The National Journal and Reuters are reporting that Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) have introduced a bill to permit the PTO to use the $60-70 million surplus of funds on the trademark side of the office in an effort to alleviate the budget crisis on the patent side. By statute, the PTO has to keep its operations and revenue separate for patent and trademark activities. While the trademark side of the PTO is operating at a budget surplus, the patent side is facing a financial disaster due to decreased filings.
Commerce Department and PTO officials have been making their rounds on Capitol Hill in an effort to get assistance from Congress. The PTO has slashed $120 million from its budget by curbing hiring and has recently cut examiner overtime pay. Jay Reich, deputy chief of staff of the Commerce Department, reports that the PTO is cutting everything from its budget that it can. A move that it is trying to avoid is placing examiners on unpaid furloughs.
Unfortunately, this measure may only be a band-aid. The PTO’s budget woes could get worse before they get better.