More about Maintenance Fees.

There are scholarly articles that contend that the Maintenance Fee system as implemented by the Patent Office is not what Congress intended.

Brown alleged the Patent Office’s irresponsible handling of its forms that required notice of privacy rights has caused loss of his patent and those of thousands of other inventors. The Patent Office, Brown claimed, must by law advise inventors holding patents of their rights to protection of their personal information when providing data to the office as part of their explanations for late patent “maintenance” fees.

U.S. patents currently are issued to inventors for 20-year spans. However, in most cases, each patent must be “maintained” with a hefty accompanying fee every four years during that span to ensure it is kept active for the full two-decade timeframe. If an inventor fails to meet the four-year deadline, Patent Office procedures allow the inventor to pay a late fee and explain why and provide authoritative documentation to substantiate the late payment.

If, for example, an inventor pleads lack of funds as his or her reason for missing the four-year deadline, he or she must submit federal income tax filings as verification. Such filings, of course, contain considerable personal data, including multiple social security numbers, personal and real property holdings, physical addresses, plus formal names of multiple family members, as well as the individual snapshot of income, expenses and tax bracket. Under Patent Office procedures, inventors' personal information is supposed to be protected and notice of those protections as provided for in the PAS attached to each and every form as notice to inventors. The PAS promises information collected will be treated “confidentially”.

But, Brown alleged, the Patent Office effectively denies about 90% of inventor applications to restore patents, thereby rendering the patents moot and making their inventions public domain. Then the agency also broadcasts the submitted inventors’ personal data on the internet.

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