Readers who own small businesses may be familiar with small entity patent office fees. Under the patent office regulation small businesses, natural individuals and non profit organizations qualify for a fifty percent discount of non-attorney patent office fees. In particular businesses may qualify if they employ no more than five hundred employees. Small entity fees have existed for many years with substantially the same criteria and conditions. In addition to this small entity discount, the American Invents Act provides additionally discounted patent office fees for patent applicants designated as micro entities. Micro entity status results in a whopping 75% discount in patent office fees!
There are now two roads to the micro-entity status as stated in the America Invents Act and the patent office administrative rules. The first road applies to primarily to businesses and individuals not affiliated with designated institutions of higher learning. To qualify under this first road for micro entity status patent applicants (businesses, non-profits or natural persons) must certify in writing that:
a. the applicant qualifies as a small entity;
b. neither the applicant, nor the inventor nor joint inventor(s) have been named as inventor or joint inventor on more than four previously filed patent applications;
c. neither the applicant nor the inventor nor a joint inventor, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is being paid, have gross income exceeding three times the median household income for that preceding calendar year; and
d. neither the applicant, nor the inventor nor joint inventor(s) have transferred, or are under a legal or contractual obligation to transfer,
(i) an ownership interest in, or license of, the application to an entity that
(ii) in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the application fee is being paid,
(iii) has a gross income exceeding three times the median household income for the preceding calendar year.
The four application maximum does not include provisional applications, applications filed in another country, or applications filed under an international treaty without a paid basic national fee. Furthermore, applications for which the applicant was obligated to transfer ownership because of his or her past employment are not included in the four application maximum. If there are multiple applicants to an application, then each applicant must qualify for micro entity status. In addition, each other party holding rights in the invention, but not the application, must qualify for small entity status.
The second road to micro entity status is related to institutions of higher learning. In this situation the applicant must certify in writing that
a. the applicant qualifies as a small entity; and
b. the applicant either
(i) receives the majority of applicant’s income from a qualified institution of higher education as an employee; or
(ii) must transfer, or is under a legal obligation to transfer, a license or other
ownership interest in the application to this same institution.
© 2012 Adrienne B. Naumann
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