A patent that is in force

for 20 years requires

3 maintenance fees,

the first at 3-1/2,

the second 7-1/2, and

the third at 11-1/2 years

after the patent was granted.

FAQ Maintaining Your Patent  
...the required maintenance fees & due dates
If I receive a patent, will I be required to pay maintenance fees?

Yes. About thirty years ago, the United States Patent and Trademark Office implemented the requirement of maintenance fees (this requirement can be found in the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, Chapter 2500, titled Maintenance Fees). Accordingly, if you obtain a utility patent that will be in force for 20 years, you will be required to pay 3 maintenance fees, at 3-1/2, 7-1/2, and 11-1/2 years after your patent was granted. Note, that each due date is extended for an additional 6 months (grace period), effectively requiring the maintenance fee payments within 4, 8 and 12 years after your patent was granted.

How much are the patent maintenance fees?

The Code of Federal Regulations provides a schedule for the maintenance fees, specifically stating that: 1) fee due after 3-1/2 years of patent issuance is $1,600; 2) fee due after 7-1/2 years of patent issuance is $3,600; 3) fee due after 11-1/2 years of patent issuance is $7,400. Moreover, you will be required to pay a late payment fee of $160, each time you fail to make a timey maintenance payment. However, this late fee is applicable only if paid within 6 months of the due date (known as the grace period). Presently, all the fees mentioned above are cut in half for small entity patent owners (individuals and businesses with fewer than 500 employees).

What happens if I'm late with one of my maintenance fees?

If you don't pay one of your maintenance fees, your patent will expire prematurely. Being late is a slightly different story, because there is a grace period extending each payment due date for an additional 6 months. However, if you fail to act within those 6 months you will lose your patent rights. It is important to remember that the duration for which the patent is granted is divided into 4 maintenance periods. The first three periods cover the first 12 years of your patent, with each period lasting for 4 years, and the last period covers the remaining 8 years of your patent (assuming it's a utility patent lasting for total of 20 years). Each maintenance period must be paid in advance. For example, the first maintenance period, that begins at patent grant and ends 4 years later, is paid for by the issue fee; so technically there is no maintenance fee for the first 4 years of your patent existence. The second period, however, covering years 4 through 8 of your patent ownership, requires a specific maintenance fee. If this fee is not paid in advance, your patent will expire four years from the time it was issued.

How can I check the maintenance status of my patent?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office, through its Maintenance Fee Branch and Office of Finance, will provide bibliographic information about your patent, including information about any applicable maintenance fees. In addition, the USPTO issues a weekly publication called the Official Gazette, which contains  a list of patents for which maintenance are due.  

How can I make patent maintenance payments?

There are 3 ways of paying your maintenance fees: 1) online using a credit card; 2) by mailing a check or money order to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 979070, St. Louis, MO 63197-9000; 3) by faxing a Maintenance Fee Transmittal Form with your credit card information to 517-273-6500.

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