From National Journal's "Tech Daily Dose":
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy and ranking member Jeff Sessions came to the rescue of the Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday night when they introduced a bill that will allow the agency to use funds designated for its trademark portfolio to be used to address its growing backlog of patent applications. The trademark budget, which is statutorily untouchable, has a $60 million-$70 million surplus. CongressDaily reported this week that Commerce Department and PTO officials had been making the rounds on Capitol Hill to let key lawmakers know how the office was struggling in the recession and offering up legislative ideas like the loan plan.
The PTO, which is funded through fees collected from its users, suspended overtime pay for patent examiners effective Sunday and earlier this year instituted a hiring freeze amid a slump in the number of patent applications filed. Under the bill, the PTO can make use of the money "to support the processing of patents and other activities, services, and materials relating to patents" if the office's director certifies to Congress the use of funds "is reasonably necessary to avoid furloughs or a reduction-in-force." The borrowed money would have to be put back in the trademark basket no later than Sept. 30, 2011.
Read"Leahy Offers Patent Office Bailout Bill" (link)
See also "U.S. patent office shortfall worsens"(link)