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509    Payment of Fees [R-11.2013]

The latest fee schedule is available by contacting the USPTO at 1-800-PTO(786)-9199 or (571) 272-1000, or on the USPTO webpage at http://www.uspto.gov.

37 C.F.R. 1.22   Fees payable in advance.

  • (a) Patent fees and charges payable to the United States Patent and Trademark Office are required to be paid in advance; that is, at the time of requesting any action by the Office for which a fee or charge is payable with the exception that under § 1.53 applications for patent may be assigned a filing date without payment of the basic filing fee.
  • (b) All fees paid to the United States Patent and Trademark Office must be itemized in each individual application, patent, or other proceeding in such a manner that it is clear for which purpose the fees are paid. The Office may return fees that are not itemized as required by this paragraph. The provisions of § 1.5(a) do not apply to the resubmission of fees returned pursuant to this paragraph.

37 C.F.R. 1.23   Method of payment.

  • (a) All payments of money required for United States Patent and Trademark Office fees, including fees for the processing of international applications (§ 1.445), shall be made in U.S. dollars and in the form of a cashier’s or certified check, Treasury note, national bank notes, or United States Postal Service money order. If sent in any other form, the Office may delay or cancel the credit until collection is made. Checks and money orders must be made payable to the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. (Checks made payable to the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks will continue to be accepted.) Payments from foreign countries must be payable and immediately negotiable in the United States for the full amount of the fee required. Money sent to the Office by mail will be at the risk of the sender, and letters containing money should be registered with the United States Postal Service.
  • (b) Payments of money required for United States Patent and Trademark Office fees may also be made by credit card, except for replenishing a deposit account. Payment of a fee by credit card must specify the amount to be charged to the credit card and such other information as is necessary to process the charge, and is subject to collection of the fee. The Office will not accept a general authorization to charge fees to a credit card. If credit card information is provided on a form or document other than a form provided by the Office for the payment of fees by credit card, the Office will not be liable if the credit card number becomes public knowledge.

37 C.F.R. 1.26   Refunds.

  • (a) The Director may refund any fee paid by mistake or in excess of that required. A change of purpose after the payment of a fee, such as when a party desires to withdraw a patent filing for which the fee was paid, including an application, an appeal, or a request for an oral hearing, will not entitle a party to a refund of such fee. The Office will not refund amounts of twenty-five dollars or less unless a refund is specifically requested, and will not notify the payor of such amounts. If a party paying a fee or requesting a refund does not provide the banking information necessary for making refunds by electronic funds transfer (31 U.S.C. 3332 and 31 CFR part 208), or instruct the Office that refunds are to be credited to a deposit account, the Director may require such information, or use the banking information on the payment instrument to make a refund. Any refund of a fee paid by credit card will be by a credit to the credit card account to which the fee was charged.
  • (b) Any request for refund must be filed within two years from the date the fee was paid, except as otherwise provided in this paragraph or in § 1.28(a). If the Office charges a deposit account by an amount other than an amount specifically indicated in an authorization (§ 1.25(b)), any request for refund based upon such charge must be filed within two years from the date of the deposit account statement indicating such charge, and include a copy of that deposit account statement. The time periods set forth in this paragraph are not extendable.
  • (c) If the Director decides not to institute a reexamination proceeding in response to a request for reexamination or supplemental examination, fees paid with the request for reexamination or supplemental examination will be refunded or returned in accordance with paragraphs (c)(1) through (c)(3) of this section. The reexamination requester or the patent owner who requested a supplemental examination proceeding, as appropriate, should indicate the form in which any refund should be made ( e.g., by check, electronic funds transfer, credit to a deposit account). Generally, refunds will be issued in the form that the original payment was provided.
    • (1) For an ex parte reexamination request, the ex parte reexamination filing fee paid by the reexamination requester, less the fee set forth in § 1.20(c)(7), will be refunded to the requester if the Director decides not to institute an ex parte reexamination proceeding.
    • (2) For an inter partes reexamination request, a refund of $7,970 will be made to the reexamination requester if the Director decides not to institute an inter partes reexamination proceeding.
    • (3) For a supplemental examination request, the fee for reexamination ordered as a result of supplemental examination, as set forth in § 1.20(k)(2), will be returned to the patent owner who requested the supplemental examination proceeding if the Director decides not to institute a reexamination proceeding.

Where the Office has notified an applicant, in writing, that a fee is due and has specified a particular dollar amount for that fee, if the applicant timely submits the specified fee amount in response to the notice, the applicant should be considered to have complied with the notice so as to avoid abandonment of the application. If the fee paid by the applicant is insufficient, either because the notice specified an incorrect dollar amount for the fee or because of a fee increase effective after the mailing of the notice and before payment of the fee by the applicant, the applicant should be notified in writing by the Office of the fee insufficiency and given a new time period in which to submit the remaining balance. The written notification of the fee insufficiency should set forth the reason (i.e., the fee amount indicated by the Office in the earlier notice was incorrect or the fees have increased since the earlier notice was mailed) why applicant is being required to submit an additional fee.

I.    ITEMIZATION AND APPLICATION OF FEES

37 CFR 1.22(b) sets forth that fees must be itemized in such a manner that it is clear for which purpose fees are paid. The Office may return fees that are not itemized. The intent of the fee itemization requirement is to encourage a better explanation by applicants of how fees being paid are to be applied by the Office. This will allow Office employees to properly account for the fees being paid by applicants. It should be noted that the language of 37 CFR 1.22 is not intended to create a problem when it is clear what fee is needed. A reference to “filing fee(s)” would be sufficient to cover filing fees (including search and examination fees) of all different types of applications and all types of claims. Further, in a paper submitted on a date later than the actual filing date, the reference to “filing fee(s)” would also be sufficient to cover the surcharge under 37 CFR 1.16, as the surcharge is also required to make the application complete. A reference to “any corresponding fee under 37 CFR 1.16” would be sufficient to cover any fee (e.g., surcharge, application size fee, excess claims fees) under 37 CFR 1.16. In a petition for an extension of time filed without a specifically itemized fee, but with a general authorization to charge a deposit account, it is clear that a fee for an extension of time is needed and the deposit account should be charged the appropriate extension of time fee.

In situations in which a payment submitted for the fees due on filing in a nonprovisional application filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a) is insufficient and the applicant has not specified the fees to which the payment is to be applied, the Office will apply the payment in the following order until the payment is expended:

In situations in which a payment submitted for the fees due on filing in a provisional application filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(b) is insufficient and the applicant has not specified the fees to which the payment is to be applied, the Office will apply the payment in the following order until the payment is expended:

See also MPEP § 607.

II.   PAYMENT BY CREDIT CARD

37 CFR 1.23 permits payment of any patent process fee, trademark process fee, or information product fee by credit card, subject to actual collection of the fee. The Office currently accepts charges to the following credit cards: AMERICAN EXPRESS®, DISCOVER®, MASTER CARD®, and VISA®.

Credit Card Payment Form (PTO-2038) should be used when paying a patent process or trademark process fee (or the fee for an information product) by credit card, unless the payment is being made using the Office’s electronic filing systems. The credit card payment form is not required (and should not be used) when making a credit card payment via EFS-Web or other electronic filing systems. Form PTO-2038 may be downloaded at http://www.uspto.gov/web/forms/2038.pdf. The Office will not include the Credit Card Payment Form (PTO-2038) among the records open to public inspection in the file of a patent, trademark registration, or other proceeding. The Office does not require customers to use this form when paying a patent process or trademark process fee by credit card. If a customer provides a credit card charge authorization in another form or document (e.g., a communication relating to the patent or trademark), the credit card information may become part of the record of an Office file that is open to public inspection. Thus, failure to use the Credit Card Payment Form (PTO-2038) when submitting a credit card payment may result in your credit card information becoming part of the record of an Office file that is open to public inspection.

Credit card payments by facsimile are permitted, except in situations in which facsimile submission of correspondence is not permitted in 37 CFR 1.6(d). Credit card payments that are not being made via the Office’s electronic filing systems (e.g., EFS-Web, the Electronic Patent Assignment System (EPAS), or the Finance On-line Shopping Web page for patent maintenance fees), may only be submitted with a handwritten signature personally signed in permanent dark ink or its equivalent by that person. See 37 CFR 1.4(e). Such payments may not be signed using an S-signature as provided for in 37 CFR 1.4(d)(2). A handwritten signature is required (i.e., an S-signature is not permitted) only when the credit card payment is being made in paper and thus the Office’s Credit Card Payment Form (PTO-2038), or an equivalent, is being used. A credit card payment via facsimile is considered a paper submission and requires a handwritten signature. Form PTO-2038 (or an equivalent) should not be filed via EFS-Web.

35 U.S.C. 42(d) and 37 CFR 1.26 (which concern refund of patent and trademark fees) also apply to requests for refund of fees paid by credit card. Any refund of a fee paid by credit card will be by a credit to the credit card account to which the fee was charged. See 37 CFR 1.26(a).

See MPEP § 607.02 for returnability of fees.

Any payment of a patent process or trademark process fee by credit card must be in writing (see 37 CFR 1.2), and preferably submitted via the appropriate Office electronic filing system, or if filed in paper, on the Credit Card Payment Form (PTO-2038). If a Credit Card Payment Form or other document authorizing the Office to charge a patent process or trademark process fee to a credit card does not contain the information necessary to charge the fee to the credit card, the customer must submit a revised Credit Card Payment Form or document containing the necessary information. Office employees will not accept oral (telephonic) instructions to complete the Credit Card Payment Form or otherwise charge a patent process or trademark process fee (as opposed to information product or service fees) to a credit card.

Credit card payment submissions made on the USPTO Web site at www.uspto.gov must include the 3-digit or 4-digit security code associated with the credit card in addition to the credit card number. The security code will not be required when the paper Credit Card Payment Form (PTO-2038) or other written authorization is submitted.

The security code is part of an authentication procedure established by credit card companies to further efforts towards reducing fraudulent or unauthorized credit card use for Internet payment transactions. The security code must be entered at the time of the Internet payment transaction to verify that the physical card is in the cardholder’s possession. The security code appears on all major credit cards and is not part of the credit card number itself. Each credit card company has its own name for the security code (such as CVV, CVV2, CVC2 or CID), but it functions the same for all major card types.

On DISCOVER®, MASTERCARD®, and VISA® credit cards, the security codes is a 3-digit code that is printed on the back of the card, often following the credit card number digits. For AMERICAN EXPRESS® credit cards, the security code is a 4-digit code that is printed on the front of the cards. If you cannot read the security code, you will have to contact the financial institution that issued your credit card.

Credit Card Payment Form (PTO-2038)
Instructions for Completing the Credit Card Payment Form (PTO-2038)
Paperwork Reduction Act and Privacy Act Statements

509.01   Deposit Accounts [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.25   Deposit accounts.

  • (a) For the convenience of attorneys, and the general public in paying any fees due, in ordering services offered by the Office, copies of records, etc. deposit accounts may be established in the Patent and Trademark Office upon payment of the fee for establishing a deposit account § 1.21(b)(1)). A minimum deposit of $1,000 is required for paying any fee due or in ordering any services offered by the Office. However, a minimum deposit of $300 may be paid to establish a restricted subscription deposit account used exclusively for subscription order of patent copies as issued. At the end of each month, a deposit account statement will be rendered. A remittance must be made promptly upon receipt of the statement to cover the value of items or services charged to the account and thus restore the account to its established normal deposit value. An amount sufficient to cover all fees, services, copies, etc., requested must always be on deposit. Charges to accounts with insufficient funds will not be accepted. A service charge (§ 1.21(b)(2)) will be assessed for each month that the balance at the end of the month is below $1,000. For restricted subscription deposit accounts, a service charge (§ 1.21(b)(3)) will be assessed for each month that the balance at the end of the month is below $300.
  • (b) Filing, issue, appeal, international-type search report, international application processing, petition, and post-issuance fees may be charged against these accounts if sufficient funds are on deposit to cover such fees. A general authorization to charge all fees, or only certain fees, set forth in §§ 1.16 to 1.18 to a deposit account containing sufficient funds may be filed in an individual application, either for the entire pendency of the application or with a particular paper filed. An authorization to charge fees under § 1.16 in an international application entering the national stage under 35 U.S.C. 371 will be treated as an authorization to charge fees under § 1.492. An authorization to charge fees set forth in § 1.18 to a deposit account is subject to the provisions of § 1.311(b). An authorization to charge to a deposit account the fee for a request for reexamination pursuant to § 1.510 or § 1.913 and any other fees required in a reexamination proceeding in a patent may also be filed with the request for reexamination. An authorization to charge a fee to a deposit account will not be considered payment of the fee on the date the authorization to charge the fee is effective as to the particular fee to be charged unless sufficient funds are present in the account to cover the fee.
  • (c) A deposit account holder may replenish the deposit account by submitting a payment to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. A payment to replenish a deposit account must be submitted by one of the methods set forth in paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3), or (c)(4) of this section.
    • (1) A payment to replenish a deposit account may be submitted by electronic funds transfer through the Federal Reserve Fedwire System, which requires that the following information be provided to the deposit account holder’s bank or financial institution:
      • (i) Name of the Bank, which is Treas NYC (Treasury New York City);
      • (ii) Bank Routing Code, which is 021030004;
      • (iii) United States Patent and Trademark Office account number with the Department of the Treasury, which is 13100001; and
      • (iv) The deposit account holder’s company name and deposit account number.
    • (2) A payment to replenish a deposit account may be submitted by electronic funds transfer over the Office’s Internet Web site (www.uspto.gov).
    • (3) A payment to replenish a deposit account may be addressed to: Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Attn: Deposit Accounts, 2051 Jamieson Avenue, Suite 300, Alexandria, Virginia 22314.

An overdrawn account will be immediately suspended and no charges will be accepted against it until a proper balance is restored, together with a payment of $10 (37 CFR 1.21(b)(1)) to cover the work done by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office incident to suspending and reinstating the account and dealing with charges which may have been made in the meantime.

If there is an authorization to charge the basic filing fee (37 CFR 1.16(a), (b), (c), (d), or (e)) to a deposit account which is overdrawn or has insufficient funds, a surcharge (37 CFR 1.16(f)) is required in addition to payment of the basic filing fee (37 CFR 1.16(a), (b), (c), (d), or (e)). For applications filed on or after July 1, 2005, which have been accorded a filing date under 37 CFR 1.53(b) or (d), if there is an authorization to charge any of the basic filing fee, the search fee, or the examination fee to a deposit account which is overdrawn or has insufficient funds, a surcharge under 37 CFR 1.16(f) is required in addition to payment of the required fee(s). Failure to timely pay the filing fee and surcharge will result in abandonment of the application.

It is expected, however, that reasonable precautions will be taken in all cases to avoid overdrafts, and if an account is suspended repeatedly it will be closed.

