The Silver Lining -- Reduced Fees With Micro Entity Status
On March 16, 2013, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) went into effect, rules changed, and a new era in the patent world began. This article highlights one of those new rules in particular, the rule concernign Micro Entity status. This status will allow a qualifying applicant to pay patent fees at a 75% reduction. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published final rules that decrease patent fees, which took effect on March 19, 2013. The Micro Entity status will make the patent process more affordable for many and could encourage potential inventors to move ahead with pursuing their patent.
As with everything else, there are rules and criteria that are required to be met for an applicant to qualify. Qualification for Micro Entity status may be based on any one of three independent factors: (1) the income amount of each applicant, (2) whether each applicant’s employer is considered an “institution of higher education”, and (3) each applicant having assigned or licensed the application to an “institution of higher education”.
Under the statutory definition at 35 U.S.C § 123, the AIA defines Micro Entity as an applicant who makes a certification that the applicant (1) qualifies as a Small Entity as defined in 37 CFR 1.27; (2) has not been named as an inventor on more than four previously filed patent applications, excluding applications filed internationally and provisional applications; (3) did not, in the calendar year preceding the filing of the application, have a gross income, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service, exceeding three times the median household income for the preceding year; and (4) has not and is not under any obligation to assign, grant, or convey, a license or ownership interest in the application to an entity that had a gross income exceeding three times the median household income of the previous calendar year. A more expansive and detailed explanation of the definition of Micro Entity and the requirements for qualification can be found at 35 U.S.C. § 123.
So, what is the procedure applicants must use to take advantage of Micro Entity status? The applicant is required to file a certification of entitlement to Micro Entity status with each application at the time of filing. It is also required that the applicant file a notification of loss of entitlement with the USPTO if the Micro Entity status changes or is lost. Applicants should not take the claiming of Micro Entity status casually, however. The USPTO will consider any attempt to falsely claim Micro Entity status as a fraud practiced or attempted.
Overall, Micro Entity status offers many benefits to applicants, including potential savings of several thousand dollars over the duration of the patent. It is up to the applicant to decide whether it is worth taking the steps required to qualify for and claim Micro Entity status.