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Micro-Entity: Solo Inventors Pay Lower Patent Fees

Effective March 13, 2013, the U.S. Patent Office will allow solo inventors the ability to pay lower filing fees. At the time of this writing, for a "small entity" (less than 500 employees) the U.S. Patent Office filing fees are typically $533 - this is for 20 claims, with 3 independent claims. Each additional claim adds $31 to the price, and at issuance, an inventor typically pays $1185!

As a "micro-entity" you would be receive a 50% to 75% reduction most of these patent office fees.

What is a micro-entity? As with most government regulations, the answer can be complicated, but the most common example is below. All these requirements need be met:

- A person, or two inventors who file an application and do not assign or have a duty to assign the application to a company;

- Each inventor earns less than 3x the median income level for the United States - this translates into less than about $150,000/yr income; and

- This is no more than the 4th patent application in the United States, ever, for every named inventor

Unfortunetely, there are those who will try and pay the lower fee even if they do not qualify. Be warned - doing so may render your patent unenforcable, and certaintly, if you ever sue someone for patent infringement and pay the reduced "micro entity" fee, the other side will be sure to try to invalidate your patent. When in doubt, it is best to pay the higher fees.

Here's the announcement from the Patent Office:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office) is revising the rules of practice in patent cases to implement the micro entity provision of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA). Certain patent fees set or adjusted under the fee setting authority in the AIA will be reduced by seventy-five percent for micro entities. The Office is revising the rules of practice to set out the procedures pertaining to claiming micro entity status, paying patent fees as a micro entity, notification of loss of micro entity status, and correction of payments of patent fees paid erroneously in the micro entity amount. In a separate rulemaking, the Office is in the process of proposing to set or adjust patent fees under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, including setting fees for micro entities with a seventy-five percent reduction. The Office has sought to address the concerns of its stakeholders as expressed in the public comment, and plans to seek additional public comment on the micro entity provisions after the Office and the public have gained experience with the micro entity procedures in operation. The Office will pursue further improvements to the micro entity procedures in light of the public comment and its experience with the micro entity procedures.
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