In accordance with Section 10 of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) finalized a revised patent fee schedule that will take effect on January 16, 2018. The last major revision took place in March, 2013.
The USPTO said that its main goal was to ensure that there would be enough aggregate revenue to cover operating costs and to support the achievement of various strategic goals, including reducing application pendency and backlog, modernizing the technology Office staff relies on, and increasing financial sustainability for continued and uninterrupted operations of its services.
The most notable increases regarding design patent application fees are:
- The design patent filing fees increase from the current $760 to $960 (for a large entity; half that for a small entity; and half that again for a micro entity). The filing fees include the so-called Basic Filing Fee, Design Search Fee, and Design Examination Fee.
- The design patent issue fee increases from the current $560 to $700 (again for a large entity, with reduced rates for small or micro entities).
The significant increase in fees for design patent applications raises the question of whether the USPTO believes it takes more time, money, and effort to examine design patent applications than they had previously thought, or if the USPTO is acknowledging the importance and value of design patent applications in the intellectual property world and as a growing source of stable revenue. It’s probably a combination of those factors
The Apple/Samsung smartphone wars have already demonstrated the importance of design patents to a broader audience, an importance that is likely to increase in the coming years, particularly with the emphasis on protecting Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), which is the fastest growing area of design patent applications in the USPTO.
Applicants are obviously well advised to file new design patent applications in advance of the fee increase to avoid the higher filing fees.
A chart comparing the current fees with the final rule fees for all patents can be found on the USPTO website.