Deciding to start working on your invention can have you start wondering how much it's going to cost.
Investing your time and resources into your invention ideas can be an unknown factor until you start the process, as each invention is unique in the materials it requires and the number of steps it takes. Most people have their vision so firmly fixed in their mind that they allow their emotions to take over their business decisions. Expectations can help you with planning and what is needed to bring your idea to reality. Let's review some very loose guidelines to keep in mind as you begin to build your budget to support your dream.
The Patent Search
Finding out if it's your idea can be a crucial step in moving forward any further with your venture. A professional patent search can run from $250 to $1500, depending on the people you hire and the complexity of the search. There are companies that strictly do patent searches and then provide you the information that have found for you to review. You may then decide to take the findings and have a patent attorney or agent evaluation the patentability of your idea compared to the intellectual property you gave them. You can hire a patent attorney or agent and ask them to do the patent search for you with an opinion.
Some inventors may choose to do a search themselves by using Google Patents or the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office websites and searching online or you may know of similar concepts already in existence to then present to a patent attorney or agent for review and determine patentability. Some inventors may take what they find, stop there and move forward with the next steps. Evaluating prior art and/or claims may be complicated for those not skilled in intellectual property requirements. Should a patent search and evaluation not be done properly and the process continues, there may be consequences later on when attempting to license your idea or when bringing it to market only later finding out that you are infringing someone else's intellectual property.
There is a less expensive option to start and secure a filing date for your invention by filing a Provisional Patent. You could have a patent attorney or agent help you with filing and they would charge for their time as well as the filing fee from the US Patent & Trademark Office or some opt to do it themselves and just pay the filing fee. Having a patent attorney prepare a patent can cost anywhere from $2000 and up, depending on the complexity of the invention. This does not include the patent office filing fee or the lawyer's fee to review and respond to the patent office 'office actions'. When the patent office notifies you that the patent will been allowed, you will be charged an additional 'notice of allowance' fee as well. Here is a link to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office fee schedule.
What Your Invention Looks Like and How It Works
Engineering or product designers can run from $300 to $5,000 or more based on the fees they charge and the time it takes to deliver the final designs. Some may work on hourly or project based fees. More complicated concepts with electronic components and computer chips for example, can cost considerably more.
Prototypes or Models of Your Invention
Your mock up or prototype can cost as little as $50 and as much as $5000 for a basic concept. This dollar amount could be more depending on the complexity of your invention. There are many options of making prototypes these days including 3D printing and model making. Producing a good works-like, feels-like prototype will provide you the opportunity to bring your idea to life and test to see how it works. It may also be an important step during the invention process by producing a good quality model to demonstrate to potential licensees, investors and partners.
You can take the greatest risks and could return the greatest rewards when you choose to do it all yourself, becoming the manufacturer, distributor and customer service guru. Tooling costs will depend on the number and size of the component parts and materials used or needed. It could range from as little as $1,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This number is based specifically on your invention to be produced. Proposals can have a drastic range depending on which country you may consider producing your tooling or molding and then the manufacturing cost per piece as well. Manufacturing and assembling your first run can cost as little as $2,000 and as much as $50,000, even more. Packaging, marketing, advertising, warehousing, distribution and staffing all come with their attendant costs as well.
Alternatives to Manufacturing your Invention
You can choose the less expensive option of licensing, where someone else carries the costs of manufacturing and its details while your investment may be limited to the patent search, the patent filing costs, preparing designs and making a prototype for presentations. Your risk and return may be less but may be a good alternative for those on a limited budget.
Read a previous article on "Licensing Your Invention".
Whether you choose to manufacture or license your product, you need to know how to develop a budget and set up a financing schedule to pave the way for the expenses to come. Building anything comes with fresh sets of expenses at various stages of development. Once you have a better idea of the costs that are involved, you can plan your financing wisely.