USPTO Remains Open During Government Shutdown
While many government agencies have been forced to close shop as a result of the quibbling between the members of Congress, there has been one bright bastion of hope for American efficiency; the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Without sounding like I’ve been paid by them, the USPTO appears to be the exemplary son of Uncle Sam compared to its inept siblings. Why? Because it remains open during the shutdown, able to stand on its own feet. See their official comment here: http://www.uspto.gov/news/2013ops.jsp
Don’t get me wrong, as an IP firm with a high volume of patent and trademark filings, we have to deal with the USPTO every day and they are often a pain in the a**. I especially can’t stand their hold music, they haven’t changed it in years… I digress. But from the standpoint of operations, I give credit where credit is due.
They estimate that they can keep operations afloat for about 4 weeks, and after that if their reserve funds run out they would still keep a “small staff” going to accept new work. So what’s their secret? Fees. A lot of them. The USPTO is able to exist on their own private budget resulting from the fees collected for a variety of patent and trademark-related filings. And these fees are quite expensive. But interestingly back in April of this year when the American Invents Act was put into effect, there was a lot of downward adjustments to those fees. Namely, a “micro entity” category was created for small inventors which reduced fees 50% for many types, but not all, filings. Now if we only had a “micro entity” health care equivalent… Bottom-line, although not perfect, the USPTO has structured their fees well and is profitable, plus they have a healthy philosophy on the significance of IP filings, “[o]ur economy depends upon the work of the employees of the PTO to protect new ideas and investments in innovation and creativity,” says Colleen M. Kelley, President of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents USPTO employees. “A dramatic increase in the already existing backlog at PTO would harm American investors and entrepreneurs responsible for much of the job growth in our country.”