USPTO Proposes New Rules for Micro Entity Status
By Jeffery Habenicht – Edited by Dorothy Du
Changes to Implement Micro Entity Status for Paying Patent Fees, 77 Fed. Reg. 31,806 (proposed May 30, 2012) (to be codified at 37 C.F.R. pt. 1).
On May 30, 2012, the PTO published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register entitled Changes to Implement Micro Entity Status for Paying Patent Fees. The new rules, to be codified as 37 C.F.R. §1.29, set out the proposed requirements for attaining micro entity status. Although narrow in scope, micro entity status provides a significant reduction in patent fees for those who qualify.
The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (“AIA”), enacted on September 16, 2011, created the micro entity status. America Invents Act, Pub. L. No. 112-29, §10 (2011) (codified at 35 U.S.C. § 123). Applicants qualifying as a micro entity would be entitled to a 75-percent reduction in fees. Id. §10(b). Although the AIA set forth a definition of what constituted a micro entity, id. §10(g), it left the specifics of implementation to the PTO. Accordingly, the PTO’s proposed rules attempt to clarify who qualifies as a micro entity and establish the procedures for claiming micro entity status, notifying the PTO of a loss of status, and correcting erroneous payments of fees.
On the whole, commentators have generally welcomed the PTO’s proposed rules. PatentDocs provides an overview and analysis of the changes. PharmaPatents explains that that proposed rules help clarify the AIA’s definition of micro entity status but raise questions about potential abuse of the higher education prong. Patently-O also mentions the clarifications provided by the proposed rules and notes that the PTO is seeking comments on whether “applicant” should be changed to “inventor” anywhere in the rules.