Just when we thought things were looking up at the PTO, Director Kappos announced on Friday in a blog post that the newly passed 2011 budget allocates $2.09 billion to the PTO, about $100 million less than it anticipates in revenue from user fees. Thus, the PTO must make a number of cuts.
First, the PTO has postponed indefinitely the Track I Prioritized Examination scheduled to go into effect on May 4. This comes less than 3 weeks after the agency published final rules for implementation of the regime to permit applications to receive final PTO determination within 12 months.
Next, the PTO has postponed indefinitely the opening of the Detroit satellite office that was announced in December.
The PTO has also frozen all hiring and overtime. Travel, conferences, contracts, and other non-compensation spending have been reduced. Employee training will be significantly reduced. Needed IT improvements have been scaled back.
During the economic downturn, the PTO saw a significant reduction in patent and trademark filings. This caused a budget crisis because the PTO does its work significantly later than it receives filing fees from applicants.
Now that filings are increasing, Congress has severely hamstrung the PTO while continuing to play lip-service to wanting the agency to improve operations. There is no excuse for this. The country is facing a budget crisis, but the PTO is a user-funded agency; it doesn’t use tax dollars, so it should not be affected by other budget cuts. Instead of jamming through a patent reform bill that has significant problems, Congress should be working on ways to fix the PTO’s funding issues and stop taking money that it doesn’t have a right to.
Siphoning PTO user-fees to the general fund is, at best, a form of taxation on patent filers and, at worst, pure theft.