Similarly, because of the burden placed on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office incident to the operation of deposit accounts, a charge of $10 (37 CFR 1.21(b)(1)) will be made for opening each new account.

I.   DEPOSIT ACCOUNT AUTHORIZATIONS

37 CFR 1.25(b) states that:

A general authorization to charge all fees, or only certain fees, set forth in §§ 1.16 to 1.18 to a deposit account containing sufficient funds may be filed in an individual application, either for the entire pendency of the application or with respect to a particular paper filed.

As provided in 37 CFR 1.311(b), an authorization to charge the issue fee (37 CFR 1.18) to a deposit account may be filed in an individual application only after the mailing of the notice of allowance. 37 CFR 1.25(b) also makes clear that a general authorization made prior to the mailing of a notice of allowance does not apply to issue fees under 37 CFR 1.18.

In addition, a general authorization does not apply to document supply fees under 37 CFR 1.19, such as those required for certified copies, to post issuance fees under 37 CFR 1.20, such as those required for maintenance fees, or to miscellaneous fees and charges under 37 CFR 1.21, such as assignment recording fees.

Many applications contain broad language authorizing any additional fees which might have been due to be charged to a deposit account. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will interpret such broad authorizations to include authorization to charge to a deposit account fees set forth in 37 CFR 1.16, and 1.17. Fees under 37 CFR 1.19, 1.20, and 1.21 will not be charged as a result of a general authorization under 37 CFR 1.25 except to cover the processing fee under 37 CFR 1.21(m) in the event a check or credit card payment is refused or charged back by a financial institution. Fees under 37 CFR 1.18 will not be charged as a result of a preauthorization of issue fee payment.

An authorization to charge fees relating only to a specific paper, could read “The Director is hereby authorized to charge any fees under 37 CFR 1.16 and 1.17 which may be required by this paper to Deposit Account No.________.” Such an authorization would cover situations in which a check to cover a filing and/or a processing fee under 37 CFR 1.16 and 1.17 was omitted or was for an amount less than the amount required. An authorization covering any omission or deficiency in a check or credit card payment applies to the processing fee under 37 CFR 1.21(m) in the event a check or credit card payment is refused or charged back by a financial institution, regardless of whether such deposit account authorization is limited to other fees (e.g., fees under 37 CFR 1.16 and 1.17). If a check or credit card payment for the issue fee is refused or charged back by a financial institution, the application may be held abandoned for failure to pay the issue fee within the statutory period for reply. See MPEP § 1306.

It is extremely important that the authorization be clear and unambiguous. If applicants file authorizations which are ambiguous and deviate from the usual forms of authorizations, the Office may not interpret the authorizations in the manner applicants intend and may return the fees. As a result, applicants could be subject to further expenses, petitions, etc. in order to have a particular fee charged to a deposit account (which was not charged as intended) or to resubmit a fee(s) due to an ambiguous authorization.

The Office will treat a deposit account authorization to charge "the filing fee" as an authorization to charge the following applicable fees under 37 CFR 1.16: basic filing fee; search fee; examination fee; any excess claims fees; any application size fee; and any non-electronic filing fee (see 37 CFR 1.16(t)). The Office will treat a deposit account authorization to charge "the basic filing fee" as an authorization to charge the following applicable fees under 37 CFR 1.16: basic filing fee; search fee; and examination fee. Any deposit account authorization to charge the filing fee but not the search fee or examination fee must specifically limit the authorization by reference to one or more paragraphs (a) - (e) of 37 CFR 1.16.

37 CFR 1.25(b) further provides that an authorization to charge fees under 37 CFR 1.16 (which relates to national application filing fees) in an application filed under 35 U.S.C. 371 will be treated as an authorization to charge fees under 37 CFR 1.492 (which relates to national stage fees). Papers filed for the purpose of entering the national stage under 35 U.S.C. 371 and 37 CFR 1.495 that include an authorization to charge fees under 37 CFR 1.16 are treated by the Office as an authorization to charge fees under 37 CFR 1.492 since: (1) timely payment of the appropriate national fee under 37 CFR 1.492 is necessary to avoid abandonment of the application as to the United States; and (2) the basic filing fee under 37 CFR 1.16 is not applicable to such papers or applications.

II.   DEPOSIT ACCOUNT REPLENISHMENTS

37 CFR 1.25(c) specifies how a deposit account holder may submit a payment to the Office to replenish the deposit account. A payment to replenish a deposit account may be submitted by:

  • (A) making the payment by electronic funds transfer through the Federal Reserve Fedwire System. Deposit account holders who use the Federal Reserve Fedwire System must provide the following information to their bank or financial institution: (1) Name of the Bank, which is Treas NYC (Treasury New York City); (2) Bank Routing Code, which is 021030004; (3) United States Patent and Trademark Office account number with the Department of Treasury, which is 13100001; and (4) the deposit account holder’s company name and deposit account number. The deposit account holder should inform his or her bank or financial institution to use due care to ensure that all pertinent account numbers are listed on the transaction because the failure to include the proper deposit account number will delay the processing of the replenishment;
  • (B) electronic funds transfer over the Office’s Internet Web site (www.uspto.gov); or
  • (C) mailing the payment to: Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Attn: Deposit Accounts, 2051 Jamieson Avenue, Suite 300, Alexandria, VA 22314.

In the event a payment to replenish a deposit account is refused (e.g., for insufficient funds or due to a stop payment order), the fee under 37 CFR 1.21(m) for processing the payment refusal will be charged to the deposit account. Further information on deposit account replenishment may be obtained from the Office’s Internet Web site or by contacting the Deposit Account Division at (571) 272-6500.

III.   REFUNDS TO A DEPOSIT ACCOUNT

For refunds to a deposit account, see MPEP § 607.02.

509.02   Small Entity Status — Definitions [R-11.2013]

Under 35 U.S.C. 41(h)(1), fees charged under 35 U.S.C. 41(a), (b) and (d)(1) shall be reduced by 50 percent with respect to their application to any small business concern as defined under section 3 of the Small Business Act, and to any independent inventor or nonprofit organization as defined in regulations issued by the Director. Effective March 19, 2013, the availability of the small entity discount was extended to certain other fees not contained in 35 U.S.C. 41(a), (b), or (d)(1), but which are included among fees “for filing, searching, examining, issuing, appealing, and maintaining patent applications and patents” as authorized by Public Law 112-29, sec. 10(b), 125 Stat. 284 (September 16, 2011)(Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA)). Effective January 1, 2014, the small entity discount also becomes available to certain “filing, searching, [and] examining” fees for international applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Note that if applicant qualifies as a small entity under 37 CFR 1.27, applicant may also qualify for “Micro Entity Status” under 35 U.S.C. 123. See 37 CFR 1.29 and MPEP § 509.04 et seq. for the requirements to establish micro entity status for the purpose of paying micro entity fees.

The fees which are reduced by 50% for small entities include patent application filing fees including the basic filing fee, search fee, examination fee, application size fee, and excess claims fees (37 CFR 1.16), extension of time, revival, and appeal fees (37 CFR 1.17), patent issue fees (37 CFR 1.18), and maintenance fees on patents (37 CFR 1.20). Fees which are reduced by 50% effective March 19, 2013, but which were previously not reduced, include certain petition fees, 37 CFR 1.17(f)-(h), the request for reexamination fees, 37 CFR 1.20(c)(1), the fee for submitting an information disclosure statement in certain time frames, 37 CFR 1.17(p), the surcharge for reinstating an expired patent, 37 CFR 1.20(i), and the fee for an unintentionally delayed claim for priority, 37 CFR 1.17(t). Fees which are reduced by 50% effective January 1, 2014, but which were previously not reduced, are certain PCT international stage fees, including the transmittal fee (37 CFR 1.445(a)(1)(i)(B), the search fee, 37 CFR 1.445(a)(2)(ii), and the preliminary examination fee, 37 CFR 1.482(a)(1)(i)(B).

Fees which are not reduced include document supply fees, 37 CFR 1.19, certificate of correction fees, 37 CFR 1.20(a), and miscellaneous fees and charges, 37 CFR 1.21. There is only one fee for which a small entity discount was offered prior to March 19, 2013 that is now ineligible for a small entity discount – the fee for a statutory disclaimer under 37 CFR 1.20(d).

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, provides that the filing fee charged under 35 U.S.C. 41(a)(1)(A) shall be reduced by 75 percent with respect to its application to any small entity "if the application is filed by electronic means as prescribed by the Director" (35 U.S.C. 41(h)(3)). Therefore, the filing fee for a nonprovisional original utility application filed on or after December 8, 2004 by a small entity in compliance with the Office electronic filing system is reduced by 75 percent. See 37 CFR 1.16(a)(1). The 75 percent reduction set forth in 35 U.S.C. 41(h)(3) does not apply to design applications, plant applications, reissue applications, or provisional applications.

35 U.S.C. 41(h)(1) gives the Director the authority to establish regulations defining independent inventors and nonprofit organizations. The Small Business Administration was given authority to establish the definition of a small business concern. A small entity for purposes of paying reduced fees is defined in 37 CFR 1.27(a) as a person, a small business concern, or a nonprofit organization. The term “person” rather than “independent inventor” is used since individuals who are not inventors but who have received some rights in the invention are intended to be covered by 37 CFR 1.27.

37 C.F.R. 1.27   Definition of small entities and establishing status as a small entity to permit payment of small entity fees; when a determination of entitlement to small entity status and notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status are required; fraud on the Office.

  • (a) Definition of small entities. A small entity as used in this chapter means any party (person, small business concern, or nonprofit organization) under paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(3) of this section.
    • (1) Person. A person, as used in paragraph (c) of this section, means any inventor or other individual (e.g., an individual to whom an inventor has transferred some rights in the invention) who has not assigned, granted, conveyed, or licensed, and is under no obligation under contract or law to assign, grant, convey, or license, any rights in the invention. An inventor or other individual who has transferred some rights in the invention to one or more parties, or is under an obligation to transfer some rights in the invention to one or more parties, can also qualify for small entity status if all the parties who have had rights in the invention transferred to them also qualify for small entity status either as a person, small business concern, or nonprofit organization under this section.
    • (2) Small business concern. A small business concern, as used in paragraph (c) of this section, means any business concern that:
      • (i) Has not assigned, granted, conveyed, or licensed, and is under no obligation under contract or law to assign, grant, convey, or license, any rights in the invention to any person, concern, or organization which would not qualify for small entity status as a person, small business concern, or nonprofit organization; and
      • (ii) Meets the size standards set forth in 13 CFR 121.801 through 121.805 to be eligible for reduced patent fees. Questions related to standards for a small business concern may be directed to: Small Business Administration, Size Standards Staff, 409 Third Street, SW., Washington, DC 20416.
    • (3) Nonprofit Organization. A nonprofit organization, as used in paragraph (c) of this section, means any nonprofit organization that:
      • (i) Has not assigned, granted, conveyed, or licensed, and is under no obligation under contract or law to assign, grant, convey, or license, any rights in the invention to any person, concern, or organization which would not qualify as a person, small business concern, or a nonprofit organization; and
      • (ii) Is either:
        • (A) A university or other institution of higher education located in any country;
        • (B) An organization of the type described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 19 86 (26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3)) and exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 501(a));
        • (C) Any nonprofit scientific or educational organization qualified under a nonprofit organization statute of a state of this country (35 U.S.C. 201(i)); or
        • (D) Any nonprofit organization located in a foreign country which would qualify as a nonprofit organization under paragraphs (a)(3)(ii)(B) of this section or (a)(3)(ii)(C) of this section if it were located in this country.
    • (4) License to a Federal agency.
      • (i) For persons under paragraph (a)(1) of this section, a license to the Government resulting from a rights determination under Executive Order 10096 does not constitute a license so as to prohibit claiming small entity status.
      • (ii) For small business concerns and nonprofit organizations under paragraphs (a)(2) and (a)(3) of this section, a license to a Federal agency resulting from a funding agreement with that agency pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 202 (c)(4) does not constitute a license for the purposes of paragraphs (a)(2)(i) and (a)(3)(i) of this section.
    • (5) Security Interest. A security interest does not involve an obligation to transfer rights in the invention for the purposes of paragraphs (a)(1) through (a)(3) of this section unless the security interest is defaulted upon.

*****

I.   PERSON

37 CFR 1.27(a)(1) defines a person as any inventor or other individual (e.g., an individual to whom an inventor has transferred some rights in the invention), who has not assigned, granted, conveyed, or licensed, and is under no obligation under contract or law to assign, grant, convey, or license, any rights in the invention. An inventor or other individual who has transferred some rights, or is under an obligation to transfer some rights in the invention to one or more parties, can also qualify for small entity status if all the parties who have had rights in the invention transferred to them also qualify for small entity status either as a person, small business concern, or nonprofit organization.

II.   SMALL BUSINESS CONCERN

In order to be eligible for reduced patent fees as a “small business concern” under 37 CFR 1.27(a)(2), a business concern must meet the standards set forth in 13 CFR 121.801 through 121.805. Questions relating to standards for a small business concern may be directed to:

Small Business Administration
Office of Size Standards
409 Third Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20416
(202)205-6618
E-mail: sizestandards@sba.gov

III.   NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

37 CFR 1.27(a)(3) defines a nonprofit organization by utilizing and interpreting the definition contained in 35 U.S.C. 201(i). The term “university or other institution of higher education” as used in 37 CFR 1.27(a)(3)(ii)(A) means an educational institution which

  • (A) admits as regular students only persons having a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or the recognized equivalent of such a certificate,
  • (B) is legally authorized within the jurisdiction in which it operates to provide a program of education beyond secondary education,
  • (C) provides an educational program for which it awards a bachelor’s degree or provides not less than a 2-year program which is acceptable for full credit toward such a degree,
  • (D) is a public or other nonprofit institution, and
  • (E) is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association, or if not so accredited, is an institution that has been granted preaccreditation status by such agency or association that has been recognized by the Secretary for the granting of preaccreditation status, and the Secretary has determined that there is satisfactory assurance that the institution will meet the accreditation standards of such an agency or association within a reasonable time.

The definition of “university or other institution of higher education” as set forth herein essentially follows the definition of “institution of higher education” contained in 20 U.S.C. 1000. Institutions which are strictly research facilities, manufacturing facilities, service organizations, etc., are not intended to be included within the term “other institution of higher education” even though such institutions may perform an educational function or publish the results of their work.

Nonprofit organizations also include organizations of the type described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3)) and which are exempt from taxation under 26 U.S.C. 501(a). Organizations described in 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) include corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation (limited exceptions may apply under 26 U.S.C. 501(h)) and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

IV.   LOCATION OF SMALL ENTITY

Small entities may claim reduced fees regardless of the country in which they are located. There is no restriction requiring that the person, small business concern, or nonprofit organization be located in the United States. The same definitions apply to all applicants equally in accordance with the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

V.   RIGHTS IN THE INVENTION AND TRANSFER OF RIGHTS

The “rights in the invention” under 37 CFR 1.27(a)(1), (a)(2)(i), and (a)(3)(i) are the rights in the United States. Rights in the invention include the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the United States or importing the invention into the United States. Therefore, for example, status as a small entity is lost by an inventor who has transferred or has an obligation to transfer a shop right to an employer who could not qualify as a small entity.

