Can the USPTO Avoid Sequestration?
In an attempt to exempt the United States Patent and Trademark Office from budget cuts authorized on March 1, 2013 by the federal government sequestration, Representatives Mike Honda (sponsor), Zoe Lofgren, and Anna Eshoo (co-sponsors) have introduced the Patents And Trademarks Encourage New Technology (PATENT) Jobs Act of 2013 for fiscal years 2014 to 2021. According to GovTrack.us, this bill was assigned to a congressional committee on June 28, 2013, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole. While the USPTO is a self-funded agency whose expenses are financed completely by the fees paid by applicants and owners of patents and trademarks, the current sequester would require the USPTO to cut nearly $150 million from the organizations future funding; this would be on top of the approximately $148 million the agency may have to cut from its FY2013 budget barring a legislative remedy. There are fears that if this bill is not passed, the deficit may effectively end the efforts of the USPTO to open several new highly anticipated regional satellite offices around the country, including in Denver, in Dallas/Ft. Worth, and in the Silicon Valley. According to Representative Honda, these satellite offices would “reduce the patent application backlog, which is vital for ensuring America’s economic competitiveness.” Representative Honda also said, “USPTO is funded entirely by fees paid to the agency, making it fundamentally different than other government spending, Congress intended for these fees to be used solely to carry out USPTO’s operations.” If the funds are sequestered and applied to the government’s general expenditures, a portion of every user-payment to the USPTO will be spent on items such as Social Security, Medicaid, interest, and defense. “This is not a new budgetary concept,” the sponsors said in a press release on June 28, 2013. “Congress has recognized the uniqueness of user-fee-funded agencies in the past, exempting them from sequestration in the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010.” Representative Lofgren points out on her website, Lofgren.house.gov, that a number of trade and industry groups and bar associations have joined in calling upon the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress to address the application of sequestration to USPTO and are supportive of the efforts to exempt USPTO from sequestration. Representative Eshoo explains, “Our legislation will enable USPTO to implement reforms and programs years in the making so that the agency can continue to foster the wealth of knowledge and innovation across America.” I am anxious to find out what happens with H.R. bill 2582 and will try to keep you updated.