cover the costs of operation of a patent office. This eliminates or minimizes the need for a government to impose taxes on its citizens to maintain a patent office. Ideally, a patent office would be self-sustaining through the various fees it charges.
Patent fees typically include a patent search fee. A patent office conducts a search of the patents it has issued previously. It does this to determine whether a patent already exists on a particular invention. If there is a patent on file, then a patent office may deny the application.
If a patent office grants a patent, the applicant becomes a patent owner. A patent office then imposes patent fees to cover maintenance of the patent. A patent office charges maintenance fees throughout the duration of a patent, which is typically 20 years. A patent owner must pay these fees periodically as determined by a patent office. A patent may become invalid if an owner fails to pay these fees.
If an inventor is not ready to submit a patent application, he might consider filing a provisional patent application. The fees for a provisional patent are usually substantially less than those for an actual patent. A provisional patent is not an actual patent, but it allows an inventor to declare that a patent is pending on a particular invention. This provides an inventor with legal protection and enables an inventor to enter licensing agreements to generate income.
Patent fees may also include an international fee to grant patent rights in more than one country. Generally, a patent, if granted, is only enforceable within the jurisdiction of the country that granted it. Many nations, however, have entered into treaties to recognize and enforce patents of participating countries. This is beneficial to an inventor because it eliminates the necessity of submitting a patent application in different countries.