Global Intellectual Property Center

Business Groups Urge Congress To Provide More PTO Funding

Business Groups Urge Congress To Provide More PTO Funding

National Journal
Five business groups and trade associations sent a letter to House and Senate leaders Tuesday urging lawmakers to allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to use fees it has collected above the amount allocated to the agency in its fiscal year 2010 spending bill.

The Obama administration submitted a formal request to lawmakers earlier this month for supplemental funding that would allow the PTO to use $129 million in additional fees the agency collected above the amount it estimated it would collect this year and that was set by Congress in the fiscal 2010 spending bill.

The administration has proposed offsetting the funding by canceling $129 million in unspent Census Bureau funding. In their letter to House and Senate leaders, the International Trademark Association, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, National Association of Manufacturers, the National Treasury Employees Union, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce voiced support for the administration’s proposal.

“In order for USPTO to continue the progress it has made, it is imperative that the agency have access to this revenue to hire new examiners, pay current employees overtime and invest in necessary upgrades to IT infrastructure,” according to the letter. “Without this supplemental authority to spend the fees it is collecting, USPTO will not only be forced to further delay hiring the examiners it needs to meet its long term goals, but will also have to cut current patent examination resources in order to stay within its current spending authority.”

However, appropriators have criticized the PTO for providing overly optimistic budget projections in the past.

Still, the administration’s request to use the additional fees to help alleviate the PTO’s huge backlog in pending patent applications is backed by the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee. They sent a letter Monday to House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., and ranking member Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., urging action on the issue before the August recess.

“This supplemental appropriation represents the best hope in the short term for an infusion of cash to hire more patent examiners and make other improvements that will help address the backlog,” Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and ranking member Lamar Smith, R-Texas, wrote.

They have introduced legislation that would allow the PTO to set its own fees and would bar the diversion of funding from PTO fees for other government programs.