Under the statutes and the regulations, the Office has no duty to notify patentees when their maintenance fees are due. It is the responsibility of the patentee to ensure that the maintenance fees are paid to prevent expiration of the patent. The Office will, however, provide some notices as reminders that maintenance fees are due, but the notices, errors in the notices or in their delivery, or the lack or tardiness of notices will in no way relieve a patentee from the responsibility to make timely payment of each maintenance fee to prevent the patent from expiring by operation of law. The notices provided by the Office are courtesies in nature and intended to aid patentees. The Office’s provision of notices in no way shifts the burden of monitoring the time for paying maintenance fees on patents from the patentee to the Office.
I. PREPRINTED STANDARD NOTICES
The patent grant currently includes a reminder notice that maintenance fees may be due. The Notice of Allowance currently includes a reminder notice that maintenance fees may be due.
II. OFFICIAL GAZETTE NOTICE
A notice will appear in each issue of the Official Gazette which will indicate which patents have been granted 3, 7, and 11 years earlier, that the window period has opened, and that maintenance fee payments will now be accepted for those patents.
Another Official Gazette notice published after expiration of the grace period will indicate any patent which has expired due to nonpayment of maintenance fees and any patents which have been reinstated. An annual compilation of such expirations and reinstatements will also be published.
III. MAINTENANCE FEE REMINDERS
Since patentees are expected to maintain their own record and docketing systems and since it is expected that most patentees will pay their maintenance fees during the window period to avoid payment of a surcharge, the Office will not send any reminder notices to the patentee until after the grace period has begun. This will reduce and simplify the mailing of notices but still give patentees an opportunity to pay their maintenance fee with surcharge during the grace period before expiration of their patents. The Office will mail any Maintenance Fee Reminder to the fee address as set forth in 37 CFR 1.363. See MPEP § 2540.
IV. RECEIPT NOTICES
Upon request, the Office will issue a receipt for payment of maintenance fees submitted by mail or facsimile after entry of the maintenance fee payment. Such a receipt, which is sent to the fee address (if no fee address, then the correspondence address), will provide an opportunity for the patentee or fee submitter to check if the Office has properly credited the payment.
V. EXPIRATION NOTICES
The Office will mail a Notice of Patent Expiration to the fee address as set forth in 37 CFR 1.363 when Office records indicate that a patent has expired for failure to pay a required maintenance fee.