Benefits of Micro Entity Status at the U.S Patent Office

The main benefit for a patent applicant that qualifies as a Micro Entity at the U.S. Patent Office is that they are entitled to a 75% discount on most U.S Patent Office fees (e.g. filing fee, extension of time fees, issue fee, patent maintenance fees).  Small Entity patent applicants only receive a 50% discount on their government fees and Large Entity patent applicants receive a 0% discount.  Compared to a Small Entity, a Micro Entity can save $3,925 or more in government fees.  Hence, there is a significant incentive to verify if you qualify as a Micro Entity at the USPTO.

 
Two Ways to Qualify as a Micro Entity

 An Applicant (either an assignee or inventors if not assigned) may qualify as a Micro Entity under 35 U.S.C. 123 if the Applicant and each inventor in the patent application qualifies as a Micro Entity based on either:

  • Gross Income Basis
     
  • Association with U.S. Institution of Higher Education

If a patent applicant qualifies as a Micro Entity under either basis, then the patent applicant is entitled to receive a 75% discount on most U.S. Patent Office fees as long as they continue to qualify as a Micro Entity (the qualification must be determined each time a government fee is paid to the U.S. Patent Office).

 
Option #1: Gross Income Basis

To qualify as a Micro Entity based on the Gross Income Basis, the following criteria must be certified by the Applicant:

1.  Applicant is a Small Entity.  The Applicant qualifies as a Small Entity (e.g. individual, non-profit or business with 500 or less employees – see Small Entity Definition).

2.  Four Application Limit.  Neither the Applicant nor any Inventor has been named as an inventor in more than four previously filed U.S. patent applications (does not include U.S. provisional applications, foreign applications, PCT international applications, or applications assigned or subject to an obligation to assign to a previous employer);

3.  Gross Income Limit.  Neither the Applicant nor any Inventor has a gross income exceeding $160,971 (see USPTO’s Current Micro Entity Status Gross Income Limit for the current gross income limit) the preceding year (do not include any income attributable to a spouse if you file a joint tax return); and

4.  Third-Party in Interest Income Limit.  Neither the Applicant nor any Inventor has assigned, granted or conveyed, nor is under an obligation by contract or law to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the application to an entity having a gross income exceeding $160,971.

 
Option #2: Association with U.S. Institution of Higher Education

To qualify as a Micro Entity based on an Association with a U.S. Institution of Higher Education (USIHE), the following criteria must be certified by the Applicant:

1.  Applicant is a Small Entity.  The Applicant qualifies as a Small Entity (e.g. individual, non-profit or business with 500 or less employees – see Small Entity Definition).

2.  Association with USIHE.  The Applicant either (a) is employed by a USIHE from which the Applicant obtains a majority of Applicant’s income, or (b) has assigned, granted, conveyed or is under an obligation by contractor or law, to assign, grant or conveyor, a license or other ownership interest in the application to a USIHE.

 
Certification of Micro Entity Status Required

Finally, if an Applicant qualifies as a Micro Entity, the Applicant must file a Certification of Micro Entity Status with the U.S. Patent Office.  If the Applicant is a sole inventor, then the sole inventor must certify the above.  If the Applicant is two or more joint inventors, then all of the inventors must certify the above.  If the Applicant is an assignee, then the assignee must certify the above by having their patent attorney sign the certification form.

A false claim of Micro Entity status shall be considered fraud on the U.S. Patent Office and can result in the complete invalidity of a patent and loss of patent rights.  Hence, if there are any questions or concerns about whether you qualify for Micro Entity status, it is recommended that you not claim Micro Entity status.