Since March 19, 2013, a new “micro-entity” status has been available to some new patent application filers. With very significant restrictions that needlessly exclude many inventors, it offers a subset of individual inventors a steep discount on fees associated with filing and prosecuting U.S. patent applications before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
To qualify as a micro-entity, an applicant must meet all of the following criteria:
- Qualify as a USPTO-defined small entity.
- Not be named on more than four previously filed applications.*
- Not have a gross income more than three times the median household income in the previous year from when the fee(s) is paid. This limit is now approximately $170,000.
- Not be under an obligation to assign, grant, or convey a license or other ownership to another entity that does not meet the same income requirements as the inventor.
If an inventor is fortunate enough to meet the micro-entity requirements, the inventor became eligible for a 75 percent reduction on most fees. As of January 2018, the base filing fee for a provisional application is $280, for large entities having more than 500 employees. For small entities, the new price became $140; however, for individuals qualified for micro-entity status and the 75 percent reduction, the provisional application fee is $70.
The cost of filing a non-provisional patent application usually includes three components: the basic filing fee, the search fee, and the examination fee. A small entity filing fee is a minimum of $860 for filing a non-provisional utility application, while a micro- entity filing fee is a minimum of $430. These prices will remain until they are adjusted by the USPTO.
* The micro-entity definition states that applicants are not considered to be named on a previously filed application if he or she has assigned, or is obligated to assign, ownership rights as a result of previous employment. Applications filed in another country, provisional applications, or international applications for which the basic national fee was not paid do not count as previously filed applications. The definition also includes applicants who are employed by an institute of higher education and have assigned, or are obligated to assign, ownership to that institute of higher education.