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What is the Difference Between a USPTO Micro Entity and a USPTO Small Entity?

By John DiGiacomo

To encourage small-time inventors and to spur innovation, the US Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) has reduced fees for patent applications filed by what are called “small entities” and “micro entities.” The fee reduction is 50% for small entities and 75% for micro entities. For example, the current filing fees are as follows:

  • $320 for a standard utility patent application
  • $160 for a small entity application and
  • $80 for a micro entity application

The reduced charges apply to ALL of the fees that the USPTO imposes. For example, in addition to the patent application filing fees listed above, each patent applicant must pay a search fee and examination fee. For the utility examination fee, the Patent Office charges a standard-rate $800, but that fee is reduced to $400 for a small entity and $200 for a micro entity. Further, when the Patent Office issues a Notice of Allowance, another fee is required to finish the process. A Notice of Allowance is issued by the Patent Office if a patent application is approved. But, a patent “issue fee” must be paid before the patent process is completed. The standard change for a utility patent issue is $1200 with small entities paying $600 and micro entities paying $300. In addition, there are patent maintenance fees that are assessed at the 3.5-year, 7.5-year and 11.5-year marks. The fee reductions apply to these fees, too. These three combined maintenance fees are $13,460 at the standard rate.

The fee reductions apply to other sorts of fees as well. For example, if the applicant wants to request a prioritized patent examination, the USPTO charges a standard fee of $4,200 with relevant reductions for small and micro entities. Even something as simple as a request for an extension of time to make a response comes with a fee: $220 standard, $110 for small entities and $55 for micro entities.

As can be seen, over the course of a patent application, examination, issuance and maintenance, being a deemed small or micro entity will save a tremendous amount of USPTO filing fees. Note that, if the application is filed jointly, all applicants must satisfy the requirements for being deemed a small or micro entity.

The USPTO defines a small entity as:

  • A nonprofit organization; OR an organization with fewer than 500 employees (including affiliates); AND
  • The applicant has not assigned, licensed or otherwise conveyed an interest in the invention to a non-small entity

Note an applicant can lose its status over time. For example, if the original application was filed by a small entity, but two years after patent issuance, the patent is assigned or licensed to a non-small entity, no fee reduction will be allowed for future maintenance fees.

The USPTO defines a micro entity as:

  • An individual or organization that meets the definition of a small entity; and
  • Which has not been named on more than four previously filed applications (excluding previously filed applications where ownership rights were assigned as a result of previous employment); and
  • Does not have a gross income more than about $206,000; and
  • Is 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

For more information or if you have an invention that you want to patent, contact the patent lawyers at Revision Legal at 231-714-0100.

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