Yesterday, the Senate approved Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) motion for cloture to end debate on S. 23. The vote passed by a wide margin 87-3 with only Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and James Risch (R-ID) voting in the negative. A final vote on the bill could come by tomorrow.
There are still a few amendments that are pending in the bill. It is believed that these amendments will not receive debate and will be laid on the table. The bill will likely pass in its present form.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has issued a report on the bill that suggests that the PTO’s new fee-setting authority, as well as the new mandates on the Office, will permit it to collect $1.7 billion in additional fees in FY2011-2016.
Along those lines, Hal Wegner has been suggesting that the bill will give the PTO the ability to significantly reduce its backlog problems to the extent they are based on RCE filings and appeals to the Board. Perhaps the PTO will simply charge $20,000 for RCE filings and $10,000 for appeals. In that case, only really important cases will be appealed or re-filed as RCEs.
Such outrageous increases would be an extreme abuse of the fee-setting power. If the PTO is going to use its authority to direct applicant behavior, it should simply get RCEs and appeals prohibited by statute. This activity is the purview of Congress, not the agency itself.
If examination at the examiner level was perfect, a raise in the fees to several multiples of their current levels might make sense. As detailed earlier, the problem is that examination is not perfect and applicants need the ability to file RCEs and appeals.
Hopefully, the bar through the Patent Policy Advisory Committee (PPAC) will have sufficient input into the process to prevent an abuse of this type.