17 Members of Congress Push to Exclude USPTO from Sequester

Congressman Frank Wolf

Congressman Chaka Fattah

On June 24, 2013, 17 Members of Congress wrote a letter to Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who are respectively the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science of the House Appropriations Committee.

The top three signatures belong to Congressman Mike Honda (D-San Jose), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto). These Representatives collectively represent the Congressional Districts that make-up and abut Silicon Valley in Northern California. On June 28, 2013, they also introduced the Patents And Trademarks Encourage New Technology (PATENT) Jobs Act to exempt the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) from the what they sponsors called debilitating cuts imposed by budget sequestration. See PATENT Jobs Act Seeks to Exempt USPTO from Sequestration.

The letter to Congressmen Wolf and Fattah was short and to the point, saying: “We write to request your assistance in addressing the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) recent decision to sequester user fees which fund the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). As a result, almost $150 million in inventors’ fees in Fiscal Year 2013 have been locked in USPTO’s general fund. We request that the Approrpiations Committee allow USPTO to access the sequestered user fee funds.”


The letter goes on to make the factually correct and irrefutable claim that “USPTO funding is fundamentally different than other government spending, and does not contribute to the budget deficit. USPTO is funded entirely by fees paid to the agency by those seeking patents.”

In the penultimate paragraph of the letter, these 17 Members of Congress state: “A robust patent system is universally recognized as crucial to American economic growth. The sequestration of USPTO’s user fee funds will weaken American competitiveness in the global economy, exacerbate the current backlog of patent applications, and delay the opening of vital new satellite office.” It is the delay in opening of the new satellite Patent Office locations that seems to be an important driving force, which is to be expected given that one of the locations announced will be in San Jose, California, right in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The America Invents Act (AIA), which was signed into law on September 16, 2011, specifically ordered the USPTO to establish 3 or more satellite offices around the country, subject to available resources. See Section 23 of Public Law 12-29 112th Congress. Without proper funding, however, this requirement that the USPTO open up satellite locations won’t become operative. Thus, those who support the opening of satellite Patent Office locations need to rectify this funding debacle to get the satellite locations back on track.

Who knows whether the USPTO will be saved from sequestration. It should be, but it seems that little that actually makes sense these days seems to happen, at least where the government is involved. It is a sad statement, but if businesses were run like the federal government handles its affairs they would go bankrupt and officials would be lead away in handcuffs and/or otherwise sued by disgruntled shareholders. What a fine mess!

Hopefully the Representatives from Silicon Valley will be able to rectify the nonsensical application of sequestration to USPTO funds.


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