As any applicant knows, the government fees for filing a patent application can be quite costly at times. However, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a tiered system for determining several fees. These fees are based on the applicant’s status and include large-entity, small-entity, and micro-entity. In particular, both small-entity and micro-entity designations qualify the application for reduced government fees. Specifically, there is a reduction in government fees by 50% for small-entities and 75% for micro-entities.
Which Government Fees Quality for the Reduction?
Overall, applicants benefit from reduced government fees with a small-entity or micro-entity designation. These government fees include the necessary filing fees, search and examination fees, excess claim fees, an extension of time fee, and issuance fees, among others. However, government fees such as petition fees, processing fees, certification of correction, and reexamination fees are ineligible for a cost reduction.
How Do You Quality for Small-Entity and Micro-Entity Status?
Small-Entity – Generally, a small-entity is either a non-profit organization or has 500 or fewer employees. In addition, applicants must not have assigned, licensed, or otherwise conveyed an interest in the application to an entity that is not a small-entity.
Micro-Entity – To quality as a micro-entity, there are a couple of additional requirements. In particular, a micro-entity must certify that:
- The applicant qualifies as a small entity;
- Applicants and inventors listed on four (4) or fewer applications, except provisional applications;
- The applicant or the inventor(s) income is less than 3x median household income of the previous calendar year; and
- Neither the applicant nor the inventor(s) have assigned, granted, or conveyed, or is under an obligation to assign an ownership interest in the application that has an income that exceeds 3x median household income of the previous calendar year.
Election of small-entity or micro-entity status helps reduce the cost burden to applications when filing patent applications. However, an unenforceable patent can result from inequitable conduct if the applicant falsely claims a designation of an entity status the applicant is not entitled to. Alternatively, errors made in good faith are correctable by the submission of the deficient balance.
As of the publishing of this article, the current “Maximum Qualifying Gross Income” for micro-entity status eligibility is $206,109.