What happens if I don’t pay a maintenance fee?
If maintenance fees and any applicable surcharges are not paid the patent protection lapses and the rights provided by a patent are no longer enforceable.
Reminder and expiration notices
It is the responsibility of the patentee to ensure maintenance fees and any applicable surcharges are paid timely to prevent expiration of the patent. If the maintenance fee is not paid within the first six months in the year in which it can be paid, a Maintenance Fee Reminder notice is sent to the fee address or correspondence address on record.
If the maintenance fee and any applicable surcharge are not paid by the end of the 4th, 8th, or 12th years after the date of issue, the patent rights lapse and a Notice of Patent Expiration is sent to the fee address or correspondence address on record.
Failure to receive the notices will not shift the burden of monitoring the time for paying a maintenance fee from the patentee to the USPTO. If a fee address has not been established, the notices are sent to the correspondence address.
SCAM ALERT: there are numerous companies unaffiliated with the USPTO that send solicitations to patent owners concerning maintenance requirements. Scammers also attempt to fool patent owners into providing personal or payment information by falsely claiming to be an employee with the USPTO. See the warning about non-USPTO solicitations and the warning about spoofed calls that impersonate the USPTO for more information.
Reissue patent families
Effective January 16, 2018, there are changes for maintaining in force individual patents in reissue patent families. See the Official Gazette notice and the frequently asked questions (FAQs) for more information about the change.
Generally, utility patents expire after 20 years from the application filing date subject to the payment of appropriate maintenance fees. The USPTO does not calculate the expiration dates for patents. In response to patent owner and public inquiry, the USPTO provides a downloadable patent term calculator as a resource to help the public estimate the expiration date of a patent. See the Patent Term Calculator page for more information.
Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront
The Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront is the USPTO’s online search and payment tool for patent maintenance fees. Any user may access this site as a guest to view or pay fees, but signed in uspto.gov registered users will have access to additional features. Check out the Video Introduction to the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront to learn more.