Individual inventors (37 CFR 1.27(a)(1)), small business concerns (37 CFR 1.27(a)(2)), and nonprofit organizations (37 CFR 1.27(a)(3)) can make an assignment, grant, conveyance, or license of partial rights in the invention to another individual(s), small business concern, or nonprofit organization who could qualify as a person (37 CFR 1.27(a)(1)), small business concern, or nonprofit organization. Under the circumstances described, the individual inventor, small business concern, or nonprofit organization could still qualify for small entity status. However, if the individual inventor, small business concern, or nonprofit organization assigned, granted, conveyed, or licensed, or came under an obligation to assign, grant, convey, or license, any rights to the invention to any individual, small business concern, or nonprofit organization which would not qualify as a small entity (37 CFR 1.27(a)), then the inventor, small business concern, or nonprofit organization would no longer qualify for small entity status.

With regard to transfer of rights in the invention, the rights in question are those in the United States to be covered by an application or patent. Transfer of rights to a Japanese patent, for example, would not affect small entity status if no rights in the United States to a corresponding patent were likewise transferred.

The payment of reduced fees under 35 U.S.C. 41 is limited to those situations in which all of the rights in the invention are owned by small entities, i.e., persons, small business concerns, or nonprofit organizations. To do otherwise would be clearly contrary to the intended purpose of the legislation which contains no indication that fees are to be reduced in circumstances where rights are owned by non-small entities. For example, a non-small entity is not permitted to transfer patent rights to a small business concern which would pay the reduced fees and grant a license to the entity.

If rights transferred to a non-small entity are later returned to a small entity so that all rights are held by small entities, reduced fees may be claimed.

The term “license” in the definitions includes nonexclusive as well as exclusive licenses and royalty free as well as royalty generating licenses. Implied licenses to use and resell patented articles purchased from a small entity, however, will not preclude the proper claiming of small entity status. Likewise, an order by an applicant to a firm to build a prototype machine or product for the applicant’s own use is not considered to constitute a license for purposes of the definitions. A grant of a non-exclusive license to a non-small entity will disqualify applicant from claiming small entity status. See Ulead Systems, Inc. v. Lex Computer & Management Corp., 351 F.3d 1139, 1142, 69 USPQ2d 1097, 1099 (Fed. Cir. 2003).

A security interest does not involve an obligation to transfer rights in the invention for the purposes of 37 CFR 1.27(a)(1) through (a)(3) unless the security interest is defaulted upon. See 37 CFR 1.27(a)(5). For example, an applicant or patentee may take out a loan from a large entity banking institution and the loan may be secured with rights in a patent application or patent of the applicant or patentee, respectively. The granting of such a security interest to the banking institution is not a currently enforceable obligation to assign, grant, convey, or license any rights in the invention to the banking institution. Only if the loan is defaulted upon will the security interest permit a transfer of rights in the application or patent to the banking institution. Thus, where the banking institution is a large entity, the applicant or patentee would not be prohibited from claiming small entity status merely because the banking institution has been granted a security interest, but if the loan is defaulted upon, there would be a loss of entitlement to small entity status. Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.27(g), notification of the loss of entitlement due to default on the terms of the security interest would need to be filed in the application or patent prior to paying, or at the time of paying, the earliest of the issue fee or any maintenance fee due after the date on which small entity status is no longer appropriate. See MPEP § 509.03, subsection VII. Removal of Status.

VI.   RIGHTS HELD BY GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS

Also, although the Federal government agencies do not qualify as nonprofit organizations for paying reduced fees under the rules, a license to a Federal agency resulting from a funding agreement with the agency pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 202(c)(4) will not preclude the proper claiming of small entity status. Furthermore, a license to the Government resulting from a rights determination under Executive Order 10096 does not constitute a license so as to prohibit claiming small entity status by a person under 37 CFR 1.27(a)(1).

Public Law 96-517 added a new chapter 18 of Title 35 of the United States Code entitled “Patent Rights in Inventions Made With Federal Assistance.” Under the provisions of the statute, each funding agreement between a Federal agency and an individual, small business firm, or nonprofit organization must provide, inter alia, that “. . . the Federal agency shall have a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice or have practiced for or on behalf of the United States any subject invention . . .” See 35 U.S.C. 202(c)(4). The Federal agencies do not qualify as nonprofit organizations for paying reduced patent fees under the rules. Applying this construction to the licensing of an invention to a Federal agency by a person, small business concern, or nonprofit organization pursuant to a funding agreement under 35 U.S.C. 202(c)(4) would preclude their qualifying for paying reduced fees. This, however, would frustrate the intent of Public Law 97-247 and Public Law 96-517 when taken together.

Government organizations as such, whether domestic or foreign, cannot qualify as nonprofit organizations as defined in 37 CFR 1.27(a)(3). Thus, for example, a government research facility or other government-owned corporation could not qualify. 37 CFR 1.27(a)(3) was based upon 35 U.S.C. 201(i), as established by Public Law 96-517. The limitation to “an organization of the type described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3)) and exempt from taxation under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 501(a))” would by its nature exclude the U.S. government and its agencies and facilities, including research facilities and government corporations. State and foreign governments and governmental agencies and facilities would be similarly excluded. 37 CFR 1.27(a)(3) is not intended to include within the definition of a nonprofit organization government organizations of any kind located in any country. A university or other institution of higher education located in any country would qualify, however, as a “nonprofit organization” under 37 CFR 1.27(a)(3) even though it has some government affiliation since such institutions are specifically included.

A wholly owned subsidiary of a nonprofit organization or of a university is considered a part of the nonprofit organization or university and is not precluded from qualifying for small entity status.

509.03   Claiming Small Entity Status [R-11.2013]

37 C.F.R. 1.27   Definition of small entities and establishing status as a small entity to permit payment of small entity fees; when a determination of entitlement to small entity status and notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status are required; fraud on the Office.

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  • (b) Establishment of small entity status permits payment of reduced fees.
    • (1) A small entity, as defined in paragraph (a) of this section, who has properly asserted entitlement to small entity status pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section will be accorded small entity status by the Office in the particular application or patent in which entitlement to small entity status was asserted. Establishment of small entity status allows the payment of certain reduced patent fees pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 41(h)(1).
    • (2) Submission of an original utility application in compliance with the Office electronic filing system by an applicant who has properly asserted entitlement to small entity status pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section in that application allows the payment of a reduced filing fee pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 41(h)(3).
  • (c) Assertion of small entity status. Any party (person, small business concern or nonprofit organization) should make a determination, pursuant to paragraph (f) of this section, of entitlement to be accorded small entity status based on the definitions set forth in paragraph (a) of this section, and must, in order to establish small entity status for the purpose of paying small entity fees, actually make an assertion of entitlement to small entity status, in the manner set forth in paragraphs (c)(1) or (c)(3) of this section, in the application or patent in which such small entity fees are to be paid.
    • (1) Assertion by writing. Small entity status may be established by a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status. A written assertion must:
      • (i) Be clearly identifiable;
      • (ii) Be signed (see paragraph (c)(2) of this section); and
      • (iii) Convey the concept of entitlement to small entity status, such as by stating that applicant is a small entity, or that small entity status is entitled to be asserted for the application or patent. While no specific words or wording are required to assert small entity status, the intent to assert small entity status must be clearly indicated in order to comply with the assertion requirement.
    • (2) Parties who can sign and file the written assertion. The written assertion can be signed by:
      • (i) The applicant (§ 1.42 or § 1.421);
      • (ii) A patent practitioner of record or a practitioner acting in a representative capacity under § 1.34;
      • (iii) The inventor or a joint inventor, if the inventor is the applicant; or
      • (iv) The assignee.
    • (3) Assertion by payment of the small entity basic filing, basic transmittal, basic national fee, or international search fee. The payment, by any party, of the exact amount of one of the small entity basic filing fees set forth in §§ 1.16(a), 1.16(b), 1.16(c), 1.16(d), 1.16(e), the small entity transmittal fee set forth in § 1.445(a)(1), the small entity international search fee set forth in § 1.445(a)(2) to a Receiving Office other than the United States Receiving Office in the exact amount established for that Receiving Office pursuant to PCT Rule 16, or the small entity basic national fee set forth in § 1.492(a), will be treated as a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status even if the type of basic filing, basic transmittal, or basic national fee is inadvertently selected in error.
      • (i) If the Office accords small entity status based on payment of a small entity basic filing or basic national fee under paragraph (c)(3) of this section that is not applicable to that application, any balance of the small entity fee that is applicable to that application will be due along with the appropriate surcharge set forth in § 1.16(f), or § 1.16(g).
      • (ii) The payment of any small entity fee other than those set forth in paragraph (c)(3) of this section (whether in the exact fee amount or not) will not be treated as a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status and will not be sufficient to establish small entity status in an application or a patent.
    • (4) Assertion required in related, continuing, and reissue applications. Status as a small entity must be specifically established by an assertion in each related, continuing and reissue application in which status is appropriate and desired. Status as a small entity in one application or patent does not affect the status of any other application or patent, regardless of the relationship of the applications or patents. The refiling of an application under § 1.53 as a continuation, divisional, or continuation-in-part application (including a continued prosecution application under § 1.53(d)), or the filing of a reissue application, requires a new assertion as to continued entitlement to small entity status for the continuing or reissue application.
  • (d) When small entity fees can be paid. Any fee, other than the small entity basic filing fees and the small entity national fees of paragraph (c)(3) of this section, can be paid in the small entity amount only if it is submitted with, or subsequent to, the submission of a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status, except when refunds are permitted by § 1.28(a).
  • (e) Only one assertion required.
    • (1) An assertion of small entity status need only be filed once in an application or patent. Small entity status, once established, remains in effect until changed pursuant to paragraph (g)(1) of this section. Where an assignment of rights or an obligation to assign rights to other parties who are small entities occurs subsequent to an assertion of small entity status, a second assertion is not required.
    • (2) Once small entity status is withdrawn pursuant to paragraph (g)(2) of this section, a new written assertion is required to again obtain small entity status.
  • (f) Assertion requires a determination of entitlement to pay small entity fees. Prior to submitting an assertion of entitlement to small entity status in an application, including a related, continuing, or reissue application, a determination of such entitlement should be made pursuant to the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section. It should be determined that all parties holding rights in the invention qualify for small entity status. The Office will generally not question any assertion of small entity status that is made in accordance with the requirements of this section, but note paragraph (h) of this section.
  • (g)
    • (1) New determination of entitlement to small entity status is needed when issue and maintenance fees are due. Once status as a small entity has been established in an application or patent, fees as a small entity may thereafter be paid in that application or patent without regard to a change in status until the issue fee is due or any maintenance fee is due.
    • (2) Notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status is required when issue and maintenance fees are due. Notification of a loss of entitlement to small entity status must be filed in the application or patent prior to paying, or at the time of paying, the earliest of the issue fee or any maintenance fee due after the date on which status as a small entity as defined in paragraph (a) of this section is no longer appropriate. The notification that small entity status is no longer appropriate must be signed by a party identified in § 1.33(b). Payment of a fee in other than the small entity amount is not sufficient notification that small entity status is no longer appropriate.
  • (h) Fraud attempted or practiced on the Office.
    • (1) Any attempt to fraudulently establish status as a small entity, or pay fees as a small entity, shall be considered as a fraud practiced or attempted on the Office.
    • (2) Improperly, and with intent to deceive, establishing status as a small entity, or paying fees as a small entity, shall be considered as a fraud practiced or attempted on the Office.

37 C.F.R. 1.4   Nature of correspondence and signature requirements.

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  • (d)
    • (4) Certifications.
      • (i) Section 11.18 certifications: The presentation to the Office (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) of any paper by a party, whether a practitioner or non-practitioner, constitutes a certification under § 11.18(b) of this subchapter. Violations of § 11.18(b)(2) of this subchapter by a party, whether a practitioner or non-practitioner, may result in the imposition of sanctions under § 11.18(c) of this subchapter. Any practitioner violating § 11.18(b) of this subchapter may also be subject to disciplinary action. See §§ 11.18(d) of this subchapter.

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37 C.F.R. 11.18   Signature and certificate for correspondence filed in the Office.

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  • (b) By presenting to the Office or hearing officer in a disciplinary proceeding (whether by signing, filing, submitting, or later advocating) any paper, the party presenting such paper, whether a practitioner or non-practitioner, is certifying that—
    • (1) All statements made therein of the party’s own knowledge are true, all statements made therein on information and belief are believed to be true, and all statements made therein are made with the knowledge that whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the Office, knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, or knowingly and willfully makes any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations, or knowingly and willfully makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry, shall be subject to the penalties set forth under 18 U.S.C. 1001 and any other applicable criminal statute, and violations of the provisions of this section may jeopardize the probative value of the paper; and
    • (2) To the best of the party’s knowledge, information and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances,
      • (i) The paper is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass someone or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of any proceeding before the Office;
      • (ii) The other legal contentions therein are warranted by existing law or by a nonfrivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law or the establishment of new law;
      • (iii) The allegations and other factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and
      • (iv) The denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence, or if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on a lack of information or belief.

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In order to establish small entity status for the purpose of paying small entity fees, any party (person, small business concern or nonprofit organization) must make an assertion of entitlement to small entity status in the manner set forth in 37 CFR 1.27(c)(1) or (c)(3), in the application or patent in which such small entity fees are to be paid. Under 37 CFR 1.27, as long as all of the rights remain in small entities, the fees established for a small entity can be paid. This includes circumstances where the rights were divided between a person, a small business concern, and a nonprofit organization, or any combination thereof.

Under 37 CFR 1.4(d)(4), an assertion of entitlement to small entity status, including the mere payment of an exact small entity basic filing fee, inherently contains a certification under 37 CFR 11.18(b). It is not required that an assertion of entitlement to small entity status be filed with each fee paid. Rather, once status as a small entity has been established in an application or patent, fees as a small entity may thereafter be paid in that application or patent without regard to a change in status until the issue fee is due or any maintenance fee is due. 37 CFR 1.27(g)(1). Notification of a loss of entitlement to small entity status must be filed in the application or patent prior to paying, or at the time of paying, the earliest of the issue fee or any maintenance fee due after the date on which status as a small entity is no longer appropriate. 37 CFR 1.27(g)(2).

Status as a small entity may be established in a provisional application by complying with 37 CFR 1.27.

