Last week, the PTO published rules regarding the new micro-entity status for certain applicants under the America Invents Act. If all of the applicants qualify for micro-entity status, the applicants would pay certain fees at a 75% reduction over the full PTO price.
To qualify for micro-entity status, the applicants must not have been named on more than 4 patent applications and must have an income less than 3 times the average gross income reported by the Department of Labor for the previous calendar year, and has not assigned or licensed the invention (and is not under and obligation to do so) to an entity with an income higher than this amount.
Alternatively, if the applicants have assigned or licensed the invention (or are obligated to do so) to an institution of higher education, regardless of income level, the applicants qualify for micro-entity status. As an exception to the number of named patent applications, if, as a result of previous employment, the applicant has assigned (or is under obligation to do so) all ownership rights in any previous patent application, those applications do not count toward the 4 named applications for that applicant.
The PTO is developing forms for applicants to certify to micro-entity status. Unless the information supplied by the applicant conflicts with PTO records of being named on more than 4 applications, the PTO will take the applicant at his word. All applicants must meet the micro-entity status for the application to be entitled to the 75% reduction in fees.
The PTO is working to develop rules of practice the requirements for micro entity status and procedures for claiming micro entity status, paying patent fees as a micro entity, notifying the Office of loss of micro entity status, and correcting payments of patent fees paid erroneously in the micro entity amount.
According to Department of Labor statistics, the median household income in 2010 was $49,445. Thus, unless the majority of their income comes from an institution of higher education, all applicants must have incomes of less than $148,335 and must not have assigned or licensed the application to an entity with an income higher than that amount.
The PTO notes that as of September 16, 2012, US patent applications will be able to be filed by assignees rather than only by the inventors. Thus, the PTO seeks comments on how the changing definition of “applicant” affects the proposed rules.
The comment period for these proposed fules runs through July 30, 2012. The rules will not go into effect until the PTO sets fees according to its new statutory authority to do so, probably around March 2013.