What are micro entities under the new patent rules?

Like so many things in patent law, the definition of “micro entities” is not simple. We can, however, make some simplifications for purposes of this post. A micro entity may be an individual who:

  1. Qualifies as a small entity;
  2. Has not been named as an inventor on more than four previously filed patent applications (excluded from this are provisional applications, applications filed for previous employers and foreign applications);
  3. Did not have a gross income exceeding three times the median household income (about $150,000 based on recent data) in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is paid; and
  4. 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 meets the income requirement above.

Micro entities also effectively include institutions of higher education. Apparently the Patent Office feels that even giant university systems, some of which have over 100,000 employees and budgets larger than most states, are micro entities.

Micro Entities

$20 Fee Memorandum for Robert Goddard’s Rocket Apparatus patent application, 1914.

What are the micro entity patent fees?

The micro entity fees are 75% less than what large entities will pay and they will apply to most patent filing fees. Micro entity status can result in a saving of at least $750 during pendency of an application relatively to small entity fees. The savings can be substantially greater if more than minimum fees are paid, such as for additional claims, extensions, requests for continued examination, appeals, etc. Micro entity status can result in at least $3,000 during the entire life of a patent relative to small entity fees.

How do you get micro entity status?

Micro entity must be certified upon filing an application and the status must be verified each time a fee is paid. All applicants named on an application must meet the micro entity requirements. If micro entity status is lost, a notice should be filed with the Patent Office before filing more fees. If an applicant fraudulently claims micro entity status, any patent resulting from the application will likely be invalid, but errors without fraudulent intent can be corrected.

When do the micro entity fees take effect at the Patent Office?

The micro entity fee rules will take effect on March 19, 2013, three days after the First-Inventor-to-File portions of the America Invents Act take effect. However, the micro entity fees may not be fully implemented until after March 19. If you will qualify as a micro entity, you should delay filing any fees that you can until after the fees are implemented.

Click here for more information on the rules.