Status as a small entity must be specifically established in each application or patent in which the status is available and desired. Status as a small entity in one application or patent does not affect any other application or patent, including applications or patents which are directly or indirectly dependent upon the application or patent in which the status has been established. The filing of an application under 37 CFR 1.53 as a continuation-in-part, continuation or division (including a continued prosecution application under 37 CFR 1.53(d)), or the filing of a reissue application requires a new assertion as to continued entitlement to small entity status for the continuing or reissue application. Submission of a request for continued examination (RCE) under 37 CFR 1.114 does not require a new determination or assertion of entitlement to small entity status since it is not a new application.

Examiners may use the following form paragraph to notify applicant that he or she may qualify for small entity status.

¶ 5.05    Small Entity Status

This application may qualify for “Small Entity Status” and, therefore, applicant may be entitled to the payment of reduced fees. In order to establish small entity status for the purpose of paying small entity fees, applicant must make a determination of entitlement to small entity status under 37 CFR 1.27(f) and make an assertion of entitlement to small entity status in the manner set forth in 37 CFR 1.27(c)(1) or 37 CFR 1.27(c)(3). Accordingly, if applicant meets the requirements of 37 CFR 1.27(a), applicant must submit a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status under 37 CFR 1.27(c) before fees can be paid in the small entity amount. See 37 CFR 1.27(d). The assertion must be signed, clearly identifiable, and convey the concept of entitlement to small entity status. See 37 CFR 1.27(c)(1). No particular form is required. If applicant qualifies as a small entity under 37 CFR 1.27, applicant may also qualify for “Micro Entity Status” under 35 U.S.C. 123. See 37 CFR 1.29 for the requirements to establish micro entity status for the purpose of paying micro entity fees.

I.   ASSERTION BY WRITING

Small entity status may be established by the submission of a simple written assertion of entitlement to small entity status. The assertion must be signed, clearly identifiable, and convey the concept of entitlement to small entity status. 37 CFR 1.27(c)(1). The written assertion is not required to be presented in any particular form. Written assertions of small entity status or references to small entity fees will be liberally interpreted to represent the required assertion. The written assertion can be made in any paper filed in or with the application and need be no more than a simple sentence or a box checked on an application transmittal letter.

Practitioners may continue to use former USPTO forms or similar forms if they believe such small entity forms serve an educational purpose for their clients.

II.   PARTIES WHO CAN ASSERT AND SIGN AN ENTITLEMENT TO SMALL ENTITY STATUS BY WRITING

A.    Applications Filed On or After September 16, 2012

37 C.F.R. 1.27  Definition of small entities and establishing status as a small entity to permit payment of small entity fees; when a determination of entitlement to small entity status and notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status are required; fraud on the Office.

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  • (c) Assertion of small entity status. Any party (person, small business concern or nonprofit organization) should make a determination, pursuant to paragraph (f) of this section, of entitlement to be accorded small entity status based on the definitions set forth in paragraph (a) of this section, and must, in order to establish small entity status for the purpose of paying small entity fees, actually make an assertion of entitlement to small entity status, in the manner set forth in paragraphs (c)(1) or (c)(3) of this section, in the application or patent in which such small entity fees are to be paid.
    • (1) Assertion by writing. Small entity status may be established by a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status. A written assertion must:
      • (i) Be clearly identifiable;
      • (ii) Be signed (see paragraph (c)(2) of this section); and
      • (iii) Convey the concept of entitlement to small entity status, such as by stating that applicant is a small entity, or that small entity status is entitled to be asserted for the application or patent. While no specific words or wording are required to assert small entity status, the intent to assert small entity status must be clearly indicated in order to comply with the assertion requirement.
    • (2) Parties who can sign and file the written assertion. The written assertion can be signed by:
      • (i) The applicant (§ 1.42 or § 1.421);
      • (ii) A patent practitioner of record or a practitioner acting in a representative capacity under § 1.34;
      • (iii) The inventor or a joint inventor, if the inventor is the applicant; or
      • (iv) The assignee.
    • (3) Assertion by payment of the small entity basic filing, basic transmittal, basic national fee, or international search fee. The payment, by any party, of the exact amount of one of the small entity basic filing fees set forth in §§ 1.16(a), 1.16(b), 1.16(c), 1.16(d), 1.16(e), the small entity transmittal fee set forth in § 1.445(a)(1), the small entity international search fee set forth in § 1.445(a)(2) to a Receiving Office other than the United States Receiving Office in the exact amount established for that Receiving Office pursuant to PCT Rule 16, or the small entity basic national fee set forth in § 1.492(a), will be treated as a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status even if the type of basic filing, basic transmittal, or basic national fee is inadvertently selected in error.
      • (i) If the Office accords small entity status based on payment of a small entity basic filing or basic national fee under paragraph (c)(3) of this section that is not applicable to that application, any balance of the small entity fee that is applicable to that application will be due along with the appropriate surcharge set forth in § 1.16(f), or § 1.16(g).
      • (ii) The payment of any small entity fee other than those set forth in paragraph (c)(3) of this section (whether in the exact fee amount or not) will not be treated as a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status and will not be sufficient to establish small entity status in an application or a patent.

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For applications filed on or after September 16, 2012, the written assertion of entitlement to small entity status can be signed by: (1) the applicant (37 CFR 1.42 or 1.421); (2) a patent practitioner of record or acting in a representative capacity under 37 CFR 1.34; (3) the inventor or a joint inventor, if the inventor is the applicant; or (4) the assignee. See 37 CFR 1.27(c)(2). The change to 37 CFR 1.27 for applications filed on or after September 16, 2012, is for consistency with the change in practice concerning who is the applicant for patent in 37 CFR 1.42. The applicant as defined in 37 CFR 1.42 (or 37 CFR 1.421) can sign a written assertion of small entity status. Thus, the assignee, the person to whom the inventor is under an obligation to assign the invention, or the person who otherwise shows sufficient proprietary interest in the matter, who is applying for a patent under 37 CFR 1.46 can sign the written assertion of small entity status. In addition, if there are joint inventors who are the applicant, then one of the joint inventors can sign a written assertion of small entity status and thereby establish small entity status for the application (but see paragraph VI. below). The assignee can sign a written assertion of small entity status even if the assignee is not the applicant or is a juristic entity.

B.   Applications Filed Before September 16, 2012

37 C.F.R. 1.27 (pre-AIA)  Definition of small entities and establishing status as a small entity to permit payment of small entity fees; when a determination of entitlement to small entity status and notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status are required; fraud on the Office.

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  • (c) Assertion of small entity status. Any party (person, small business concern or nonprofit organization) should make a determination, pursuant to paragraph (f) of this section, of entitlement to be accorded small entity status based on the definitions set forth in paragraph (a) of this section, and must, in order to establish small entity status for the purpose of paying small entity fees, actually make an assertion of entitlement to small entity status, in the manner set forth in paragraphs (c)(1) or (c)(3) of this section, in the application or patent in which such small entity fees are to be paid.
    • (1) Assertion by writing. Small entity status may be established by a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status. A written assertion must:
      • (i) Be clearly identifiable;
      • (ii) Be signed (see paragraph (c)(2) of this section); and
      • (iii) Convey the concept of entitlement to small entity status, such as by stating that applicant is a small entity, or that small entity status is entitled to be asserted for the application or patent. While no specific words or wording are required to assert small entity status, the intent to assert small entity status must be clearly indicated in order to comply with the assertion requirement.
    • (2) Parties who can sign and file the written assertion. The written assertion can be signed by:
      • (i) One of the parties identified in §  1.33(b) (e.g., an attorney or agent registered with the Office), § 3.73(b) of this chapter notwithstanding, who can also file the written assertion;
      • (ii) At least one of the individuals identified as an inventor (even though a § 1.63 executed oath or declaration has not been submitted), notwithstanding § 1.33(b)(4), who can also file the written assertion pursuant to the exception under § 1.33(b) of this part; or
      • (iii) An assignee of an undivided part interest, notwithstanding §§ 1.33(b)(3) and 3.73(b) of this chapter, but the partial assignee cannot file the assertion without resort to a party identified under § 1.33(b) of this part.
    • (3) Assertion by payment of the small entity basic filing or basic national fee. The payment, by any party, of the exact amount of one of the small entity basic filing fees set forth in §§ 1.16(a), 1.16(b), 1.16(c), 1.16(d), 1.16(e), or the small entity basic national fee set forth in § 1.492(a), will be treated as a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status even if the type of basic filing or basic national fee is inadvertently selected in error.
      • (i) If the Office accords small entity status based on payment of a small entity basic filing or basic national fee under paragraph (c)(3) of this section that is not applicable to that application, any balance of the small entity fee that is applicable to that application will be due along with the appropriate surcharge set forth in § 1.16(f), or § 1.16(g).
      • (ii) The payment of any small entity fee other than those set forth in paragraph (c)(3) of this section (whether in the exact fee amount or not) will not be treated as a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status and will not be sufficient to establish small entity status in an application or a patent.
    • (4) Assertion required in related, continuing, and reissue applications. Status as a small entity must be specifically established by an assertion in each related, continuing and reissue application in which status is appropriate and desired. Status as a small entity in one application or patent does not affect the status of any other application or patent, regardless of the relationship of the applications or patents. The refiling of an application under § 1.53 as a continuation, divisional, or continuation-in-part application (including a continued prosecution application under § 1.53(d)), or the filing of a reissue application, requires a new assertion as to continued entitlement to small entity status for the continuing or reissue application.

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For applications filed before September 16, 2012, the parties who can assert entitlement to small entity status by writing include all parties permitted by pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.33(b) to file a paper in an application, including a registered practitioner. Pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.27(c)(2)(i). Additionally, one of the individuals identified as an inventor, or a partial assignee, can also sign the written assertion. Pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.27(c)(2)(ii) and (iii). By way of example, in the case of three pro se inventors for a particular application, one of the three inventors upon filing the application can submit a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status and thereby establish small entity status for the application, (but see paragraph VI. below). Where rights are divided between a person, small business concern, and nonprofit organization, or any combination thereof, only one party is required to assert small entity status. For example, where one of two inventors has assigned his or her rights in the invention, it is sufficient if either of the two inventors or the assignee asserts entitlement to small entity status.

Any inventor is permitted to submit a written assertion of small entity status, including individuals identified as inventors but who are not officially named of record as an executed oath or declaration under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.63 has not yet been submitted. See pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.41(a)(1). Where an application is filed without an executed oath or declaration pursuant to pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.53(f), the Office will accept the written assertion of an individual who has merely been identified as an inventor on filing of the application (e.g., application transmittal letter) as opposed to having to be named as an inventor by the filing of an executed oath or declaration under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.63 (pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.41(a)(1)).  Pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.4(d)(4) and 37 CFR 11.18(b) are seen as sufficient basis to permit any individual to provide a written assertion so long as the individual identifies himself or herself as an inventor. An actual inventor who has not been identified as an inventor (e.g., by way of application transmittal letter) or named as an inventor (i.e., executed pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.63 oath or declaration) in the file record may not file a written assertion as to small entity entitlement.

Where an oath or declaration under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.63 is later filed, any original written assertion as to small entity status (which has been previously appropriately submitted to the Office) will remain unless changed by an appropriate party under 37 CFR 1.27(g)(2). Where a later-filed oath or declaration under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.63 sets forth an inventive entity that does not include the person who initially was identified as an inventor and who asserted small entity status, small entity status will also remain.

An assignee asserting small entity status is not required to submit a pre-AIA 37 CFR 3.73(b) certification whether the assignee is a partial assignee or an assignee of the entire right, title, and interest, (but see paragraph III. below).

III.   PARTIES WHO CAN FILE THE WRITTEN ASSERTION ONCE SIGNED

For applications filed before September 16, 2012, a distinction exists as to who can file a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status once the written assertion is signed. Pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.27(c)(2)(ii) and pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.33(b) permit one of several inventors to file as well as to sign a written assertion. The same is not true for a partial assignee. Pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.27(c)(2)(iii). While a partial assignee may sign a written assertion, the written assertion must be filed by an appropriate party under pre-AIA 37 CFR 1.33(b).

IV.   ASSERTION BY PAYMENT OF SMALL ENTITY BASIC FILING OR BASIC NATIONAL FEE

The payment of an exact small entity basic filing (37 CFR 1.16(a), (b), (c), (d), or (e)) or basic national fee (37 CFR 1.492(a)) is also considered to be a sufficient assertion of entitlement to small entity status. 37 CFR 1.27(c)(3). An applicant filing a patent application and paying an exact small entity basic filing or basic national fee automatically establishes small entity status for the application even without any other assertion of small entity status. This is so even if an applicant inadvertently selects the wrong type of small entity basic filing or basic national fee for the application being filed (e.g., the exact small entity basic filing fee for a design application is selected but the application is a utility application). If small entity status was not established when the basic filing or basic national fee was paid, such as by payment of a non-small entity basic filing or basic national fee, a later claim to small entity status requires a written assertion under 37 CFR 1.27(c)(1). Payment of a small entity fee other than a small entity basic filing or basic national fee (e.g., extension of time fee, or issue fee) without inclusion of a written assertion is not sufficient.

Even though applicants can assert small entity status only by payment of an exact small entity basic filing or basic national fee, the Office encourages applicants to also file a written assertion of small entity status as well as to pay the exact amount of the small entity basic filing or basic national fee. The Office’s application transmittal forms include a check box that can be used to submit a written assertion of small entity status. A written assertion will provide small entity status should applicant fail to pay the exact small entity basic filing or basic national fee. The provision providing for small entity status by payment of an exact small entity basic filing or basic national fee is intended to act as a safety net to avoid possible financial loss to inventors or small businesses that qualify for small entity status.

Even though small entity status is accorded where the wrong type of small entity basic filing fee or basic national fee is selected but the exact amount of the fee is paid, applicant still needs to pay the correct small entity amount for the basic filing or basic national fee where selection of the wrong type of fee results in a deficiency. While an accompanying general authorization to charge any additional fees suffices to pay the balance due of the proper small entity basic filing or basic national fee, specific authorizations to charge fees under 37 CFR 1.17 or extension of time fees do not suffice to pay any balance due of the proper small entity basic filing or basic national fee because they do not actually authorize payment of small entity amounts. If payment is attempted of the proper type of basic filing or basic national fee (applicant correctly identifies the type of fee for the type of application being filed), but the amount of the fee paid is not the exact small entity fee required (an incorrect fee amount is supplied) and a written assertion of small entity status is not present, small entity status will not be accorded. The Office will mail a notice of insufficient basic filing or basic national fee with a surcharge due if an authorization to charge the basic filing or basic national fee is not present. The Office does not consider a basic filing or basic national fee submitted in an amount above the correct fee amount, but below the non-small entity fee amount, as a request to establish small entity status unless an additional written assertion is also present. The submission of a basic filing or basic national fee below the correct fee amount also does not serve to establish small entity status.

