November 25 is the public’s last chance to weigh in on the U.S. PTO’s most recent proposal to modify patent application and renewal fees, the first change to the agency’s fee structure since patent reform legislation passed last September granted the agency power to set its own fees. If ultimately adopted, however, this new fee structure will accomplish little more than lowering costs for smaller patentees and universities at the expense of larger, more sophisticated patent owners. But there’s no reason the PTO’s proposal couldn’t go much further. According to the agency’s own interpretation of the law, the PTO now has “flexibility to set individual fees in a way that furthers key policy considerations.” What policy objectives might the agency be able to accomplish with the strategic use of fees? For one, modest changes to the number and magnitude of patent renewal fees (i.e., “maintenance” fees) could eliminate a large portion of suits filed by patent trolls, especially those asserting software patents. Here’s the why and how.