One new provision in the new patent act that will be welcomed by a number of patent applicants is the new “micro entity” fee structure. “Small entities” already receive a 50% discount on most patent office fees. Those fees will be reduced by another 50% for qualifying micro entities — a total of 75% discount as compared with the large entity fee.
A new provision (35 U.S.C. 123) defines the term “micro entity” as the patent applicant (inventor):
- Qualifies as a small entity;
- Has not been named as an inventor on more than 4 previously filed US non-provisional patent applications (not including inventions assigned based upon prior employment);
- Does not have an income of more than 3x the median US household income ($50k for 2009); and
- Has not conveyed or contractually promised to convey rights or to an entity that has an income of more than 3x the median US household income.
In a major subsidy to universities, the House Bill (H.R. 1249) grants the 75% fee reduction to public and non-profit universities and other “institutes of higher education.” The Senate Bill (S. 23) only grants the 75% reduction to State public institutions of higher education. The parties will look to work out the details in conference. To become law, the identical bill must be passed in both houses.
The statute also provides that the USPTO Director can set additional limits to restrict the impact of the micro entity status. These may include, for instance, additional income and annual filing limits.