Where an application is originally filed by a party, who is in fact a small entity, with an authorization to charge fees (including basic filing or national fees) and there is no indication (assertion) of entitlement to small entity status present, that authorization is not sufficient to establish small entity status unless the authorization is specifically directed to small entity basic filing or basic national fees. The general authorization to charge fees will continue to be acted upon immediately and the full (not small entity) basic filing or basic national fees will be charged. Applicant will have three months under 37 CFR 1.28 to request a refund by asserting entitlement to small entity status. This is so even if the application is a continuing application where small entity status had been established in the prior application.

V.   PARTIES WHO CAN ASSERT AND FILE SMALL ENTITY STATUS BY PAYMENT

Where small entity status is sought by way of payment of the basic filing or basic national fee, any party (including a third party), may submit payment, such as by check, and small entity status will be accorded.

VI.   CONTINUED OBLIGATIONS FOR THOROUGH INVESTIGATION OF SMALL ENTITY STATUS

While small entity status is not difficult to obtain, it should be clearly understood that applicants need to do a complete and thorough investigation of all facts and circumstances before making a determination of actual entitlement to small entity status. 37 CFR 1.27(f). Where entitlement to small entity status is uncertain, it should not be claimed.

The assertion of small entity status (even by mere payment of the exact small entity basic filing fee) is not appropriate until such an investigation has been completed. For example, where there are three pro se inventors, before one of the inventors pays the small entity basic filing or basic national fee to establish small entity status, the single inventor asserting entitlement to small entity status should check with the other two inventors to determine whether small entity status is appropriate.

If small entity status is desired on the basis that the entity is a small business concern, the investigation should include a review of whether the business is a small business concern as defined by section 3 of the Small Business Act (Public Law 85-536 as amended by Public Law 106-50). Review of whether the business concern meets the size standards set forth in 13 CFR 121.801 through 121.805 to be eligible for reduced patent fees is also appropriate. Additionally, if the business has assigned, granted, conveyed or licensed (or is under an obligation to do so) any rights in the invention to others directly or indirectly, the same review for each other entity would also be appropriate.

Furthermore, once status as a small entity has been established in an application, a new determination of entitlement to small entity status is needed (1) when the issue fee is due and (2) when any maintenance fee is due. It should be appreciated that the costs incurred in appropriately conducting the initial and subsequent investigations may outweigh the benefit of claiming small entity status. For some applicants it may be desirable to file as a non-small entity (by not filing a written assertion of small entity status and by submitting non-small entity fees) rather than undertaking the appropriate investigations which may be both difficult and time-consuming and which may be cost effective only where several applications are involved.

The intent of 37 CFR 1.27 is that the person making the assertion of entitlement to small entity status is the person in a position to know the facts about whether or not status as a small entity can be properly established. That person, thus, has a duty to investigate the circumstances surrounding entitlement to small entity status to the fullest extent. It is important to note that small entity status must not be claimed unless the person or persons can unequivocally make the required self-certification.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not give advisory opinions as to whether or not a specific individual or organization qualifies as a small entity. In establishing reduced fees for persons, small business concerns, and nonprofit organizations, the Congressional consideration of the legislation which became Public Law 97-247 indicated an intent that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rely exclusively on a self-certification that a patent applicant qualifies as an independent inventor (now person), small business concern, or nonprofit organization. In addition, it was also stated during Congressional consideration of the legislation that no additional resources would be required to administer the system whereby fees would be reduced for small entities.

In view of the intent expressed during Congressional consideration of the legislation, it would be inappropriate for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to give advisory opinions as to entitlement to small entity status. Accordingly, any individual seeking to establish status as a small entity for purposes of paying the fee in an application or patent must file the assertion required by 37 CFR 1.27 and in so doing is self-certifying entitlement to small entity status.

Consistent with 37 CFR 1.4(d)(4), the payment of a small entity basic filing or national fee constitutes a certification under 37 CFR 11.18(b). Thus, a simple payment of the small entity basic filing or basic national fee, without a specific written assertion, activates the provisions of  37 CFR 1.4(d)(4) and, by that, invokes the self-certification requirement set forth in 37 CFR 11.18(b), regardless of whether the party is a practitioner or non-practitioner.

  VII. REMOVAL OF STATUS

Once small entity status is established in an application or patent, fees as a small entity may thereafter be paid in that application or patent without regard to a change in status until the issue fee is due or any maintenance fee is due. 37 CFR 1.27(g)(1). 37 CFR 1.27(g)(2) requires that notification of any change in status resulting in loss of entitlement to small entity status be filed in the application or patent prior to paying, or at the time of paying, the earliest of the issue fee or any maintenance fee due after the date on which status as a small entity is no longer appropriate. 37 CFR 1.27(g)(2) also requires that the notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status be in the form of a specific written assertion to that extent, rather than only payment of a non-small entity fee. For example, when paying the issue fee in an application that has previously been accorded small entity status and the required new determination of continued entitlement to small entity status reveals that status has been lost, applicant should not just simply pay the non-small entity issue fee or cross out the recitation of small entity status on Part B of the Notice of Allowance and Fee(s) Due (PTOL-85), but should (A) check the appropriate box on Part B of the PTOL-85 form to indicate that there has been a change in entity status and applicant is no longer claiming small entity status, and (B) pay the fee amount for a non-small entity.

For correcting errors in small entity status, see paragraph X below.

VIII.   IMPROPERLY ESTABLISHING SMALL ENTITY STATUS

37 CFR 1.27(h) indicates that any attempt to fraudulently establish status as a small entity or pay fees as a small entity will be considered as a fraud practiced or attempted on the Office. Applicants should not rely on any oral advice inadvertently given by an Office employee as to entitlement to small entity status. In addition, improperly and with intent to deceive establishing status as a small entity or paying fees as a small entity will be considered as a fraud practiced or attempted on the Office. Normally, the Office will not question a claim to status as a small entity.

IX.   REFUNDS BASED ON LATER ESTABLISHMENT OF SMALL ENTITY STATUS

37 C.F.R. 1.28   Refunds when small entity status is later established; how errors in small entity status are excused.

  • (a) Refunds based on later establishment of small entity status. A refund pursuant to § 1.26, based on establishment of small entity status, of a portion of fees timely paid in full prior to establishing status as a small entity may only be obtained if an assertion under § 1.27(c) and a request for a refund of the excess amount are filed within three months of the date of the timely payment of the full fee. The three-month time period is not extendable under § 1.136. Status as a small entity is waived for any fee by the failure to establish the status prior to paying, at the time of paying, or within three months of the date of payment of, the full fee.
  • (b) Date of payment.
    • (1) The three-month period for requesting a refund, pursuant to paragraph (a) of this section, starts on the date that a full fee has been paid;
    • (2) The date when a deficiency payment is paid in full determines the amount of deficiency that is due, pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section.

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37 CFR 1.28(a) provides a three-month time period for requesting a refund of a portion of a non-small entity fee based on later establishment of small entity status. The start date of the three-month refund period of 37 CFR 1.28(a) is the date the full fee has been paid. See 37 CFR 1.28(b)(1). Payment by authorization to charge a deposit account is treated for refund purposes the same as payments by other means (e.g., check or credit card authorizations), with each being treated as paid (for refund purposes) on the date of receipt in the Office as defined by 37 CFR 1.6. Thus, the date of receipt of an authorization to charge fees starts the three-month period for refunds under 37 CFR 1.28(a), not the date of debit of the fee to a deposit account. If a payment is mailed with a Certificate of Mailing under 37 CFR 1.8, the three month period for requesting a refund will start on the actual date of receipt of the payment in the Office, and not the Certificate of Mailing date. If a payment is filed by Express Mail under 37 CFR 1.10, the date of deposit with the United States Postal Service (shown by the “date-in” on the Express Mail mailing label or other official USPS notation) is the date of receipt of the payment by the Office under 37 CFR 1.10(a) and the three month period for requesting a refund starts on the date shown by the “date-in” on the Express Mail mailing label rather than the date when the payment actually reaches the Office.

Request for refunds, along with the assertions under 37 CFR 1.27(c), should be addressed to Mail Stop 16, Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313-1450.

X.   CORRECTING ERRORS IN SMALL ENTITY STATUS

37 C.F.R. 1.28   Refunds when small entity status is later established; how errors in small entity status are excused.

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  • (c) How errors in small entity status are excused. If status as a small entity is established in good faith, and fees as a small entity are paid in good faith, in any application or patent, and it is later discovered that such status as a small entity was established in error, or that through error the Office was not notified of a loss of entitlement to small entity status as required by § 1.27(g)(2), the error will be excused upon: compliance with the separate submission and itemization requirements of paragraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section, and the deficiency payment requirement of paragraph (c)(2) of this section:
    • (1) Separate submission required for each application or patent. Any paper submitted under this paragraph must be limited to the deficiency payment (all fees paid in error), required by paragraph (c)(2) of this section, for one application or one patent. Where more than one application or patent is involved, separate submissions of deficiency payments (e.g., checks) and itemizations are required for each application or patent. See § 1.4(b).
    • (2) Payment of deficiency owed. The deficiency owed, resulting from the previous erroneous payment of small entity fees, must be paid.
      • (i) Calculation of the deficiency owed. The deficiency owed for each previous fee erroneously paid as a small entity is the difference between the current fee amount (for other than a small entity) on the date the deficiency is paid in full and the amount of the previous erroneous (small entity) fee payment. The total deficiency payment owed is the sum of the individual deficiency owed amounts for each fee amount previously erroneously paid as a small entity. Where a fee paid in error as a small entity was subject to a fee decrease between the time the fee was paid in error and the time the deficiency is paid in full, the deficiency owed is equal to the amount (previously) paid in error;
      • (ii) Itemization of the deficiency payment. An itemization of the total deficiency payment is required. The itemization must include the following information:
        • (A) Each particular type of fee that was erroneously paid as a small entity, (e.g., basic statutory filing fee, two-month extension of time fee) along with the current fee amount for a non-small entity;
        • (B) The small entity fee actually paid, and when. This will permit the Office to differentiate, for example, between two one-month extension of time fees erroneously paid as a small entity but on different dates;
        • (C) The deficiency owed amount (for each fee erroneously paid); and
        • (D) The total deficiency payment owed, which is the sum or total of the individual deficiency owed amounts set forth in paragraph (c)(2)(ii)(C) of this section.
    • (3) Failure to comply with requirements. If the requirements of paragraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of this section are not complied with, such failure will either: be treated as an authorization for the Office to process the deficiency payment and charge the processing fee set forth in § 1.17(i), or result in a requirement for compliance within a one-month non-extendable time period under § 1.136(a) to avoid the return of the fee deficiency paper, at the option of the Office.
  • (d) Payment of deficiency operates as notification of loss of status. Any deficiency payment (based on a previous erroneous payment of a small entity fee) submitted under paragraph (c) of this section will be treated under § 1.27(g)(2) as a notification of a loss of entitlement to small entity status.

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37 CFR 1.28(c) provides that if small entity status is established in good faith and the small entity fees are paid in good faith, and it is later discovered that such status as a small entity was established in error or through error the Office was not notified of a change of status, the error will be excused upon compliance with the separate submission and itemization requirements of 37 CFR 1.28(c)(1) and (c)(2), and the deficiency payment requirement of 37 CFR 1.28(c)(2). The deficiency amount owed under 37 CFR 1.28(c) is calculated using the date on which the deficiency was paid in full. See 37 CFR 1.28(b)(2).

37 CFR 1.28(c)(1) requires that a deficiency paper be limited to one application or patent file. Where, for example, the same set of facts has caused errors in payment in more than one application and/or patent file, a separate paper must be submitted in each file for which an error is to be excused.

37 CFR 1.28(c)(2) requires that for each fee that was erroneously paid as a small entity, the deficiencies owed must be paid, and the payment of the deficiencies must be itemized. The deficiency owed for each previous fee erroneously paid as a small entity is the difference between the current fee amount (for other than a small entity) on the date the deficiency is paid in full and the amount of the previous erroneous (small entity) fee payment. Where there has been a fee decrease, the deficiency owed is equal to the amount (previously) paid in error, not the difference between the amount (previously) paid in error and the new lower non-small entity fee. 37 CFR 1.28(c)(2)(ii) requires the following itemizations: (A) the particular fee involved (e.g., basic filing fee, extension of time fee); (B) the small entity fee amount actually paid and when (for example, distinguishing between two one-month extension of time fees erroneously paid on two different dates); (C) the actual deficiency owed for each fee previously paid in error; and (D) the total deficiency owed (i.e., the sum of the individual deficiencies owed).

Under 37 CFR 1.28(c)(3), the failure to comply with the requirements of 37 CFR 1.28(c)(1) and (c)(2) permits the Office at its option to either charge a processing fee (37 CFR 1.17(i)) to process the paper or require compliance within a one-month non-extendable time period to avoid return of the paper.

Any paper submitted under 37 CFR 1.28(c) is treated as a notification of loss of small entity status under 37 CFR 1.27(g)(2). See 37 CFR 1.28(d).

A maintenance fee improperly paid as a small entity where small entity status has been established but is no longer appropriate will be treated as a matter under 37 CFR 1.28(c) and will not be considered to involve expiration of the patent under 37 CFR 1.378. On the other hand, payment of a maintenance fee in the small entity amount where small entity status has not been established would result in the expiration of the patent under 37 CFR 1.378 unless the full maintenance fee due or a written assertion of small entity status is timely filed.

509.04   Micro Entity Status — Definitions [R-11.2013]

35 U.S.C. 123  Micro entity defined.

  • (a) IN GENERAL.—For purposes of this title, the term "micro entity" means an applicant who makes a certification that the applicant—
    • (1) qualifies as a small entity, as defined in regulations issued by the Director;
    • (2) has not been named as an inventor on more than 4 previously filed patent applications, other than applications filed in another country, provisional applications under section 111(b), or international applications filed under the treaty defined in section 351(a) for which the basic national fee under section 41(a) was not paid;
    • (3) did not, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is being paid, have a gross income, as defined in section 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, exceeding 3 times the median household income for that preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census; and
    • (4) has not assigned, granted, or conveyed, and is not under an obligation by contract or law to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the application concerned to an entity that, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is being paid, had a gross income, as defined in section 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, exceeding 3 times the median household income for that preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census.
  • (b) APPLICATIONS RESULTING FROM PRIOR EMPLOYMENT.—An applicant is not considered to be named on a previously filed application for purposes of subsection (a)(2) if the applicant has assigned, or is under an obligation by contract or law to assign, all ownership rights in the application as the result of the applicant’s previous employment.
  • (c) FOREIGN CURRENCY EXCHANGE RATE.—If an applicant’s or entity’s gross income in the preceding calendar year is not in United States dollars, the average currency exchange rate, as reported by the Internal Revenue Service, during that calendar year shall be used to determine whether the applicant’s or entity’s gross income exceeds the threshold specified in paragraphs (3) or (4) of subsection (a).
  • (d) INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION.—For purposes of this section, a micro entity shall include an applicant who certifies that—
    • (1) the applicant’s employer, from which the applicant obtains the majority of the applicant’s income, is an institution of higher education as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)); or
    • (2) the applicant has assigned, granted, conveyed, or is under an obligation by contract or law, to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the particular applications to such an institution of higher education.
  • (e) DIRECTOR’S AUTHORITY.—In addition to the limits imposed by this section, the Director may, in the Director’s discretion, impose income limits, annual filing limits, or other limits on who may qualify as a micro entity pursuant to this section if the Director determines that such additional limits are reasonably necessary to avoid an undue impact on other patent applicants or owners or are otherwise reasonably necessary and appropriate. At least 3 months before any limits proposed to be imposed pursuant to this subsection take effect, the Director shall inform the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate of any such proposed limits.

