What is a Small or Micro Entity?

(for patent application purposes?)


MPEP 509.03 (August 2012)   Claiming Small Entity Status

37 C.F.R. 1.27   Definition of small entities and establishing status as a small entity to permit payment of small entity fees; when a determination of entitlement to small entity status and notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status are required; fraud on the Office.

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    (b) Establishment of small entity status permits payment of reduced fees.

        (1) A small entity, as defined in paragraph (a) of this section, who has properly asserted entitlement to small entity status pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section will be accorded small entity status by the Office in the particular application or patent in which entitlement to small entity status was asserted. Establishment of small entity status allows the payment of certain reduced patent fees pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 41(h)(1).

        (2) Submission of an original utility application in compliance with the Office electronic filing system by an applicant who has properly asserted entitlement to small entity status pursuant to paragraph (c) of this section in that application allows the payment of a reduced filing fee pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 41(h)(3).

    (c) Assertion of small entity status. Any party (person, small business concern or nonprofit organization) should make a determination, pursuant to paragraph (f) of this section, of entitlement to be accorded small entity status based on the definitions set forth in paragraph (a) of this section, and must, in order to establish small entity status for the purpose of paying small entity fees, actually make an assertion of entitlement to small entity status, in the manner set forth in paragraphs (c)(1) or (c)(3) of this section, in the application or patent in which such small entity fees are to be paid.

        (1) Assertion by writing. Small entity status may be established by a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status. A written assertion must:

            (i) Be clearly identifiable;

            (ii) Be signed (see paragraph (c)(2) of this section); and

            (iii) Convey the concept of entitlement to small entity status, such as by stating that applicant is a small entity, or that small entity status is entitled to be asserted for the application or patent. While no specific words or wording are required to assert small entity status, the intent to assert small entity status must be clearly indicated in order to comply with the assertion requirement.

        (2) Parties who can sign and file the written assertion. The written assertion can be signed by:

            (i) One of the parties identified in §  1.33(b) (e.g., an attorney or agent registered with the Office), § 3.73(b) of this chapter notwithstanding, who can also file the written assertion;

            (ii) At least one of the individuals identified as an inventor (even though a § 1.63 executed oath or declaration has not been submitted), notwithstanding § 1.33(b)(4), who can also file the written assertion pursuant to the exception under § 1.33(b) of this part; or

            (iii) An assignee of an undivided part interest, notwithstanding §§ 1.33(b)(3) and 3.73(b) of this chapter, but the partial assignee cannot file the assertion without resort to a party identified under § 1.33(b) of this part.

        (3) Assertion by payment of the small entity basic filing or basic national fee. The payment, by any party, of the exact amount of one of the small entity basic filing fees set forth in §§ 1.16(a), 1.16(b), 1.16(c), 1.16(d), 1.16(e), or the small entity basic national fee set forth in § 1.492(a), will be treated as a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status even if the type of basic filing or basic national fee is inadvertently selected in error.

            (i) If the Office accords small entity status based on payment of a small entity basic filing or basic national fee under paragraph (c)(3) of this section that is not applicable to that application, any balance of the small entity fee that is applicable to that application will be due along with the appropriate surcharge set forth in § 1.16(f), or § 1.16(g).

            (ii) The payment of any small entity fee other than those set forth in paragraph (c)(3) of this section (whether in the exact fee amount or not) will not be treated as a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status and will not be sufficient to establish small entity status in an application or a patent.

        (4) Assertion required in related, continuing, and reissue applications. Status as a small entity must be specifically established by an assertion in each related, continuing and reissue application in which status is appropriate and desired. Status as a small entity in one application or patent does not affect the status of any other application or patent, regardless of the relationship of the applications or patents. The refiling of an application under § 1.53 as a continuation, divisional, or continuation-in-part application (including a continued prosecution application under § 1.53(d)), or the filing of a reissue application, requires a new assertion as to continued entitlement to small entity status for the continuing or reissue application.

    (d) When small entity fees can be paid. Any fee, other than the small entity basic filing fees and the small entity national fees of paragraph (c)(3) of this section, can be paid in the small entity amount only if it is submitted with, or subsequent to, the submission of a written assertion of entitlement to small entity status, except when refunds are permitted by § 1.28(a).

    (e) Only one assertion required.

        (1) An assertion of small entity status need only be filed once in an application or patent. Small entity status, once established, remains in effect until changed pursuant to paragraph (g)(1) of this section. Where an assignment of rights or an obligation to assign rights to other parties who are small entities occurs subsequent to an assertion of small entity status, a second assertion is not required.

