February's advice article
New Fees and Micro Entity Status Take Effect March 19
Great news for independent inventors is on the horizon. On March 19, a new "micro entity" status will be available to many new patent application filers. It offers a steep discount on fees associated with filing and prosecuting U.S. patent applications before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The change is a result of the USPTO's implementation of the America Invents Act (AIA). The new micro-entity status is of particular interest to independent inventors.
To qualify as a micro entity, an applicant must meet all of the following criteria:
- Qualify as a USPTO-defined small entity.
- Not be named on more than four previously filed applications.*
- Not have a gross income more than three times the median household income in the previous year from when the fee(s) is paid. For 2011, the most recent year that data is available, the median income was $50,054.
- Not be under an obligation to assign, grant, or convey a license or other ownership to another entity that does not meet the same income requirements as the inventor.
Starting on or after March 19, if you meet the micro-entity requirements, you are eligible for a 75 percent reduction on most fees. To put this into perspective, the current filing fee for a provisional application for patent is $250 and has a small entity reduction of 50 percent, resulting in a $125 filing fee for independent inventors. Once fees change on March 19, the base cost of filing a provisional application will rise to $260. For small entities, the new price will be $130; however, for micro entities receiving the 75 percent reduction, this results in a provisional application fee of just $65.
The cost of filing a nonprovisional patent application usually includes three components: the basic filing fee, the search fee, and the examination fee. Currently, this totals $533 if you file electronically or $630 for a paper filing. If you file by paper, there is an additional $200 surcharge. Under the new fees, a small entity will pay $800 for filing a nonprovisional utility application while a micro entity will pay half that at just $400. These prices will remain until they are adjusted by the USPTO.
Additional information is available at the AIA Implementation Page on our website. Also, check the USPTO's complete fee schedule to see the current costs associated with all patent and trademark services.
* The micro-entity definition states that applicants are not considered to be named on a previously filed application if he or she has assigned, or is obligated to assign, ownership rights as a result of previous employment. Applications filed in another country, provisional applications, or international applications for which the basic national fee was not paid do not count as previously filed application. The definition also includes applicants who are employed by an institute of higher education and have assigned, or are obligated to assign, ownership to that institute of higher education.