Once you get a patent, it costs a lot to maintain it. For most categories of patentees, the maintenance fees after issuance are $980, $2,480 and $4,110 at 3.5 years, 7.5 and 11.5 years, respectively. If the fee is not paid, the patent is forfeited.
Top patent blogger Dennis Crouch has an interesting set of statistics on his site, discussing the “fall-off” rate of maintenance fees paid at the end of each of these periods, beginning in July 1998. The non-renewal rate is significant. As Mr. Crouch observes, the non-renewals shorten the life of the median patent from 17 years to 12 years. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the study, and a scatter plot graphic.
It’s no great surprise that many patents fail to survive, but it’s interesting to see just how many are abandoned because their owners don’t deem it to be worth the expense to keep them alive.