Beginning on March 16, 2013, the USPTO will start offering discounted fees to micro entities. A micro-entity is entitled to receive a 75% discount on USPTO fees. This is a significant discount and is only 50% of the fees required of a small entity. The USPTO does not make this determination for you and will accept the higher fees if paid. They also will not refund the difference in fees if you pay the higher amount when filing. Clients should be proactive in determining whether they qualify. The America Invents Act (AIA) defines a micro entity as an applicant who certifies that he/she:
- Qualifies as a small entity;
- Has not been named as an inventor on more than 4 previously filed patent applications;
- Did not, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is paid, have a gross income exceeding 3 times the median household income; and
- Has not assigned, granted, or conveyed (and is not under obligation to do so) 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 paid, had a gross income exceeding 3 times the median household income.
When applying the micro-entity definition, applicants are not considered to be named on a previously-filed application if he/she has assigned, or is obligated to assign, ownership rights as a result of previous employment. The definition 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.
This means that most individual applicants or very small businesses will qualify. Most businesses or individuals who have applied for numerous patents will not qualify. If you have any questions about whether you qualify, please let me know and I would be happy to discuss this issue with you.