My report to Congress last week included a statement regarding the greatest change at the USPTO since the September 16, 2011: Funding. After raising fees and receiving permission to spend fees collected, the USPTO began to quickly implement a plan to address the backlog of patent applications awaiting examination and to address particular bottlenecks in the system such as the 25,000+ queue awaiting action from the Board of Patent Appeals. Under the AIA, the USPTO has authority to set fees within certain limits. In a recent document, the Office has published a proposed patent fee schedule and will hold a hearing at the USPTO's campus on February 15 and in Silicon Valley on February 24. (Note, the USPTO has also published a set of proposed rules to implement post-grant reforms. I will discuss those in a separate post).
The bottom line for fees is that that they are on the rise.
- Filing+Search+Examination Fee rising to $1,840 from $1,250.
- Excess Independent Claims rising to $460 each (after 3) from $210.
- Excess Total Claims rising to $100 each (after 20) from $60.
- Request for Continued Examination rising to $1,700 from $930.
- Notice of Appeal rising from $930 to $1,700 but issue fee is waived if Examiner withdraws rejection. Nothing more will be due at the appeal brief stage. However, once the examiner's answer is received, applicant will need to pay $2,500 to move forward with the appeal.
- Three-Stage Maintenance Fees from $8,710 to $12,800.
The one fee being reduced is for publication+issue – dropping from $2,040 to $960.
For a certain class of patent applicants, the new fee structure will not be a problem – so called "micro entities" will receive a 75% discount. The general definition of micro entities limits the scope of that class to individuals and very small companies with little patenting experience. The biggest winners in the AIA process have been universities. In the fee scenario, universities successfully lobbied to be classified as micro entities. (UC's budget for 2011 was $22 billion…).
The idea with the fee increase is to provide the USPTO with more funding so that the office can do its job and address the various bottlenecks and backlogs in the system. However, the structure of the rules are also intended to shift patent applicant behavior. [More to come]