Patent Has Issued – What are the next steps?
About Patent Maintenance Fees
A maintenance fee is a fee that is required for maintaining in force all utility and reissue utility patents based on applications filed on or after December 12, 1980. Generally, utility patents expire after 20 years from the application filing date subject to the payment of appropriate maintenance fees. If a maintenance fee is not paid the patent protection lapses and the rights provided by a patent are no longer enforceable. Maintenance fees are not required for a design or plant patent, or for statutory invention registrations (SIR).
Maintenance fees are due three times during the life of a patent, and may be paid without surcharge at 3 to 3.5 years, 7 to 7.5 years, and 11 to 11.5 years after the date of issue. The fee cannot be paid early. Maintenance fees may also be paid with a surcharge during the “grace periods” at 3.5 to 4 years, 7.5 to 8 years, and 11.5 to 12 years after the date of issue.
A maintenance fee and any necessary surcharge submitted for a patent must be submitted in the amount due on the date the maintenance fee and any necessary surcharge are paid. Payment of less than the required amount will not constitute payment of a maintenance fee or surcharge on a patent. If the last day for paying a maintenance fee or any applicable surcharge falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or federal holiday, the fee may be paid on the succeeding day which is not a Saturday, Sunday, or federal holiday.
It is the responsibility of the patentee to ensure the maintenance fee and any required surcharge are paid timely to prevent expiration of the patent. If the maintenance fee is not paid within the first six months in the year in which it can be paid, a Maintenance Fee Reminder notice is sent to the fee address or correspondence address on record. If the maintenance fee and any applicable surcharge are not paid by the end of the 4th, 8th, or 12th years after the date of issue, the patent rights lapse and a Notice of Patent Expiration is sent to the fee address or correspondence address on record. The failure to receive the notices will not shift the burden of monitoring the time for paying a maintenance fee from the patentee to the USPTO. If a fee address has not been established, the notices are sent to the correspondence address.
The USPTO does not calculate the expiration dates for patents. In response to patent owner and public inquiry, the USPTO provides a downloadable patent term calculator as a resource to help the public estimate the expiration date of a patent. See the Patent Term Calculator page for more information.