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House Republicans Oppose Adequately Funded Patent Office


Written by Gene Quinn
President & Founder of IPWatchdog, Inc.
Patent Attorney, Reg. No. 44,294
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Posted: June 8, 2011 @ 2:44 pm
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Congressman Paul Ryan

In a rather stunning development, key Republican leaders in the House of Representatives are opposing an adequately funded Patent Office.  Indeed, the opposition to appropriate funding for the United States Patent and Trademark Office is becoming a political matter, and the language used to describe the issues suggests that Republicans seem to believe they can score points against the Obama Administration by opposing USPTO funding.

In a letter sent to Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), two key Republican Chairmen are opposing the USPTO funding mechanisms currently in place in H.R. 1249, which mirror those passed by the Senate earlier this year.  Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is Chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, was joined by Congressman Harold Rogers (R-KY), who is Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, opposing provisions that would allow the Patent and Trademark Office to keep the user fees it collects, which are payment for services to be rendered.

I am a Republican and I like Congressman Ryan, but Ryan and his allies are dead wrong.  I am totally and completely disgusted.

Congressmen Ryan and Rogers wrote:

We strongly oppose this proposed shift of billions in discretionary funding and fee collections to mandatory spending.  Putting the PTO funding on auto-pilot is a move in exactly the wrong direction, given the new Republican majority’s commitment to restraining spending, improving accountability and transparency, and reducing the nation’s unparalleled deficits and debt.

Placing PTO spending on mandatory auto-pilot as outlined in H.R. 1249 would also hand Congressional “power of the purse” — bestowed in the Constitution — to the Obama White House, and essential eliminate the ability of Congress to perform substantive oversight of the PTO.

To perform substantive oversight?  What a novel idea!  Too bad that Congressman Ryan, Congressman Rogers and all of their colleagues on both sides of the aisle abdicated that oversight responsibility for so many years.  It is the past mistakes of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which are directly responsible for the mess the Office finds itself in now.  Had Congress actually been engaging in oversight of any sort how much could have been prevented?  A lot.

Let’s just call it like it really is, shall we?

Where was Congress when the Patent Office decided that every patent application deemed to have allowable claims should be re-reviewed prior to issuing a patent?  The so-called “second pair of eyes” review created an enormous backlog, stifling patents with allowable subject matter, starving start-up businesses of valuable assets and preventing the creation of innovative technology-based jobs.

Where was Congress when the Patent Office decided that the best way to keep electronic records was to save each and every individual page as a separate image file?  Does that make sense to anyone?  Even members of Congress could have figured that out if they actually looked at what was going on.  Indeed, this is one of the more absurd decisions ever made by any entity, and is even embarrassing by government bureaucracy standards.

Where was Congress when the Patent Office decided to implement the claims and continuations rules in 2007, which were in direct contradiction to the patent laws passed by Congress?  No one seemed to care much at all that the Agency was embarking on a path that would make it more difficult to obtain full and complete protection on those innovations that were most commercially successful.  Thanks to a small group of industry players (i.e., GlaxoSmithKline and independent inventor Dr. Tafas) and their supporters this regulatory harikiri was stopped.  Congress sat idly by.

Where was Congress when the Patent Office created the early electronic filing systems that didn’t interface with the back end systems of the Office, requiring the electronic file to be printed by the Patent Office and then scanned back into the back end system?  Didn’t anyone think about actually creating a system that would allow what was submitted to automatically be passed to the back end system?  The worst part is the Patent Office had the audacity to call this a “paperless system.”  Paperless from exactly what perspective?

I could go on and on and on.  If Congress is going to demand authority to oversee the Patent and Trademark Office shouldn’t they actually oversee the Patent and Trademark Office?  The truth is the Congress has never exercised oversight authority in what any objective observer would call a real way.

The intellectual dishonesty at work is also staggering.  Republicans in Arizona and many throughout the country argue that Arizona has a right to protect its own borders and engage in activity that at least arguably infringes upon the federal governments right to regulate immigration.  The argument is made that by failing to act the United States government has abdicated its responsibility, which seems a fair way to characterize Congressional refusal to handle the immigration issue.  Yet at the same time, and in a different context, House Republicans are arguing they have the right and responsibility to oversee the Patent Office and that shouldn’t be tread upon.  For crying out loud, do you realize the duplicity?  If you want to oversee the Patent Office fine, but for crying out loud do something to oversee the Patent Office before you moan about losing the right to oversee the Patent Office.  This is akin to a 3 year old child not wanting a toy until his brother or sister wants the toy and then throwing a tantrum because they have lost the toy.

Of course, what I have said so far misses several important points.  First, nothing in H.R. 1249 or S. 23 (which already passed the Senate) would make it impossible for Congress to oversee the Patent Office.  Congress would still have oversight powers and responsibilities, the fees paid by users of the USPTO would just now actually go to running the USPTO as opposed to school lunches or something else completely unrelated to the purpose of the fee.  In fact, the only thing patent reform funding provisions would do is say that the money collected by the Patent Office in the form of fees, which are for services to be later rendered during the patent process, get to be spent by the Patent Office to actually deliver the services they are promising to deliver when they accept the payment of the fee.  Not exactly a radical idea really.  Furthermore, the fees could not be set higher than is necessary to allow the Patent Office to cover costs.

Moreover, despite the fact that Congressmen Ryan and Rogers would like this to be about the Obama Administration to score points against the Democrat machinery, the fact is that Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is the one who championed the amendment in the Senate that would give the Patent Office the ability to keep the fees it collects.  Senator Coburn is known as “Senator No” for his staunch fiscally conservative stance on virtually all issues.  So if you are willing to let facts influence your viewpoint there is absolutely no way that Patent Office funding within patent reform can be an issue upon which Republicans can beat up Democrats.  It was a leading fiscally conservative Republican in the Senate who brought the USPTO funding issue out of obscurity and to the top of the agenda.

