Filing a patent application is expensive. The cost of a patent ranges anywhere from a few thousand to tens-of-thousands of dollars. One way to save some money is to claim small or micro entity status with the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). Fees for small and micro entities are cut by 50 and 75 percent, respectively.
Small entity status applies to persons, small business concerns, and non-profits.
Persons who have not assigned rights in the invention, and are under no obligation to assign rights in the invention may claim small entity status. If the person has assigned some rights in the invention, then they may still claim small entity status if the entity to which rights were assigned also qualifies as a small entity.
Small business concerns may also elect small entity status. The business must not have assigned rights in the invention to a non-small entity, and must have fewer than 500 employees.
Non-profits may also claim small entity status if they are a (1) institution of higher learning; (2) a § 501(c)(3) organization; (3) a state non-profit or educational institution; or (4) a foreign non-profit which would qualify as a non-profit in the U.S.
Entities may claim small status when they file their patent application. The USPTO will accept the status as true unless there is credible information pointing towards an improper small entity election. Small entities receive a 50 percent discount on many USPTO fees.
Micro entity status may be claimed if:
1. the applicant qualifies as a small entity;
2. the applicant has not previously filed more than 4 applications;
3. the applicant has gross income less than 3 times the median household income; and
4. The applicant is not obligated to assign their rights to an entity which has greater than 3 times the median household income.
The maximum qualifying gross income for 2016 was $169,548. So, if the applicant qualifies as small, has not filed more than 4 applications, and makes less than $169,548, they can claim micro entity status so long as they are not obligated to assign rights in the invention to an entity with gross income greater than $169,548.
Micro entity status is claimed by filing a certification that the person meets the requirements above. Micro entities receive a discount of 75 percent on many USPTO fees.
Taking the time to certify as a small or micro entity can result in significant savings for small inventors. The savings can defray other patent expenses, making the total cost more palatable to smaller inventors. If you have any questions about entity status please contact me here.