by Dennis Crouch
A patent costs money; and the costs continue even after issuance. The U.S. requires a set of three “maintenance fees” to keep a utility patent in force for its entire 20 year patent term. These are due 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years after issuance, but the PTO allows for a 6-month grace period for payment. The chart below looks at the percentage of utility patents where the fees were paid prior to abandonment. The current schedule requires $2000 for the first fee; $3,760 for the second, and $7,700 for the third. These fees can be reduced by 50% and 75% for small and micro entities. There is also a $500 surcharge if you take advantage of that 6-month grace period.
The chart below shows the Percent of Utility Patents Whose Maintenance Fees have been Paid. The dates along the horizontal axis refer to the 4/8/12 year due date for fees (grouped by months) and the chart reflect number of fee cases were the fees were paid as a percentage of the total number of patents whose fees were due that month. You’ll note that a bit of a turn-down in early 2013. The USPTO instituted a major fee increase at that time with the 12-year fee up from $4,810 to $7,400. In addition, some of the 3rd-stage decrease can be explained by the shorter patent term experienced by some patentees under the 20-year-from-filing rule. This is most commonly experienced by international patent application (PCT) filers. The international application starts the 20-year clock and typically delays patent issuance by 2+ years.
One bottom line: Most utility patents have a post-issuance effective life of 12 years or less.