USPTO tightens up fee payment options for patent appeals effective May 1, 2014

I never knew this, but it seems that it used to be a patent appellant could pay patent appeal fees by means of a general authorization to charge a Deposit Account.

Starting May 1, 2014, this will no longer be possible.  The appellant that tries to rely upon a general authorization will fail and risks having the appeal dismissed.

In a Notice dated March 13, 2014, the USPTO discussed the apparently long-standing practice of relying upon a general authorization to charge a Deposit Account (a “GA”) as the way of paying appeal fees.  These would include the $800 fee for a Notice of Appeal as well as the $2000 fee that is due if an Examiner files an appellant’s brief.

The Notice says that the rules never permitted the use of a GA to pay any appeal fee.  The Notice goes on to say that as an accommodation to the appellant, the USPTO’s practice had been to permit the use of a GA for this purpose despite the rules not permitting it.  (Note to litigators — if you represent an accused infringer I guess you need to look to see if the patent owner used a GA to pay an appeal fee!)

Until I read this Notice, I never knew that people were getting away with using GAs to pay appeal fees.  In our firm we always simply paid each appeal fee as it came due, typically by credit card.

The Notice says that the USPTO will stop accommodating appellants in this way on May 1, 2014.  The Notice further says that USPTO is considering doing a rulemaking at some future time that might for the first time authorize the use of a GA to pay appeal fees.

The chief action step for any patent appellant now is to make sure to pay the appeal fees by some express means of payment spelling out the fee being paid and the manner of payment.  Appellants might as well start this now, so that the new procedure is well established well in advance of May 1, 2014.

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