35 U.S.C. 123 Micro entity defined.
- (a) IN GENERAL.—For purposes of this title, the term “micro entity” means an applicant who makes a certification that the applicant—
- (1) qualifies as a small entity, as defined in regulations issued by the Director;
- (2) has not been named as an inventor on more than 4 previously filed patent applications, other than applications filed in another country, provisional applications under section 111(b), or international applications filed under the treaty defined in section 351(a) for which the basic national fee under section 41(a) was not paid;
- (3) did not, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is being paid, have a gross income, as defined in section 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, exceeding 3 times the median household income for that preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census; and
- (4) has not assigned, granted, or conveyed, and is not under an obligation by contract or law to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the application concerned to an entity that, in the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the applicable fee is being paid, had a gross income, as defined in section 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, exceeding 3 times the median household income for that preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census.
- (b) APPLICATIONS RESULTING FROM PRIOR EMPLOYMENT.—An applicant is not considered to be named on a previously filed application for purposes of subsection (a)(2) if the applicant has assigned, or is under an obligation by contract or law to assign, all ownership rights in the application as the result of the applicant’s previous employment.
- (c) FOREIGN CURRENCY EXCHANGE RATE.—If an applicant’s or entity’s gross income in the preceding calendar year is not in United States dollars, the average currency exchange rate, as reported by the Internal Revenue Service, during that calendar year shall be used to determine whether the applicant’s or entity’s gross income exceeds the threshold specified in paragraphs (3) or (4) of subsection (a).
- (d) INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION.—For purposes of this section, a micro entity shall include an applicant who certifies that—
- (1) the applicant’s employer, from which the applicant obtains the majority of the applicant’s income, is an institution of higher education as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a)); or
- (2) the applicant has assigned, granted, conveyed, or is under an obligation by contract or law, to assign, grant, or convey, a license or other ownership interest in the particular applications to such an institution of higher education.
- (e) DIRECTOR’S AUTHORITY.—In addition to the limits imposed by this section, the Director may, in the Director’s discretion, impose income limits, annual filing limits, or other limits on who may qualify as a micro entity pursuant to this section if the Director determines that such additional limits are reasonably necessary to avoid an undue impact on other patent applicants or owners or are otherwise reasonably necessary and appropriate. At least 3 months before any limits proposed to be imposed pursuant to this subsection take effect, the Director shall inform the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate of any such proposed limits.
Public Law 112-29, sec. 10(b), 125 Stat. 284 (September 16, 2011)( Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA)) adds 35 U.S.C. 123 to define a ‘‘micro entity.’’ March 19, 2013 is the date that the 75% micro entity discount first became available, because that is the date that fees “for filing, searching, examining, issuing, appealing, and maintaining patent applications and patents” were first set or adjusted by rulemaking under the Office’s fee setting authority. See Setting and Adjusting Patent Fees, 78 FR 4212 (January 18, 2013) which became effective in large part on March 19, 2013. January 1, 2014 is the rulemaking’s effective date for the micro entity discount as it applies to certain “filing, searching [and] examining” fees for international applications under the PCT.
The fees which are reduced by 75% for micro entities include filing fees (nonprovisional and provisional), search fees, examination fees, issue fees, and appeal fees for utility, design, plant, and reissue patent applications. Also included are patent maintenance fees including the maintenance fee grace period surcharges as well as the surcharge for a petition to accept a delayed maintenance fee payment in order to reinstate an expired patent. Included within the ambit of filing fees subject to the micro entity discount are excess claims fees, application size fees, and the surcharge required by 37 CFR 1.16(f) if either the basic filing fee or the oath or declaration for a nonprovisional application was not present on the filing date. Included within the ambit of examination fees subject to the micro entity discount are the fees for requesting prioritized examination under 37 CFR 1.102(e), ex parte reexamination under 37 CFR 1.510 (only if the request is filed by the patent owner), and supplemental examination under 37 CFR 1.601. Included within the ambit of appeal fees subject to the micro entity discount are the fees for filing notice of appeal, forwarding an appeal to the PTAB, and requesting an oral hearing.
I.REQUIREMENT FOR A CERTIFICATION
35 U.S.C. 123 requires a certification as a condition for an applicant to be considered a micro entity. The certification must be in writing and must be filed prior to or at the time a fee is first paid in the micro entity amount in an application or patent. Status as a micro entity in one application or patent does not affect the status of any other application or patent. The refiling of an application under 37 CFR 1.53 as a continuation or divisional, or continuation-in-part application (including a continued prosecution application under 37 CFR 1.53(d) (design applications only)), or the filing of a reissue application, requires a new certification of entitlement to micro entity status in the continuing or reissue application. See 37 CFR 1.29(e). A fee may be paid in the micro entity amount only if it is submitted with, or subsequent to, the submission of a certification of entitlement to micro entity status. See 37 CFR 1.29(f). The micro entity provisions of 37 CFR 1.29 apply to applications filed before, on, and after March 19, 2013. A micro entity certification may be filed in pending applications, reexamination proceedings (for patent owners only, and supplemental examination proceedings at any time during prosecution and in patents prior to or concurrent with a maintenance fee payment.
Any attempt to fraudulently establish status or pay fees as a micro entity shall be considered as a fraud practiced or attempted on the Office. Improperly, and with intent to deceive, establishing status or paying fees as a micro entity shall be considered as a fraud practiced or attempted on the Office. See 37 CFR 1.29(j).
II.BASES FOR ESTABLISHING MICRO ENTITY STATUS
There are two separate bases for establishing micro entity status referred to as the “gross income basis” under 35 U.S.C. 123(a) and the “institution of higher education basis” under 35 U.S.C. 123(d). 37 CFR 1.29(a) implements the gross income basis for establishing micro entity status, and 37 CFR 1.29(d) implements the institution of higher education basis for establishing micro entity status. The Office’s micro entity certification forms are form PTO/SB/15A (gross income basis)(see MPEP § 509.04(a)) and form PTO/SB/15B (institution of higher education basis)(see MPEP § 509.04(b)). No evidence such as a copy of a tax return need accompany the certification form(s). In addition, the certification form(s) need not be notarized. The certification form(s) must, however, identify the application or patent to which it pertains and it must be signed by an authorized party as set forth in MPEP § 509.04(c). For new application filings not previously assigned a patent application number, providing the first named inventor and the title of the invention at the top of the certification form(s) in the spaces provided will be sufficient to identify the application. It is strongly recommended that the following document descriptions in EFS-Web be used as appropriate:
- • Certification of Micro Entity (Gross Income Basis)
- • Certification of Micro Entity (Education Basis)