NAPA to Take On Tillis’ Unified IP Office Study

“Our success in these negotiations depends greatly on the willing participation of these two agencies and the level of funding they agree to make available for the work.” – NAPA

Unified IP Office - National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) has agreed to perform a study requested earlier this month by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to explore “whether Congress should create a unified, stand-alone, and independent Intellectual Property Office.”

NAPA President and CEO Teresa Gerton said its full-time research staff and Academy Fellows are well-positioned to do the work requested and that NAPA would begin discussions with the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) immediately.

However, Gerton expressed some skepticism, cautioning that “our success in these negotiations depends greatly on the willing participation of these two agencies and the level of funding they agree to make available for the work.”

The National Academy of Public Administration is an independent, nonprofit, non-partisan organization established in 1967 and chartered by Congress in 1984. It has close to 1,000 Fellows—including former cabinet officers, Members of Congress, governors, mayors, and state legislators, as well as prominent scholars, career public administrators, and non-profit and business executives. Its mission is “to advance government practices through studies and projects held to the highest standards of efficiency and excellence.”

Tillis first asked the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) to perform the study in January, but ACUS Acting Chairman Matthew Wiener responded in early March explaining that the Conference “has neither the expertise nor resources to conduct” such a study. Instead, Wiener suggested Tillis should ask NAPA.

Tillis is requesting a study that will gather data on considerations for bringing together the USPTO, U.S. Copyright Office (USCO), the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) and other IP-relevant posts across agencies under one Senate-appointed and presidentially-appointed Director, with separate commissioners for each area. The Senator also wrote to interim USPTO Director Drew Hirshfeld and Register of Copyrights Shira Perlmutter earlier this month to ask that their offices contract with NAPA to help with the study.

The goal of the study is to gather data addressing the following issues:

  • Funding models (fee-funded versus taxpayer-funded)
  • What the key functions of such a unified IP office should be
  • Streamlining duplicative functions

The unified office would continue to grant patents, register trademarks and copyrights, and work with foreign IP offices and other international intergovernmental organizations.

“Concentrating our intellectual property rights (IPR) expertise into one agency will not only provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ to assist Americans with engaging in their intellectual property system, it will also appropriately reflect intellectual property’s elevated role in our modern, digital economy,” Tillis wrote in January.

The latest letter asked NAPA to report back on whether it will be able to conduct the study by March 31, 2022, and to complete the study by March 31, 2023.

In his letter to the USPTO and USCO, Tillis specifically requested that the agencies establish a federal public advisory committee to discuss the benefits of a unified office. “It is important that policy and other discussions around important issues that implicate different types of intellectual property are not defeated by conflicting policy agendas or fractured bureaucratic structures,” Tillis wrote.

He also suggested that the advisory committee could consider discussing how to create a “virtual ‘one-stop-shop’ within our current statutory structure in the interim period before a unified intellectual property office is created.”

Tillis asked that the USPTO and USCO create the advisory committee by December 31, 2022.



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