USPTO Explains Appeal Fee Setting

The America Invents Act (AIA), Section 10 provides fee setting authority to the USPTO. As a result, the Office has been busy preparing new fee proposals that will take effect in early 2013. For example, the new USPTO fee setting authority permits the USPTO to revise the fees set by Congress under 35 U.S.C. §§ 41 (a) and (b) based on the aggregate costs of funding the USPTO, which in some cases has led to proposals to dramatically raise certain filing fees.

The USPTO has also proposed a recalibration of appeal fees and payment timing. In a post on the USPTO web site yesterday (here) the Director explained that upon further investigation, some of the initial appeal fee proposals are unfeasible.

In constructing our preliminary fee proposal, our initial thought was to refund most appeal fees if the application did not proceed to the BPAI. However, this proved to be a non-viable option as the law does not permit us to provide refunds of appeal fees.

As an alternative, the Office presented an option during the preliminary proposal at the PPAC hearings that included two components: (1) Shifting the payment timing for some of the appeal-related fees, and (2) Offering a combined $0 PGPub and Issue fee if the examiner withdraws a Final Rejection prior to an appeal being forwarded to the BPAI.

The second aspect of the initial proposal ($0 PGPub and Issue fee) raised implementation issues. As originally envisioned, a $0 PGPub and Issue fee would have been considered if the examiner withdrew a Final Rejection prior to an appeal being forwarded to the BPAI. However, withdrawing the Final Rejection can happen under many circumstances, including times when there is no error in prosecution by the examiner. For example, examiners often properly consider After Final amendments filed after notice of appeal, resulting in an allowance. Assessing when a $0 PGPub and Issue fee would be proper would require the USPTO to review the circumstances of each withdrawal of Final Rejection on a case-by-case basis, increasing the cost of patent operations.

Another consideration is that a $0 PGPub and Issue fee would eliminate the need for the notice of issue fee payment. Applicants often use this notification to decide if there is a need to file a continuing application. So after reviewing the resources that would be required to consider these situations on a case-by-case basis, and the possible negative impact applicants would experience, this particular piece of the initial proposal will not be pursued.

However, the Office does plan to maintain the first component in our rulemaking proposal as a means to provide savings to applicants—shifting the timing of when some of the appeal-related fees are paid. This approach provides the benefits related to the staging and timing of fee payments, without creating potential harm to applicants or additional implementation issues.