        (2) Once small entity status is withdrawn pursuant to paragraph (g)(2) of this section, a new written assertion is required to again obtain small entity status.

    (f) Assertion requires a determination of entitlement to pay small entity fees. Prior to submitting an assertion of entitlement to small entity status in an application, including a related, continuing, or reissue application, a determination of such entitlement should be made pursuant to the requirements of paragraph (a) of this section. It should be determined that all parties holding rights in the invention qualify for small entity status. The Office will generally not question any assertion of small entity status that is made in accordance with the requirements of this section, but note paragraph (h) of this section.

    (g)

        (1) New determination of entitlement to small entity status is needed when issue and maintenance fees are due. Once status as a small entity has been established in an application or patent, fees as a small entity may thereafter be paid in that application or patent without regard to a change in status until the issue fee is due or any maintenance fee is due.

        (2) Notification of loss of entitlement to small entity status is required when issue and maintenance fees are due. Notification of a loss of entitlement to small entity status must be filed in the application or patent prior to paying, or at the time of paying, the earliest of the issue fee or any maintenance fee due after the date on which status as a small entity as defined in paragraph (a) of this section is no longer appropriate. The notification that small entity status is no longer appropriate must be signed by a party identified in § 1.33(b). Payment of a fee in other than the small entity amount is not sufficient notification that small entity status is no longer appropriate.

    (h) Fraud attempted or practiced on the Office.

        (1) Any attempt to fraudulently establish status as a small entity, or pay fees as a small entity, shall be considered as a fraud practiced or attempted on the Office.

        (2) Improperly, and with intent to deceive, establishing status as a small entity, or paying fees as a small entity, shall be considered as a fraud practiced or attempted on the Office.


What is a Micro Entity?

There are two Micro Entity forms, one of which must be submitted with the patent application in order to pay micro entity fees.

SB/15A  Certification of Micro Entity Status - Gross Income Basis (Gross Income Limit)

SB/15B  Certification of Micro Entity Status - Institution of Higher Education Basis


Who can sign a Certification of Micro Entity Status?

The certification of micro entity status forms (Forms PTO/SB/15A and PTO/SB/15B) may only be signed by an authorized party as set forth in 37 CFR 1.33(b).  This means that the only parties who may  sign a certification of micro entity status form are:

    A registered patent practitioner, meaning a registered attorney or agent who is either of record or acting in a representative capacity under 37 CFR 1.34;

    An inventor who is named as the sole inventor and identified as the applicant; or

    All of the joint inventors who are identified as the applicant.  If qualified for micro  entity status, joint inventor applicants should sign separate copies of the relevant  micro entity certification form(s).


For PTO/SB/15A: The applicant hereby certifies the following— (1) SMALL ENTITY REQUIREMENT -The applicant qualifies as a small entity as defined in 37 CFR 1.27. (2) APPLICATION FILING LIMIT - Neither the applicant nor the inventor nor a joint inventor has been named as the inventor or a joint inventor on more than four previously filed U.S. patent applications, excluding provisional applications and international applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) for which the basic national fee under 37 CFR 1.492(a) was not paid, and also excluding patent applications for which the applicant has assigned all ownership rights or is obligated to assign all ownership rights as a result of the applicant’s previous employment. (3) GROSS INCOME LIMIT ON APPLICANTS AND INVENTORS - Neither the applicant nor the inventor nor a joint inventor, 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 (26 U.S.C. 61(a)), exceeding the “Maximum Qualifying Gross Income” reported on the USPTO website at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/law/micro_entity.jsp which is equal to three times the median household income for that preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census. (4) GROSS INCOME LIMIT ON PARTIES WITH AN “OWNERSHIP INTEREST” - Neither the applicant nor the inventor nor a joint inventor has assigned, granted, or conveyed, nor is 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 the “Maximum Qualifying Gross Income” reported on the USPTO website at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/law/micro_entity.jsp which is equal to three times the median household income for that preceding calendar year, as most recently reported by the Bureau of the Census.  


For PTO/SB/15B: CERTIFICATION ON THE BASIS OF EMPLOYMENT BY AN INSTITUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION The applicant hereby certifies the following— The applicant qualifies as a small entity as defined in 37 CFR 1.27. 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)).  



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.


(Added Sept. 16, 2011, Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, Public Law 112-29, sec. 10(g), 125 Stat. 284.)



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