As some of you may know, Congress passed the America Invents Act (AIA) last Fall and under that act they created new "micro entity" status for the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
What is a micro entity? According to the legislation, a micro entity is an applicant (or inventor) having an income of less than three times the median household income (approximately $50,000 based on 2010 incomes). So if you make less than $150,000 in your household you should qualify. Also, being under an obligation to assign or license the patent application to an institution of higher education such as a university will get you into the micro entity circle.
So what does this mean? If you are a "micro entity", you will get a 75% reduction in your patent filing fees. However, these are USPTO fees only and you may have to pay the same price to your patent attorney or patent agent which is where a bulk of the expense goes when filing a new patent applicaiton.
When does this happen? It is anticipated that these new lower fees will go into effect around March of 2013 which is also when the US moves to a first-to-file patent system.