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Universities & Micro Entities to Receive 75% reduction in Patent Office Fees

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One new provision in the new patent act that will be welcomed by a number of patent applicants is the new “micro entity” fee structure. “Small entities” already receive a 50% discount on most patent office fees. Those fees will be reduced by another 50% for qualifying micro entities — a total of 75% discount as compared with the large entity fee.

A new provision (35 U.S.C. 123) defines the term “micro entity” as the patent applicant (inventor):

Qualifies as a small entity; Has not been named as an inventor on more than 4 previously filed US non-provisional patent applications (not including inventions assigned based upon prior employment); Does not have an income of more than 3x the median US household income ($50k for 2009); and Has not conveyed or contractually promised to convey rights or to an entity that has an income of more than 3x the median US household income.

Yeah, here's why 4 is way too few: The bill passed by congress last Thursday switches to a "first to file" system from our current "first to invent" system. With FTI, you had time to perfect inventions in the lab before filing. With FTF, you have to rush to file no matter what - even for inventions that don't pan out. (Think about Edison trying to perfect the light bulb.)

Something else congress just voted for: Anyone can pay $4,800 for an accelerated examination and get their patent in 12 or 18 months. Even if it infringes (or copies) a filing that came in first but which is non-accelerated. What does that do to FTF?

Next, the senate and congressional committees will try to merge these two heinous patent reform bills, senate will vote and president will sign it into law.

It's a mess. Startups are going to need to carefully reconsider their IP strategies.

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