How much does it cost to obtain and use a U.S. patent? The depends who you ask.
The price to obtain an invention right can range from $6,000 for a very basic one with few claims to $50,000 of more for a more complex application that requires significant back and forth with the Patent Office.
A successful inventor, Josh Malone, creator of Bunch O Balloons, says the true cost of obtaining his patent and using it to defend his invention has been $17 million, thus far, and it could easily grow to $50 million. (For Malone’s reasoning, go here.)
Bunch O Balloons, a consumer product that can fill 100 water balloons in 60 seconds, has had to defend itself against TeleBrands Corp, which has repeatedly infringed it with different businesses over a period of years.
Last week, Bunch of Balloons, originally a crowd-funded company, won a $24.5 million patent suit against TeleBrands Corp. $4.75 million was added for attorney’s fees.
Jay Walker, founder of Priceline.com, one of the most prolific US inventors, has called the U.S. Patent System dysfunctional and is in need of a major makeover. Not all patent holders would agree, but for many inventors, the cards are increasingly stacked against them. (Hear the audio file of Walker’s speech about the patent system at the 2018 IP Awareness Summit at Columbia University.)
At the heart of the problem is uncertainty about what can, in fact, be patented and licensed. Patents in new areas of invention or art can be overly ambitious. Some may be too broadly drawn and claim more than the invention covers in hopes of keeping others from doing something similar.
In an over-reaction to that possibility lawmakers and courts have made it difficult to rely on many patents, despite the extensive examination process they go through. As a result, many issued patents are, in effect, still applications.
There is little agreement on an acceptable level of uncertainty. If virtually any patent issued that is enforced can be routinely challenged, what is the point of issuing it in the first place?
Critics say that an inventor should not be able to claim what can amount to an entire industry, as opposed being granted a patent on a specific invention. The patent office often does not realize it may be granting rights too broadly.
Image source: wgno.com; ipwatchdog.com