Patenting in the United States can be expensive. Together with Europe, the US is most likely one of the biggest markets for most inventors, designers and producers, and therefore is a necessary cost when trying to protect your new product.
Until recently, there was a two tier patent fee system in the United States. In general terms, if you or your business, including affiliates and subsidiaries, have less than five hundred employees or staff, then you would be entitled to what is called ‘small entity’ status. The patent fees therefore payable to the United States Patent And Trademark Office (the USPTO) in this case when filing your US patent application are half those that larger companies or corporations with more than 500 employees and staff have to pay. By way of example, at the time of writing, the filing fee, search fee and examination fee for a US patent application payable on filing totals US$800 for a Small Entity applicant (less than 500 employees) and US$1,600 for a Large Entity applicant (more than 500 employees).
However, as from April 2013, an individual inventor may be entitled to even lower costs, making filing a patent application more affordable. This new tier is called ‘micro-entity status’, and is generally defined as an individual having an annual income of less than around US$150,000, equating to about £80,000 GBP.
In the case of Micro-Entity Status, the official fees are reduced to half those of the Small Entity Status, which at present is therefore around US$400.
It should be remembered that, should your circumstances change during the life of the US patent application or the following granted patent, and you fall into a different fee bracket, you are required to pay the official fees at the higher rate. An example may be where you successfully form a small company which is either licensed under or owns the US patent rights. This would then take you out of the Micro-Entity Status bracket and into the Small Entity Status bracket. Failure to then pay the higher fees during examination, for example, on grant of the US patent or when the next maintenance fee is required, may lead to your patent application or patent being held void along with it being considered fraud on the USPTO.
Following the filing of your US patent application, the only other official fees that become due are typically the extension fees which may be used to buy you more time to responding to the objections raised by the US Examiner during the examination process of your US patent application, the allowance fee during the grant process of your patent application, and the maintenance fees at three and a half and then four yearly intervals after grant. These official fees, especially in the case of the issue fee and the maintenance fees, are typically quite large, and therefore there is a definite cost-saving benefit to be gained by being classified as a Micro-Entity.
If you are interested in learning more about US patents and US patent applications, along with the likely associated costs, please do contact us either via the form to the left or through our Contacts page.