One of the lesser talked about aspects of the America Invents Act (AIA) is the creation of a new type of filing entity before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Traditionally, all inventors or companies filing patent applications fell into either the small or large entity designation. To be considered “small,” the individual or small business must have less than five hundred employees or be a university or a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt institution. Becoming active in December 2012, the AIA added a third category, really a sub-category, titled “micro entity” status.
To qualify under the micro entity fee schedule, the requirements of a small entity must first be met. Additionally, the entity must be able to prove that the inventor (or each joint inventor) had a gross income not exceeding three times the median household income, which in 2014 was approximately $155,000. The other restriction is that the inventor may not have been named on more than four previously filed patents, with some caveats for certain applications like PCT applications for example.
Though still in its infancy, micro entity status seems to be a popular and much-needed relief to the independent inventor, at least at the provisional application stage. Now that the financial bar against small businesses and independent inventors asserting property rights has been lowered substantially, inventors need only concern themselves about asserting their rights before another wins the race to file. By making use of data analytics software, micro entities will be able to efficiently compete with their larger counterparts. From checking proper antecedent basis to prior art search assistance, data analytics will assist the new micro entities in their struggle to the top.