Issuance and Maintenance of Patents
If a patent application in prosecution is found to be acceptable to the patent examiner, it is said to be "allowed". For a patent to issue, the applicant must pay an issue fee to the Patent Office (currently $1,440 for large entities and $720 for small entities). If the applicant fails to pay the issue fee within three months of notice of allowance, the patent application will be deemed abandoned.
Upon payment of the issue fee, a date will be set for publication of the patent in the Official Gazette (Patents) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Official Gazette is published every Tuesday, setting forth patent numbers, abstracts and representative drawings for patents issued that week. The date of publication of the patent in the Official Gazette is the date of issue for the patent. From that date until either the patent lapses or is found to be unenforceable, the patentee has the exclusive rights to the technology set forth in the patent's claims.
To maintain the enforceability of an issued patent, the patentee must pay regular maintenance fees to the Patent Office. Currently (as of September 30, 2007), those fees are assessed as follows:
Year after issue Large entity fees Small entity fees
$ 930 $ 465
Failure to pay a maintenance fee results in the patent lapsing.
In most cases, a valid patent that is maintained remains enforceable for a period of twenty years from the date the patent application was first filed.