Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Financial Woes Continue to Deepen at the USPTO

Earlier, this blog and others picked up on comments from PTO officials indicating that decreased rates of patent filings and allowances, coupled with the current economic morass, is translating into a toxic mix for the financial health of the USPTO.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is preparing to name the PTO Director in the coming days, and the odds-on favorites for the position are (1) Q. Todd Dickinson, (2) Jim Pooley and (3) David Kappos. Whoever gets selected, a giant mess awaits, according to Andrew Noyes, who writes in his Congress Daily article:

The Obama administration's selection of a Patent and Trademark Office director cannot come soon enough, according to officials inside the agency. They cite serious cash-flow problems, internal cutbacks and a downturn in the number of applications filed and patents granted amid continued U.S. economic gloom . . . If fee collection trends continue, PTO will take in $100 million below its projected year-end amount, according to a memo sent to employees Monday.

The PTO . . . recently instituted a hiring freeze for virtually all of the agency's divisions . . . Officials have curtailed bonuses for all noncontractual awards, which affected those who do not belong to bargaining units, and they have slashed paid overtime for examiners starting this week.

[T]he PTO has told employees that furloughs and layoffs would be a last resort. The office has also significantly slowed its $250 million per year plan to install servers and energy-efficient equipment. The existing system has not been upgraded in almost a decade, and Budens said some are worried the agency's IT network is "hanging on by bubble gum and bailing wire."

Read "Cash-strapped Patent and Trademark Office awaits new leadership" (link)

See also

Patently-O: "Economic Downturn => Downturn in Patent Filings" (link)

IPWatchdog: "USPTO Budget Crisis and the Anonymous Patent Examiner" (link)

3 Comentários:

MaxDrei said...

No need to be pessimistic. What's a mere 100m these days. The EPO has shown itself capable of using simple rule changes to turn the ship around relatively quickly, and to do something about Examiner morale. Bear in mind that the EPO has 29 member States on its governing body ie 29 sovereign partners, owners, captains of the ship. If Europe can do it.....

EG said...

Max,

Just remember we're those "rebellious colonies" (including Tax Day Tea Parties) so getting us "rebels" to agree on anything, including how to rectify the "mess" in the USPTO (and it is accurately characterized as a "mess") won't necessrily be easy or quick. When you have at least 10 years of neglect in managing the USPTO properly (and especially in the last 5 years), the damage continues to grow to be a veritable mountain of woe. Of course, the "mess" can be cleaned up, but it (like the current economy) won't be a quick "turn around," and will definitely require our Congress to frankly stay out of the way and at least not rob the USPTO coffers through a continuation of fee diversion.

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