The USPTO’s published fee increase proposal is going to have an impact on every patent department in every company. You can find the Patent Office’s discussion and a PDF with the fee increases on the AIA microsite. While some fees are untouched, and a few are even reduced, many fees are significantly increased.
Some of the major fee increases:
Many fees are increased by a small amount, those are not listed in the above table. The only noticeable fee reduction is for issue fees. If an application is publishes, the issue fee will be reduced by 50% compared to an issue fee for a non-published application. While publication will still cost $300, the savings of $1,080 on the issue fee is not insignificant. However, this change is not scheduled to start until January 1, 2014, almost a full year after the new fee increases become effective.
The increases in the filing fees, RCEs, and maintenance fees are going to have a large impact on patent budgets. If you budget for prosecution and maintenance fees separately, and I recommend you do, increase your estimates for both, starting in February of 2013. Since many companies set their budgets annually, make sure your next budget cycle includes the likely increases in patent costs.
For prosecution costs, if you work with an outside firm most of the cost is attorney fees. I would estimate that this fee increase will lead to an increase of overall costs by approximately 15% across the board. Of course, if you are handling prosecution in-house, you should be increasing your budget for PTO fees by at least 60%, given the inflation of filing, RCE, and appeals fees.
More significantly, you will need to increase your budget for maintenance fees. If your portfolio is evenly distributed in terms of status, then you should increase your overall maintenance fee budget by ~50%. If your portfolio is younger, with most of your issued patents at the first or second maintenance fee stage, increase your maintenance fee budget by ~35%. If your portfolio is older, more heavily weighted toward patents in their final maintenance fee stage, you will need to increase your budget by 60%. For an evenly distributed portfolio of 100 issued patents, the additional cost would be ~$45,500, raising the annual maintenance fee budget from ~$96,700 to ~$142,200.
While the Patent Office has not finalized these fees, I attended the public hearing and there appeared to be little interest in discussing changing these fees, or acknowledging their likely impact on innovation.