Without Solution to Shutdown, PTO Patent Operations Funded until Mid-February

In a statement issued late Thursday afternoon, the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced that without a solution to the government shutdown the Office will soon run out of money. Despite the government shutdown the USPTO has been functioning as per normal thanks to having access to a specific reserve fund created as part of the America Invents Act (AIA). This reserve fund is comprised of fees collected prior to the beginning of the partial government shutdown, which began on December 22, 2018.

“In the absence of an appropriations bill, we have no authority to access fees collected since [the government shutdown] in accordance with the law,” read a notice posted to the USPTO.gov website late this afternoon. “Based on current estimates and expenditure rates, we expect our reserves to fund patent operations to last until at least the second week in February, and trademark operations to last until at least mid-April 2019.”

The announcement continues: “The agency continues to evaluate options for conserving funds to lengthen the time those operations can continue for as long as possible.”

If the worst happens, and there is no solution to the government shutdown before funding runs out for patent operations, the Office is expected to cut back to essential personnel. That essential personnel would ensure the Electronic Filing System (EFS) remains functional to accept filings in order to award priority filing dates, but no action on filings would be taken by the Office. Whether the Office would continue to publish applications and issue patents as they do each week remains an open question. The USPTO has issued patents once a week, every week, since before the Civil War, with only several publication dates missed for extraordinary circumstances.

While much has been and will continue to be written about the partial government shutdown—who is right, who is wrong, who will win and who will lose whenever the government reopens—the USPTO is fully user fee funded. It is beyond disgraceful that American innovators will be held hostage and waiting when no tax dollars are used to run the USPTO. As a fully user fee funded enterprise, and in a hopelessly fractured political environment, perhaps it is time to finally and once and for all solve the constant and recurring issue of funding America’s innovation agency.


Image Source: Gene Quinn © 2018.


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Join the Discussion

5 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    January 27, 2019 12:47 pm

    I am not seeing your point, Reality. Can you add something more?

  • [Avatar for Reality]
    January 25, 2019 12:59 pm

    “beyond disgraceful that American innovators will be held hostage”. Gene appears to be as tone deaf as the Commerce Secretary.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    January 25, 2019 06:49 am

    On that other blog, I note that the stony silence has weathered a bit with a new post fully dedicated to the point presented here in the comments.

    I have long pushed for more scrutiny of the fees being set and that “in the aggregate” constraint being actually applied.

    Not that I would wish for any ill-effects from any budget battle (I do not relish financial hardship on anyone, least of all those who cannot control the larger macro situation — and anyone who does relish such misfortune, and does do in the name of their own political leanings should seriously consider counseling); but the bottom line is that when more people are hurt by the asinine political battle, the sooner those battles are brought to an end.

    A correlation exists between the type of “stomp on the gas pedal” between the current budget fiasco and patent law eligibility. It’s taken a number of years to see the ill effects of Common Law law writing render the statutory law into its (inevitable) Gordian Knot, and finally maybe – just maybe – Scissors will be brought to bear BECAUSE the situation has become untenable. Had we stomped on the gas pedal and fully applied the inanity of the Supreme Court meddling earlier and more thoroughly, perhaps we would have reached that inevitable conclusion point sooner.

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    January 24, 2019 09:13 pm

    As to the last statement of this article, what suggestions are there that would escape the realities that an appropriations bill is the only existing mechanism for agency fund allocation?


  • [Avatar for Anon]
    January 24, 2019 07:00 pm

    On the “other blog” the funding situation was in discussion, but a separate notion of HOW the Patent Office was able to (stealthily) secure funding reserves — given how the limited power to set fees came with a constraint of balancing in the aggregate, and any slush funding does not (cannot) meet those constraints — met some stony silence.

    I suppose that it should not be all that shocking that not kowtowing to a desired narrative would have that effect there.