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Patent Fees For Small And Micro Entities Reduced To Promote Inclusive Innovation

In an effort to provide better access to the U.S. patent system for small inventors, start-ups and those traditionally underrepresented, the Unleashing American Innovators Act of 2022, part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, was recently signed into law on December 29, 2022 which lowers certain patent fees before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). In particular, “small entities” will now receive a 60% discount on patent fees (up from 50%) and “micro entities” an 80% discount (up from 75%).

A “small entity” is defined by the USPTO as a business which, including affiliates, has fewer than 500 employees, is a qualifying nonprofit organization, or is an individual who has not assigned, licensed or otherwise conveyed or promised to convey an interest in the invention to a non-small entity. A “micro entity” must meet the criteria of a small entity, but also qualify either on a gross income basis or on a basis of higher education, where the applicant must be obtaining the majority of their income from an institution of higher education. An additional requirement is that neither the applicant nor the inventor has been named as an inventor on more than four previously filed patent applications.

Not only does this new statute reduce fees for small and micro entities alike, it also requires the establishment of a USPTO Southeast Regional Office and expanded outreach and pro bono efforts. Currently there are USPTO Regional Offices in Dallas, Detroit, Denver, and San Jose, including the USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, VA. According to USPTO Director Kathi Vidal, the stated purpose of the act is to “make meaningful progress in 2023 by measurably lowering the barriers for those entering the innovation ecosystem.” Director Vidal further explained that “[a]ccess to the innovation ecosystem by all is critical to inclusive innovation and growing our economy by $1 trillion by quadrupling the number of U.S. inventors.” A rule notice will be published soon to update related fees appearing under Title 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations. To learn more about this significant new piece of legislation, including information on obtaining pro bono counsel, please check out the USPTO Alert.