It is difficult to say how much patent practitioners charge on average for filing a provisional patent application. It depends on a number of factors including the technology, the geographical locale, and the experience of the practitioner. But I have seen estimates between $1500-$3500 not including the USPTO filing fees. Some people inexperienced with the patent system may think this amount is too much money. “There’s got to be a cheaper alternative,” they insist. They might then get online and Google around. After looking through the results, these bargain hunter entrepreneurs may then choose a cheap provisional-filing alternative. To get a sense of what I am talking about, click here or Google “provisional patent filing” and you will see that there are services that charge as little as $97 to file. This sounds too good to be true, especially for the entrepreneur who is just starting out and wants to save every cent money possible. The problem is that these ultra cheap services are too good to be true. They are actually ripping you off if your goal is to eventually get a non-provisional out of this provisional application. Since the PTO does not evaluate the provisional application, a practitioner could technically file a load of jumbled and garbled text in a provisional application and the inventor could still have the coveted “Patent pending” status. But consider doing yourself a favor and using that money elsewhere. Because if you decide to go with an ultra cheap patent practitioner, you might as well forget that you ever wanted a patent with your desired filing date. Instead, you could approach someone in financial need, give them $225 (the amount of the $100 they charge plus the $125 filing fee) because you’re not going to get that back.
One of the big problems with these ultra cheap practitioners is that the provisional application they file is super bare bones. I encountered a situation where the specification was literally one paragraph. You might still be able to get a patent on such minimal amount of detail if your invention is very unique in its field. However, you might run up against a reference that is slightly similar to your invention and you have to rely on a particular nuance that sets your invention apart from the reference. With a one-paragraph specification, you do not have that good of a shot of dodging any prior art bullets.
One of the biggest sources of value that a patent practitioner can provide is ways for you to consider alternative embodiments of your invention so you’re not stuck when a generic reference appears to stand in your way. A good practitioner will also help you expand your invention’s scope.
So in sum, remember to beware of the ultra cheap patent practitioner.