Public Law 112-29, sec. 10(b), 125 Stat. 284 (September 16, 2011)( Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA)) adds 35 U.S.C. 123 to define a ‘‘micro entity.’’ March 19, 2013 is the date that the 75% micro entity discount first became available, because that is the date that fees “for filing, searching, examining, issuing, appealing, and maintaining patent applications and patents” were first set or adjusted by rulemaking under the Office’s fee setting authority. See Setting and Adjusting Patent Fees, 78 FR 4212 (January 18, 2013) which became effective in large part on March 19, 2013. January 1, 2014 is the rulemaking’s effective date for the micro entity discount as it applies to certain “filing, searching [and] examining” fees for international applications under the PCT.

The fees which are reduced by 75% for micro entities include filing fees (nonprovisional and provisional), search fees, examination fees, issue fees, and appeal fees for utility, design, plant, and reissue patent applications. Also included are patent maintenance fees including the maintenance fee grace period surcharges as well as the surcharge for a petition to accept a delayed maintenance fee payment in order to reinstate an expired patent. Included within the ambit of filing fees subject to the micro entity discount are excess claims fees, application size fees, and the surcharge required by 37 CFR 1.16(f) if either the basic filing fee or the oath or declaration for a nonprovisional application was not present on the filing date. Included within the ambit of examination fees subject to the micro entity discount are the fees for requesting prioritized examination under 37 CFR 1.102(e), ex parte reexamination under 37 CFR 1.510, and supplemental examination under 37 CFR 1.601. Included within the ambit of appeal fees subject to the micro entity discount are the fees for filing notice of appeal, forwarding an appeal to the PTAB, and requesting an oral hearing.

I.   REQUIREMENT FOR A CERTIFICATION

35 U.S.C. 123 requires a certification as a condition for an applicant to be considered a micro entity. The certification must be in writing and must be filed prior to or at the time a fee is first paid in the micro entity amount in an application or patent. Status as a micro entity in one application or patent does not affect the status of any other application or patent. The refiling of an application under 37 CFR 1.53 as a continuation or divisional, or continuation-in-part application (including a continued prosecution application under 37 CFR 1.53(d) (design applications only)), or the filing of a reissue application, requires a new certification of entitlement to micro entity status in the continuing or reissue application. See 37 CFR 1.29(e). A fee may be paid in the micro entity amount only if it is submitted with, or subsequent to, the submission of a certification of entitlement to micro entity status. See 37 CFR 1.29(f). The micro entity provisions of 37 CFR 1.29 apply to applications filed before, on, and after March 19, 2013. A micro entity certification may be filed in pending applications, reexamination proceedings, and supplemental examination proceedings at any time during prosecution and in patents prior to or concurrent with a maintenance fee payment.

Any attempt to fraudulently establish status or pay fees as a micro entity shall be considered as a fraud practiced or attempted on the Office. Improperly, and with intent to deceive, establishing status or paying fees as a micro entity shall be considered as a fraud practiced or attempted on the Office. See 37 CFR 1.29(j).

II.   BASES FOR ESTABLISHING MICRO ENTITY STATUS

There are two separate bases for establishing micro entity status referred to as the “gross income basis” under 35 U.S.C. 123(a) and the “institution of higher education basis” under 35 U.S.C. 123(d). 37 CFR 1.29(a) implements the gross income basis for establishing micro entity status, and 37 CFR 1.29(d) implements the institution of higher education basis for establishing micro entity status. The Office’s micro entity certification forms are form PTO/SB/15A (gross income basis)(see MPEP § 509.04(a)) and form PTO/SB/15B (institution of higher education basis)(see MPEP § 509.04(b)). No evidence such as a copy of a tax return need accompany the certification form(s). In addition, the certification form(s) need not be notarized. The certification form(s) must, however, identify the application or patent to which it pertains and it must be signed by an authorized party as set forth in MPEP § 509.04(c). For new application filings not previously assigned a patent application number, providing the first named inventor and the title of the invention at the top of the certification form(s) in the spaces provided will be sufficient to identify the application. It is strongly recommended that the following document descriptions in EFS-Web be used as appropriate:

  • • Certification of Micro Entity (Gross Income Basis)
  • • Certification of Micro Entity (Education Basis)

509.04(a)   Gross Income Basis for Micro Entity Status

35 U.S.C. 123(a) provides that the term ‘‘micro entity’’ means an applicant who makes a certification that the applicant: (1) Qualifies as a small entity as defined in 37 CFR 1.27; (2) has not been named as an inventor on more than four previously filed patent applications, other than applications filed in another country, provisional applications under 35 U.S.C. 111(b), or international applications for which the basic national fee under 35 U.S.C. 41(a) was not paid; (3) did not, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is being paid, have a gross income, as defined in section 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 61(a)), exceeding three times the median household income for that preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census; and (4) has not assigned, granted, or conveyed, and is not under an obligation by contract or law to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the application concerned to an entity that, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is being paid, had a gross income, as defined in section 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, exceeding three times the median household income for that preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census. 37 CFR 1.29(a)(1)-(4) implements the requirements under 35 U.S.C. 123(a)(1)-(4) for establishing micro entity status on the gross income basis.

The income level that is three times the median household income for the preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census (i.e., the income threshold set forth in 35 U.S.C. 123(a)(3) and (a)(4)) is referred to as the “gross income limit” or the “maximum qualifying gross income.” The Office’s micro entity status certification form PTO/SB/15A refers to the official Web page address providing the up-to-date maximum qualifying gross income. Each inventor and each non-inventor applicant (e.g., an assignee-applicant) must individually meet the gross income limit. The gross income limit applies to the assignee (if any) regardless of whether the assignee is identified as the applicant. Under 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4), the gross income limit applies to each party with an ownership interest in the application including any party(ies) to whom an ownership interest obligation is owed. Accordingly, each assignee, licensee, and inventor must individually meet the gross income limit.

35 U.S.C. 123(b) provides that an applicant is not considered to be named on a previously filed application for purposes of 35 U.S.C. 123(a)(2) if the applicant has assigned, or is under an obligation by contract or law to assign, all ownership rights in the previously filed application as the result of the applicant’s previous employment. 37 CFR 1.29(b) implements the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 123(b).

35 U.S.C. 123(c) provides that if an applicant’s or entity’s gross income in the preceding calendar year is not in United States dollars, the average currency exchange rate, as reported by the Internal Revenue Service, during that calendar year shall be used to determine whether the applicant’s or entity’s gross income exceeds the gross income limit specified in 35 U.S.C. 123(a)(3) or (4). 37 CFR 1.29(c) implements the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 123(c).

I.   SECTION 1.29(a) – Gross Income Basis Requirements

37 C.F.R.   § 1.29 Micro entity status.

  • (a) To establish micro entity status under this paragraph, the applicant must certify that:
    • (1) The applicant qualifies as a small entity as defined in § 1.27;
    • (2) Neither the applicant nor the inventor nor a joint inventor has been named as the inventor or a joint inventor on more than four previously filed patent applications, other than applications filed in another country, provisional applications under 35 U.S.C. 111(b), or international applications for which the basic national fee under 35 U.S.C. 41(a) was not paid;
    • (3) Neither the applicant nor the inventor nor a joint inventor, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is being paid, had a gross income, as defined in section 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 61(a)), exceeding three times the median household income for that preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census; and
    • (4) Neither the applicant nor the inventor nor a joint inventor has assigned, granted, or conveyed, nor is under an obligation by contract or law to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the application concerned to an entity that, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is being paid, had a gross income, as defined in section 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, exceeding three times the median household income for that preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census.

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37 CFR 1.29(a)(1)-(4) sets forth the requirements for establishing micro entity status on the gross income basis. If an application names more than one inventor, each inventor must meet the requirements of 37 CFR 1.29(a)(1)-(4) to file a micro entity certification on the gross income basis in the application. If the applicant is other than the inventor(s) (e.g., an assignee-applicant), then each such non-inventor applicant as well as each inventor must meet the requirements of 37 CFR 1.29(a)(1)-(4) to file a micro entity certification on the gross income basis in the application. If there is any assignee or licensee that received “ownership rights” from any inventor or non-inventor applicant, then the party(ies) with the “ownership interest” must also meet the gross income limit requirement.

Because each inventor and each non-inventor applicant (e.g., assignee-applicant) must separately meet the requirements under 37 CFR 1.29(a)(1)-(4), it would not be appropriate to file a micro entity certification under 37 CFR 1.29(a) for the application if there were more than one applicant or inventor and not all of the applicants and inventors qualified as micro entities under 35 U.S.C. 123(a): e.g., (1) an applicant or inventor exceeded the gross income limit; (2) an applicant or inventor had more than four other nonprovisional applications; or (3) an applicant or inventor had assigned, granted, or conveyed the application or was under an obligation to do so, to an entity that exceeds the gross income limit. Additionally, the gross income limit under 35 U.S.C. 123(a)(3) applies to each applicant’s and inventor’s income separately (i.e., the combined gross income of all of the applicants and inventors need not be below the income level in 35 U.S.C. 123(a)(3)). Further, the assignment requirement in 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4) applies to each applicant and inventor (i.e., if an applicant or inventor assigns or is obligated to assign the invention to more than one assignee (e.g., half interest in the invention to two assignees), each of the assignees must meet the income limit specified in 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4)). Note also that in this context an inventor ordinarily should qualify as a small entity under 37 CFR 1.29(a)(1) and 1.27(a)(1). Under 37 CFR 1.27(a)(1), an inventor generally is a small entity and retains such status even if the inventor assigns some rights to another small entity. Similarly, to obtain micro entity status, 37 CFR 1.29(h) requires that any non-applicant assignee be a small entity.

CERTIFICATION FORM – GROSS INCOME BASIS

The Office’s form PTO/SB/15A contains the certifications under 37 CFR 1.29(a)(1)-(4) that are required to establish micro entity status on the gross income basis. The form refers to the certification requirements as: (1) Small Entity Requirement, (2) Application Filing Limit, (3) Gross Income Limit on Applicants and Inventors, and (4) Gross Income Limit on Parties with an “Ownership Interest.”

Certification of Micro Entity Status (Gross Income Basis)
Privacy Act Statement

A.   SMALL ENTITY REQUIREMENT

In order to meet the small entity requirement, every party holding rights in the application must qualify as a small entity under 37 CFR 1.27. If any rights in the application are assigned, granted, conveyed, or licensed to a party that does not qualify as a small entity under 37 CFR 1.27, the applicant cannot qualify for any patent fee discount. An obligation to assign, grant, convey, or license rights in the application to a party that does not qualify for small entity status would also disqualify the applicant from receiving any patent fee discount. In order to qualify for small entity status, and in order to meet the small entity requirement for micro entity status, there can be no party holding rights or obligated rights in the application that does not qualify as a small entity. See MPEP § 509.02 for a discussion of the requirements for small entity status.

B.   APPLICATION FILING LIMIT

For purposes of establishing micro entity status under the “gross income” basis, the application filing limit as set forth in 37 CFR 1.29(a)(2) includes: (i) previously filed U.S. nonprovisional applications (e.g., utility, design, plant, continuation, and divisional applications), (ii) previously filed U.S. reissue applications, and (iii) previously filed U.S. national stage applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). All such applications naming the inventor or a joint inventor are counted toward the application filing limit, whether the applications were filed before, on, or after March 19, 2013. Further, it does not matter whether the previously filed applications are pending, patented, or abandoned; they are still included when counting to determine whether the application filing limit has been reached.

The application filing limit does not include: (i) foreign applications; (ii) international (PCT) applications for which the basic U.S. national stage filing fee was not paid; and (iii) provisional applications. In addition, where an applicant, inventor, or joint inventor has assigned, or is under an obligation by contract or law to assign, all ownership rights in the application as the result of the applicant’s, inventor’s, or joint inventor’s previous employment the applicant, inventor or joint inventor is not considered to be named on the prior filed application for purposes of determining micro entity status. See 37 CFR 1.29(b).

Because the four application limit is a limit on previously filed U.S. nonprovisional applications, reissues applications, and national stage applications, the maximum number of applications in which fees can be paid at the micro entity discount rate can vary from 0 to 5 for any given inventor. For example, consider a person named as a sole inventor in five previously filed U.S. nonprovisional patent applications in which all ownership rights have remained with the sole inventor (i.e., no assignment or licensing of patent rights ever occurred). This person was not named as an inventor in any other application. Because all five applications count against the application filing limit, this person cannot be named as an inventor in any future-filed application entitled to micro entity status on the “gross income” basis under 37 CFR 1.29(a). (However, the filing of a future sixth application will not jeopardize entitlement to micro entity status in any of the five applications already filed.) If the first two of the inventor’s five applications went abandoned prior to March 19, 2013, then the inventor would not have had the opportunity to pay fees at the micro entity discount rate in those two applications. (The micro entity discount became available for the first time on March 19, 2013.) However if the third-filed application issued as a patent, then for purposes of paying maintenance fees, the applicant-turned-patentee (the sole inventor in this example) may establish entitlement to micro entity status on the “gross income” basis if all 4 requirements under 37 CFR 1.29(a) are met. If the fourth and fifth filed applications are still pending, then similarly, the inventor may establish entitlement to micro entity status on the “gross income” basis if the four requirements under 37 CFR 1.29(a) are met.

C.   GROSS INCOME LIMIT ON APPLICANTS AND INVENTORS

For purposes of qualifying for micro-entity status under 37 CFR 1.29(a) and paying fees at the micro entity discount, it is required that no inventor had a gross income exceeding the gross income limit in the calendar year preceding the time of fee payment. This gross income level requirement also applies to any applicant who is not an inventor (e.g., an assignee-applicant). 35 U.S.C. 123(a)(3) and 37 CFR 1.29(a)(3) define the gross income limit as “three times median household income for [the] preceding calendar year, as most recently as reported by the Bureau of the Census.” Based on that definition, the gross income limit is reported on the USPTO Web site at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/law/ micro_entity.jsp as the “maximum qualifying gross income.” At the time any fee is to be paid in the micro entity amount, it is required that no inventor and no non-inventor applicant (if any) have a preceding calendar year’s gross income exceeding the “maximum qualifying gross income” posted on the USPTO Web site.

