I meet the criteria to be classed as a micro entity. However, there is one restriction that catches my attention: A micro entity may not have his/her name listed on more than four previous patent applications. My question: Does this preclude me from filing more than five applications (all at micro entity pricing) at the same time?
Does this preclude me from filing more than five applications (all at micro entity pricing) at the same time?
The relevant rule is provide by 37 CFR 1.29(a), which requires (emphasis added):
(a) To establish micro entity status under this paragraph, the applicant must certify that: ...
(2) Neither the applicant nor the inventor nor a joint inventor has been named as the inventor or a joint inventor on more than four previously filed patent applications, other than applications filed in another country, provisional applications under 35 U.S.C. 111(b), or international applications for which the basic national fee under 35 U.S.C. 41(a) was not paid.
As far as I know, the interpretation of "previously filed patent applications" has never been tested in a court. This is not surprising: the micro entity provisions seek to provide a low-cost filing alternative. Users of micro entity status are unlikely to want to pay for a case on the interpretation of this to go through litigation. I will therefore approach this from a practical point of view (with the proviso that I could be entirely wrong, if a case that turns on this point does go through the courts).
You have mentioned filing five applications "at the same time". While this might theoretically be possible, in practice the applications would always be filed sequentially. This would be indicated at least by the application number that is assigned on filing. Thus at least the sixth application would be filed with there being more than four (that is, five) previously filed patent applications. As such, the sixth application would not be entitled to the lower fees associated with micro entity status.