It should be noted that “gross income” means total income. “Gross income” and “adjusted gross income” are not the same thing. Adjusted gross income is defined as gross income minus adjustments to income. For purposes of micro entity status it is “gross income” – not “adjusted gross income” that matters. Section 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 61(a)) provides that: "[e]xcept as otherwise provided in this subtitle, gross income means all income from whatever source derived, including (but not limited to) the following items: (1) Compensation for services, including fees, commissions, fringe benefits, and similar items; (2) Gross income derived from business; (3) Gains derived from dealings in property; (4) Interest; (5) Rents; (6) Royalties; (7) Dividends; (8) Alimony and separate maintenance payments; (9) Annuities; (10) Income from life insurance and endowment contracts; (11) Pensions; (12) Income from discharge of indebtedness; (13) Distributive share of partnership gross income; (14) Income in respect of a decedent; and (15) Income from an interest in an estate or trust."

With the coming of each new year, the “preceding calendar year” advances, and anyone’s preceding calendar year’s gross income may change as a result. Therefore, if the prosecution of an application under micro entity status extends across multiple calendar years, each applicant, inventor, and joint inventor must verify that the gross income limit for the requisite calendar year is met to maintain eligibility for the micro entity discount. If the gross income limit is no longer met, then a notification of loss of entitlement to micro entity status must be filed in the application to remove micro entity status. On the other hand, it is possible a small entity applicant not meeting the gross income limits specified in 37 CFR 1.29(a)(3) and (4) in the calendar year in which the application was filed could meet the 37 CFR 1.29(a)(3) and (4) gross income limits in the calendar year in which the issue fee is paid, for example, due to a reduction in income. However, the applicant must still be a small entity at the time of issue fee payment, and the applicant must have met the application filing limit under 37 CFR 1.29(a)(2) when the application was filed.

The applicable “maximum qualifying gross income” that is reported on the USPTO Web site at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/law/micro_entity.jsp is anticipated to change (increase or decrease) in September or October of each year. If the reported “maximum qualifying gross income” increases, then parties that met the gross income limit earlier that calendar year will continue to meet the gross income limit for the rest of the calendar year. There may also be additional parties that meet the gross income limit. If the reported “maximum qualifying gross income”decreases, however, some parties that met (e.g., barely met) the gross income limit earlier that calendar year might no longer meet the gross income limit for the remainder of the calendar year. In that event a notification of loss of entitlement to micro entity status must be filed as fees could not be paid in the micro entity amount in the relevant patent application or patent for the remainder of that calendar year.

For inventors who file tax returns jointly with their spouse, for example, determining the inventor’s gross income may not be readily apparent from the preceding calendar year’s joint tax return. Regardless of whether any inventor, or any person who is a non-inventor applicant (e.g., assignee-applicant), or any person with an “ownership interest” under 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4) actually filed a joint tax return rather than a separate tax return in the preceding calendar year, the gross income limit applies to the amount of income the person would have reported as gross income if that person were filing a separate tax return, which includes for example, properly accounting for that person’s portion of interest, dividends, and capital gains from joint bank or brokerage accounts.

For filings on behalf of deceased inventors, gross income from the deceased inventor’s estate or trust does not count toward the gross income limit because the trust or decedent’s estate is considered a separate legal entity. However, the deceased inventor’s legal representative acting on behalf of the deceased inventor under 37 CFR 1.43 is an “applicant” in terms of 37 CFR 1.29(a). Therefore the legal representative’s gross income in the preceding calendar year cannot exceed the gross income limit under 37 CFR 1.29(a)(3) in order to qualify for micro entity status. For example, if the deceased inventor has a surviving spouse who is named on the Application Data Sheet (ADS) as an applicant by virtue of being the legal representative of the deceased inventor, the surviving spouse’s gross income in the preceding calendar year cannot exceed the gross income limit in order to qualify for micro entity status. On the other hand, if the deceased inventor had assigned all rights in the application (or if subsequent to the inventor’s death, the legal representative assigned all rights in the application) AND the assignee that received all rights was named as an applicant (or the applicant), then it would be the assignee that would have to meet the gross income limit (under 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4)) and not the legal representative. In any event, each other joint inventor, assignee, and licensee (if any) would also have to meet the gross income limit in order to qualify for micro entity status.

D.   GROSS INCOME LIMIT ON PARTIES WITH AN “OWNERSHIP INTEREST”

Pursuant to 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4), the gross income limit extends to any party with an “ownership interest” from any applicant or inventor. Accordingly, for each inventor, applicant, and party with an “ownership interest,” gross income in the calendar year preceding the time of fee payment must not exceed the “maximum qualifying gross income.” Thus, the gross income limit applies to the assignee regardless of whether the assignee is identified as the applicant. For micro entity status, 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4) requires that the gross income limit be met by each assignee and licensee (if any) as well as by each inventor.

An applicant is disqualified from micro entity status on the gross income basis if an inventor or an assignee-applicant transfers, or is obligated to transfer, any ownership interest in the patent application to an entity that exceeds the gross income limit. For example, consider a patent application with a sole inventor who does not exceed the gross income limit. If the inventor assigns, or is obligated to assign, all rights in the patent application to an employer that is, for example, a corporation having several million dollars in annual receipts, there can be no micro entity discount of patent fees. Depending on the size of the corporation, the small entity discount may be unavailable as well. If the corporation transfers all of its rights back to the inventor, or transfers all of its rights to some other person who does not exceed the gross income limit, such a retransfer will not result in qualification for micro entity status. The 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4) certification requirement is that no ownership interest "has" been transferred, or is obligated to be transferred, to an assignee or licensee that exceeds the gross income limit. Once an assignee or licensee exceeding the gross income limit receives the ownership interest, the 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4) certification requirement can no longer be met – even if the assignee or licensee retransfers rights and no longer holds any ownership interest in the application.

If prosecution of an application that is under 37 CFR 1.29(a) micro entity status extends into a new year, it is important to verify that no inventor, no non-inventor applicant, and no party with a 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4) “ownership interest,” had a gross income in the new preceding calendar year that exceeds the “maximum qualifying gross income” reported on the USPTO Web site. If the coming of a new year results in the gross income limit not being met by any inventor, applicant or party with a 37 CFR 1.29(a)(4) “ownership interest,” then a notification of loss of entitlement to micro entity status under 37 CFR 1.29(i) must be filed in the application to remove micro entity status.

II.   SECTION 1.29(b) – Previously Filed Patent Application Exclusion

  

37 C.F.R.   § 1.29 Micro entity status.

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  • (b) An applicant, inventor, or joint inventor is not considered to be named on a previously filed application for purposes of paragraph (a)(2) of this section if the applicant, inventor, or joint inventor has assigned, or is under an obligation by contract or law to assign, all ownership rights in the application as the result of the applicant’s, inventor’s, or joint inventor’s previous employment.

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37 CFR 1.29(b) implements the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 123(b). 37 CFR 1.29(b) provides that an applicant, inventor, or joint inventor is not considered to be named on a previously filed application for purposes of 37 CFR 1.29(a)(2) if the applicant, inventor, or joint inventor has assigned, or is under an obligation by contract or law to assign, all ownership rights in the application as the result of the applicant’s, inventor’s, or joint inventor's previous employment.

III.   SECTION 1.29(c) – Gross Income Determined by Currency Exchange Rate

37 C.F.R.   § 1.29 Micro entity status.

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  • (c) If an applicant’s, inventor’s, joint inventor’s, or entity’s gross income in the preceding calendar year is not in United States dollars, the average currency exchange rate, as reported by the Internal Revenue Service, during that calendar year shall be used to determine whether the applicant’s, inventor’s, joint inventor’s, or entity’s gross income exceeds the threshold specified in paragraph (a)(3) or (4) of this section.

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Section 1.29(c) implements the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 123(c). Section 1.29(c) provides that if an applicant’s, inventor’s, joint inventor’s, or entity’s gross income in the preceding calendar year is not in United States dollars, the average currency exchange rate, as reported by the Internal Revenue Service, during that calendar year shall be used to determine whether the applicant’s, inventor’s, joint inventor’s, or entity’s gross income exceeds the threshold specified in 37 CFR 1.29(a)(3) or (a)(4). The Internal Revenue Service reports the average currency exchange rate (Yearly Average Currency Exchange Rates) on its Internet Web site (http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers /Yearly- Average-Currency-Exchange-Rates).

For an applicant or entity whose previous calendar year’s gross income was received partially in U.S. dollars and partially in non-United States currency, the gross income amount in non-United States currency must be converted into U.S. dollars in accordance with 37 CFR 1.29(c) and then added to the gross income amount in U.S. dollars to determine whether the applicant or entity meets the gross income requirement of 37 CFR 1.29(a)(3).

509.04(b)   Institution of Higher Education Basis for Micro Entity Status

37 C.F.R.   § 1.29 Micro entity status.

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  • (d) To establish micro entity status under this paragraph, the applicant must certify that:
    • (1) The applicant qualifies as a small entity as defined in § 1.27; and
    • (2)
      • (i) The applicant’s employer, from which the applicant obtains the majority of the applicant’s income, is an institution of higher education as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)); or
      • (ii) The applicant has assigned, granted, conveyed, or is under an obligation by contract or law, to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the particular application to such an institution of higher education.

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35 U.S.C. 123(a) provides a gross income basis under which an applicant may establish micro entity status. See MPEP § 509.04(a). 35 U.S.C. 123 provides that a micro entity shall also include an applicant who certifies that: (1) The applicant’s employer, from which the applicant obtains the majority of the applicant’s income, is an institution of higher education as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)); or (2) the applicant has assigned, granted, conveyed, or is under an obligation by contract or law, to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the particular application to such an institution of higher education. 37 CFR 1.29(d) implements the provisions of 35 U.S.C. 123(d).

To the extent that 35 U.S.C. 123(d) (unlike 35 U.S.C. 123(a)) does not expressly require that an applicant qualify as a small entity under 37 CFR 1.27, the Office has invoked its authority under 35 U.S.C. 123(e) to “…impose… other limits on who may qualify as a micro entity…” in order to expressly require that a party claiming micro entity status via 35 U.S.C. 123(d) qualify as a small entity under 37 CFR 1.27. Accordingly 37 CFR 1.29(d)(1) requires that an applicant claiming micro entity status on the institution of higher education basis must certify that the “applicant qualifies as a small entity as defined in § 1.27” in addition to certifying that the other requirements set forth in 35 U.S.C. 123(d)(1) or (2) are met. See MPEP § 509.02 for a discussion of the requirements for small entity status.

I.   REQUIREMENTS

An applicant for micro entity status under the “institution of higher education” basis set forth in 37 CFR 1.29(d) must satisfy two requirements. First, the applicant must certify that the applicant qualifies as a small entity as defined in 37 CFR 1.27. Second, the applicant must certify that either (i) the applicant’s employer, from which the applicant obtains the majority of the applicant’s income, is an institution of higher education as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)); or (ii) the applicant has assigned, granted, conveyed, or is under an obligation by contract or law, to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the particular application to such an institution of higher education.

A.   Small Entity Requirement

In order to meet the small entity requirement, every party holding rights in the application must qualify as a small entity under 37 CFR 1.27. If any rights in the application are assigned, granted, conveyed, or licensed to a party that does not qualify as a small entity under 37 CFR 1.27, the applicant cannot qualify for any patent fee discount. An obligation to assign, grant, convey, or license rights in the application to a party that does not qualify for small entity status would also disqualify the applicant from receiving any patent fee discount. In order to qualify for small entity status, and in order to meet the small entity requirement for micro entity status, there can be no party holding rights or obligated rights in the application that does not qualify as a small entity. See MPEP § 509.02 for a discussion of the requirements for small entity status.

B.   Section 1.29(d)(2) Requirement

Under 37 CFR 1.29(d)(2)(i) the applicant must certify that the applicant’s employer, from which the applicant obtains the majority of the applicant’s income, is an institution of higher education. Because only a person can have an “employer,” the applicant certifying under 37 CFR 1.29(d)(2)(i) must be a person or persons, which in most cases, means the inventor(s).

Under 37 CFR 1.29(d)(2)(ii) the applicant must certify that the applicant has assigned, granted, or conveyed a license or other ownership interest in the subject application (or is obligated to do so) to such an institution of higher education. An attempt to obtain micro entity status by merely seeking to transfer a de minimus interest to an institution of higher education could be considered a sham transaction. Although the Office considers it highly unlikely that institutions of higher education would be party to such transactions, the Office plans to closely monitor the percentage of applicants claiming micro entity status under 35 U.S.C. 123(d) to ensure that applicants are not engaging in such transactions in order to obtain micro entity status.

II.   Meaning of “Institution of Higher Education”

Section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 defines what is meant by “institution of higher education” in the context of 37 CFR 1.29(d). See 20 U.S.C. 1001. Section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act states that the term “institution of higher education” means:

an educational institution in any State that—

  • 1. admits as regular students only persons having a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or the recognized equivalent of such a certificate, or persons who meet the requirements of section 1091(d)(3) of this title;
  • 2. is legally authorized within such State to provide a program of education beyond secondary education;
  • 3. provides an educational program for which the institution awards a bachelor’s degree or provides not less than a 2-year program that is acceptable for full credit toward such a degree, or awards a degree that is acceptable for admission to a graduate or professional degree program, subject to review and approval by the Secretary;
  • 4. is a public or other nonprofit institution; and
  • 5. is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association, or if not so accredited, is an institution that has been granted pre-accreditation status by such an agency or association that has been recognized by the Secretary for the granting of pre-accreditation status, and the Secretary has determined that there is satisfactory assurance that the institution will meet the accreditation standards of such an agency or association within a reasonable time.’

Additionally, section 103 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 provides that the term “State” means the 50 States of the United States as well as “the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, the United States Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Freely Associated States’’ and that the Freely Associated States means the ‘‘Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau.’’ See 20 U.S.C. 1003.

Based upon these definitions, public or non-profit institutions located in one of the 50 States or U.S. territories offering certain undergraduate educational programs credited toward a bachelor’s degree or educational programs awarding “a degree that is acceptable for admission to a graduate or professional degree program” are eligible as an “institution of higher education” for purposes of establishing micro entity status under 37 CFR 1.29(d). Except for universities or other institutions of higher education located outside the United States, any university or other U.S. institution of higher education that qualifies for small entity status by virtue of being a nonprofit organization under 37 CFR 1.27(a)(3) meets the criteria of an “institution of higher education” for micro entity status purposes.

An institution such as a non-profit research foundation, technology transfer organization, or Federal Government research laboratory does not qualify as an “institution of higher education” under the definition of “institution of higher education” set forth in the Higher Education Act of 1965 for purposes of establishing micro entity status.

A.   Universities and Colleges that Do Not Qualify as Institutions of Higher Education

One of the requirements for an “institution of higher education” under section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 is that the institution be non-profit. Therefore, for-profit universities and colleges do not qualify as an “institution of higher education” for purposes of establishing micro entity status. As previously stated, foreign universities do not qualify as an “institution of higher education” for purposes of establishing micro entity status. A foreign university may offer an on-line educational program in the United States, however, on-line classes offered in the United States would not qualify the foreign university as an “institution of higher education” for purposes of establishing micro entity status. That’s because the university must be located “in any State” in the context of what “in any State” meant in 1965 – the year of the Higher Education Act of 1965. In addition, institutions that only grant graduate degrees do not qualify as an “institution of higher education” for purposes of establishing micro entity status because section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 is limited to an institution that “provides an educational program for which the institution awards a bachelor’s degree or provides not less than a 2-year program that is acceptable for full credit toward such a degree, or awards a degree that is acceptable for admission to a graduate or professional degree program…”

B.   The University Cannot be the Micro Entity Applicant

Although the 37 CFR 1.29(d) basis for qualifying for micro entity status is referred to as the “institution of higher education” basis, it is not the institution of higher education that can qualify for micro entity status, but rather inventors who are employees of an institution of higher education (see 37 CFR 1.29(d)(2)(i)) or inventors or applicants who have conveyed ownership rights to an institution of higher education (see 37 CFR 1.29(d)(2)(ii)). The institution (university) logically cannot make the certifications required under 37 CFR 1.29(d)(2)(i) and (d)(2)(ii) (that the employer from which the university obtains the majority of its income is an institution of higher education as defined by section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, or that the university itself has assigned, granted, conveyed, or is under an obligation by contract or law, to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the particular application).

C.   CERTIFICATION FORM – INSTITUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION BASIS

The Office’s form PTO/SB/15B contains the certifications under 37 CFR 1.29(d) that are required to establish micro entity status on the institution of higher education basis. There are 2 signature blocks reflecting that in addition to the small entity requirement under 37 CFR 1.29(d)(1), there are two alternative requirements under 37 CFR 1.29(d)(2). The first signature block is for certifying under 37 CFR 1.29(d)(2)(i) that the applicant’s employer, from which the applicant obtains the majority of the applicant’s income, is an institution of higher education. The second signature block is for certifying under 37 CFR 1.29(d)(2)(ii) that the applicant has assigned, granted, or conveyed a license or other ownership interest in the subject application (or is obligated to do so) to such an institution of higher education.

Certification of Micro Entity Status (Higher Education Basis)
Privacy Act Statement

509.04(c)   Parties Who Can Sign the Micro Entity Certification

A certification of micro entity status, on either the gross income basis or the institution of higher education basis, can be signed only by an authorized party as set forth in 37 CFR 1.33(b), which includes:

  • (1) A patent practitioner of record;
  • (2) A patent practitioner not of record who acts in a representative capacity under the provisions of 37 CFR 1.34; or
  • (3) The applicant (37 CFR 1.42). Unless otherwise specified, all papers submitted on behalf of a juristic entity must be signed by a patent practitioner.

For joint inventor applicants, each joint inventor should sign a separate copy of the relevant micro entity certification form. However, if one joint inventor is appointed to prosecute the application on behalf of all the other joint inventors, then only that one joint inventor need sign the micro entity certification form. See USPTO form number AIA/81 titled “Power Of Attorney To One Or More Of The Joint Inventors And Change Of Correspondence Address” available on the USPTO forms Web page at http://www.uspto.gov/forms.

Additionally, if any applicant is an assignee or other party under 37 CFR 1.46, and the assignee or other party is a corporation or organization rather than a person, a registered practitioner must sign the certification of micro entity status. An officer of the assignee corporation, for example, is not authorized to sign a certification of micro entity status.

509.04(d)   Continued Obligation to Determine Micro Entity Qualification

37 C.F.R.   § 1.29 Micro entity status.

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  • (g) A certification of entitlement to micro entity status need only be filed once in an application or patent. Micro entity status, once established, remains in effect until changed pursuant to paragraph (i) of this section. However, a fee may be paid in the micro entity amount only if status as a micro entity as defined in paragraph (a) or (d) of this section is appropriate on the date the fee is being paid. Where an assignment of rights or an obligation to assign rights to other parties who are micro entities occurs subsequent to the filing of a certification of entitlement to micro entity status, a second certification of entitlement to micro entity status is not required.
  • (h) Prior to submitting a certification of entitlement to micro entity status in an application, including a related, continuing, or reissue application, a determination of such entitlement should be made pursuant to the requirements of this section. It should be determined that each applicant qualifies for micro entity status under paragraph (a) or (d) of this section, and that any other party holding rights in the invention qualifies for small entity status under 37 CFR 1.27. The Office will generally not question certification of entitlement to micro entity status that is made in accordance with the requirements of this section.

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An applicant is not required to provide a certification of micro entity status with each fee payment once micro entity status has been established by filing a certification in an application. While an applicant is not required to provide such a certification with each fee payment, the applicant must still be entitled to micro entity status to pay a fee in the micro entity amount at the time of all payments of fees in the micro entity amount. Thus it must be determined whether the requirements for micro entity status exist at the time each fee payment is made. If any requirement for micro entity status is no longer met, then the applicant must notify the Office of loss of micro entity status and pay the required fee in the small entity or undiscounted amount, as appropriate.

For micro entity status on the gross income basis under 37 CFR 1.29(a), the applicant must determine that the applicant and each inventor or joint inventor still meet the applicable conditions of 37 CFR 1.29(a) to claim micro entity status. For example, the applicant must determine that neither the applicant nor inventor nor joint inventor has had a change in gross income that exceeds the “maximum qualifying gross income” as reported on the USPTO Web site (a new determination must be made each year because gross income may change from year to year, and micro entity status is based upon gross income in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is being paid). In addition, the applicant must determine that neither the applicant nor inventor nor joint inventor has made, or is obligated by contract or law to make, an assignment, grant, or conveyance to an entity exceeding the “maximum qualifying gross income,” and that no new inventor or joint inventor has been named in the application who does not meet the conditions specified in 37 CFR 1.29(a). See MPEP § 509.04(a), subsection I, for additional information.

For micro entity status under 35 U.S.C. 123(d), the applicant must determine that each applicant still complies with 37 CFR 1.29(d) (e.g., still obtains the majority of his or her income from an institution of higher education as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)). 37 CFR 1.29(g) also provides that where an assignment of rights or an obligation to assign rights to other parties who are micro entities occurs subsequent to the filing of a certification of entitlement to micro entity status, a second certification of entitlement to micro entity status is not required.

509.04(e)   Notification of Loss of Entitlement to Micro Entity Status

37 C.F.R.   § 1.29 Micro entity status.

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  • (i) Notification of a loss of entitlement to micro entity status must be filed in the application or patent prior to paying, or at the time of paying, any fee after the date on which status as a micro entity as defined in paragraph (a) or (d) of this section is no longer appropriate. The notification that micro entity status is no longer appropriate must be signed by a party identified in § 1.33(b). Payment of a fee in other than the micro entity amount is not sufficient notification that micro entity status is no longer appropriate. A notification that micro entity status is no longer appropriate will not be treated as a notification that small entity status is also no longer appropriate unless it also contains a notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status under § 1.27(f)(2). Once a notification of a loss of entitlement to micro entity status is filed in the application or patent, a new certification of entitlement to micro entity status is required to again obtain micro entity status.

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37 CFR 1.29(i) contains provisions for a micro entity that correspond to the provisions of 37 CFR 1.27(g)(2) for a small entity. 37 CFR 1.29(i) provides that notification of a loss of entitlement to micro entity status must be filed in the application or patent prior to paying, or at the time of paying, any fee after the date on which status as a micro entity as defined in 37 CFR 1.29(a) or 1.29(d) is no longer appropriate. The notification that micro entity status is no longer appropriate must be signed by a party identified in 37 CFR 1.33(b). Payment of a fee in other than the micro entity amount is not sufficient notification that micro entity status is no longer appropriate. An applicant can make a simple statement that the applicant is no longer eligible for micro entity status without identifying the particular reason(s) for loss of entitlement to micro entity status.

37 CFR 1.29(i) further provides that a notification that micro entity status is no longer appropriate will not be treated as a notification that small entity status is also no longer appropriate unless it also provides notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status under 37 CFR 1.27(f)(2). Thus, an applicant or patentee who files a notification that micro entity status is no longer appropriate will be treated as a small entity by default. For applications under micro entity status, regular unreduced fee status will result from: (1) a notification of loss of entitlement to micro entity status accompanied by regular unreduced fees or some other indication of loss of entitlement to small entity status; or (2) a notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status by itself.

37 CFR 1.29(i) finally provides that once a notification of a loss of entitlement to micro entity status is filed in the application or patent, a new certification of entitlement to micro entity status is required to again obtain micro entity status. It is strongly recommended that the following document descriptions in EFS-Web be used as appropriate:

  • • Notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status
  • • Notification of loss of entitlement to micro entity status

509.04(f)   Correcting Errors in Micro Entity Status

37 C.F.R.   § 1.29 Micro entity status.

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  • (k) If status as a micro entity is established in good faith in an application or patent, and fees as a micro entity are paid in good faith in the application or patent, and it is later discovered that such micro entity status either was established in error, or that the Office was not notified of a loss of entitlement to micro entity status as required by paragraph (i) of this section through error, the error will be excused upon compliance with the separate submission and itemization requirements of paragraph (k)(1) of this section and the deficiency payment requirement of paragraph (k)(2) of this section.
    • (l) Any paper submitted under this paragraph must be limited to the deficiency payment (all fees paid in error) required for a single application or patent. Where more than one application or patent is involved, separate submissions of deficiency payments are required for each application or patent (see § 1.4(b)). The paper must contain an itemization of the total deficiency payment for the single application or patent and include the following information:
      • (i) Each particular type of fee that was erroneously paid as a micro entity, (e.g., basic statutory filing fee, two-month extension of time fee) along with the current fee amount for a small or nonsmall entity, as applicable;
      • (ii) The micro entity fee actually paid, and the date on which it was paid;
      • (iii) The deficiency owed amount (for each fee erroneously paid); and
      • (iv) The total deficiency payment owed, which is the sum or total of the individual deficiency owed amounts as set forth in paragraph (k)(2) of this section.
    • (2) The deficiency owed, resulting from the previous erroneous payment of micro entity fees, must be paid. The deficiency owed for each previous fee erroneously paid as a micro entity is the difference between the current fee amount for a small entity or non-small entity, as applicable, on the date the deficiency is paid in full and the amount of the previous erroneous micro entity fee payment. The total deficiency payment owed is the sum of the individual deficiency owed amounts for each fee amount previously and erroneously paid as a micro entity.
    • (3) If the requirements of paragraphs (k)(1) and (2) of this section are not complied with, such failure will either be treated at the option of the Office as an authorization for the Office to process the deficiency payment and charge the processing fee set forth in § 1.17(i), or result in a requirement for compliance within a one-month time period that is not extendable under § 1.136(a) to avoid the return of the fee deficiency payment.
    • (4) Any deficiency payment (based on a previous erroneous payment of a micro entity fee) submitted under this paragraph will be treated as a notification of a loss of entitlement to micro entity status under paragraph (i) of this section, but payment of a deficiency based upon the difference between the current fee amount for a small entity and the amount of the previous erroneous micro entity fee payment will not be treated as an assertion of small entity status under § 1.27(c). Once a deficiency payment is submitted under this paragraph, a written assertion of small entity status under § 1.27(c)(1) is required to obtain small entity status.

37 CFR 1.29(k) contains provisions for a micro entity that correspond to the provisions of 37 CFR 1.28(c) for a small entity. 37 CFR 1.28(c) permits an applicant or patentee to correct the erroneous payment of a patent fee in the small entity amount if status as a small entity was established in good faith, and fees as a small entity were paid in good faith. See DH Tech. Inc. v. Synergystex Int’l Inc., 154 F.3d 1333 (Fed. Cir. 1998). 37 CFR 1.29(k) provides that if: (i) An applicant or patentee establishes micro entity status in an application or patent in good faith; (ii) the applicant or patentee pays fees as a micro entity in the application or patent in good faith; and (iii) applicant or patentee later discovers that such micro entity status either was established in error, or that the Office was not notified of a loss of entitlement to micro entity status as required by 37 CFR 1.29(i) through error, the error will be excused upon compliance with the separate submission and itemization requirements of 37 CFR 1.29(k)(1) and the deficiency payment requirement of 37 CFR 1.29(k)(2).

37 CFR 1.29(k)(1) provides that any paper submitted under 37 CFR 1.29(k) must be limited to the deficiency payment (all fees paid in error) required for a single application or patent. 37 CFR 1.29(k)(1) provides that where more than one application or patent is involved, separate submissions of deficiency payments (e.g., checks) and itemizations are required for each application or patent. 37 CFR 1.29(k)(1) also provides that the paper must contain an itemization of the total deficiency payment and include the following information: (1) Each particular type of fee that was erroneously paid as a micro entity, (e.g., basic statutory filing fee, two-month extension of time fee) along with the current fee amount for a small or non-small entity; (2) the micro entity fee actually paid, and the date on which it was paid; (3) the deficiency owed amount (for each fee erroneously paid); and (4) the total deficiency payment owed, which is the sum or total of the individual deficiency owed amounts as set forth in 37 CFR 1.29(k)(2).

37 CFR 1.29(k)(2) provides that the deficiency owed, resulting from the previous erroneous payment of micro entity fees, must be paid. The deficiency owed for each previous fee erroneously paid as a micro entity is the difference between the current fee amount for a small entity or non-small entity, as applicable, on the date the deficiency is paid in full and the amount of the previous erroneous micro entity fee payment. The total deficiency payment owed is the sum of the individual deficiency owed amounts for each fee amount previously and erroneously paid as a micro entity. This corresponds to the procedure for fee deficiency payments based upon the previous erroneous payment of patent fees in the small entity amount. See 37 CFR 1.28(c)(2)(i) ("[t]he deficiency owed for each previous fee erroneously paid as a small entity is the difference between the current full fee amount (for non-small entity) on the date the deficiency is paid in full and the amount of the previous erroneous (small entity) fee payment").

37 CFR 1.29(k)(3) provides that if the requirements of 37 CFR 1.29(k)(1) and (k)(2) are not complied with, such failure will either be treated at the option of the Office as an authorization for the Office to process the deficiency payment and charge the processing fee set forth in 37 CFR 1.17(i), or result in a requirement for compliance within a one-month nonextendable time period under 37 CFR 1.136(a) to avoid the return of the fee deficiency payment.

Section 1.29(k)(4) provides that any deficiency payment (based on a previous erroneous payment of a micro entity fee) submitted under 37 CFR 1.29(k) will be treated as a notification of a loss of entitlement to micro entity status under 37 CFR 1.29(i).

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Last Modified: 03/27/2014 10:10:35