Further still, the so-called giving up of appropriating authority in violation of the requirements of the Constitution (i.e., Congress holds the power of the purse) is at best a disingenuous head-fake.  Congress itself would be voting to authorize the Patent and Trademark Office to keep the fees it collects, so Congress would not be abdicating its power of the purse, just setting priorities in advance that would allow the Patent and Trademark Office to keep the fees it collects.  Further, they would have the ability to review and regulate the fees to make sure the fees are not unnecessarily high, and Congress would still be able to review to make sure that USPTO fees are actually going to pay for reasonable and necessary USPTO expenditures.  Exactly how is that an abdication of power?

Joining the House Republicans to push for a removal of the PTO funding measures from H.R. 1249 is David Addington of Heritage Foundation, who earlier today wrote:

As patent reform legislation continues to work its way through the legislative process, Congress should keep and exercise its appropriations power to decide on USPTO spending. Patent reform legislation should allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to spend funds only “[t]o the extent and in the amounts provided in advance in appropriations Acts.” In an era of federal government overspending and overborrowing, the last thing Congress should do is turn over to a federal agency the decision on how much the agency can spend.

Overspending and overborrowing?  Do you think the Mr. Addington knows that the Patent Office is self sufficient and not a single dime of taxpayer money is used to fund its operation?  Yes, the borrowing issue is enormous.  Eventually the United States is going to have to live within its means or we are going to go bankrupt, that is the reality; whether that reality is ready to be admitted to or realized is another issue for another day.  What is clear, however, is that absolute no borrowing is being done to support the Patent Office.  Every year the Patent Office collects more than what Congress allows them to keep, so those who are the users of the United States Patent and Trademark Office pay a national innovation tax, while at the same time the USPTO is starved for the resources it needs the backlog continues to grow.  This further compounds the problem, prevents start-up companies from acquiring the patent assets they so desperately need to obtain funding from investors and stymies job creation.

The challenges to patent reform are heating up and gaining steam.  The reality is that patent reform efforts would have long ago been dead unless the Senate added provisions that allow the Patent Office to keep the fees it collects to reinvest in running the agency.  Everyone in the industry agrees with complete unanimity that the Patent Office should keep the fees paid to deliver the work promised.  There is some disagreement about whether the Patent Office should set the fees themselves, but everyone agrees that to have an adequately funded Patent Office the Patent Office needs to keep the fees it collects.  The funding of the Patent Office is an enormous spoon full of sugar to make the other reforms, which are really just changes not reforms, are enacted.

Patent reform is unpalatable to everyone, largely for different reasons. No one is getting everything they really want, and most lobbying efforts have long since converted themselves into making sure that nothing truly terrible is enacted, with “truly terrible” being defined differently by the various interest groups.  There are some thorny issues that remain with H.R. 1249, primarily surrounding those areas where H.R. 1249 is not identical to the very delicate balance struck by the Senate in S. 23.  If the House takes out USPTO funding from H.R. 1249 there will be no patent reform, it is just that simple.  There is no guarantee that patent reform will occur even with keeping USPTO funding provisions, but there is at least still a chance.

The Patent and Trademark Office needs more money.  Their annual budget is on the order of about $2 billion, but this year is likely to collect $300 to $400 million more than was appropriated.  Being denied those funds doesn’t change the fact that they have to do the work eventually, it just means they cannot hire enough people to do the work and cannot update the IT systems that are comically bad due to numerous bad decisions made during the Bush Administration.

So exactly why would we want to inadequately fund the Patent Office if not a single dime of taxpayer money is on the line?  The cynical answer is so that they can score political points.  The really cynical answer is because they know that adequately funding the Patent Office will lead to more business investment that will lead to job creation, which Republicans can’t have if they are to beat President Obama.  The most correct answer, however, is almost certainly that Congressional appropriators don’t like losing power to micromanage dollars; the fact that political points are to be scored is likely just a bonus. Keeping power to micromanage would be fine if they would just do what so clearly is required.  Fund the USPTO and actually cease the abdication of oversight responsibility.  Of course, that is likely asking too much from any politician.  So I come full circle. I am totally and completely disgusted.

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Posted in: Congress, Gene Quinn, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patent Reform, Patents, US Economy, USPTO

About the Author

is a Patent Attorney and the founder of the popular blog IPWatchdog.com, which has for three of the last four years (i.e., 2010, 2012 and 2103) been recognized as the top intellectual property blog by the American Bar Association. He is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.

 

32 comments
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  1. Gene-
    Great post, and there’s a bunch here that I want to mull over before I comment at any length, but real quick, I did want to point out that I think there might be a typo (Freudian slip?) in the block quote of the letter from Reps. Ryan & Rogers (1st sentence, 6th word – I’ll not repeat it, in the interest of keeping this family-friendly…)
    Cheers,
    Ron Q. Dry, Pseudonymous Docketing Guy

  2. Ron-

    OMG! Thanks for pointing that out. I typed those 2 paragraphs and did not cut and paste, so the error was clearly mine. It was certainly a typo, but one caused by quick typing or was my subconscious at work? Perhaps Freudian indeed!

    Anyway, the sixth word (i.e., “shift”) has been updated at 5:04pm Eastern to accurately reflect the letter.

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for the correction.

    -Gene

  3. The USPTO should not have their funding taken for the purposes of debt reduction. I have been watching my party (Republican) for years now in regards to telework and recently the funding issues at the USPTO. This last move on behalf of the Republican party has sealed their fate on election day for me. They are not looking to curb an economy, they are looking for re-election. Any American that has even the least bit of understand on ANY of our issues can see that the Republicans are playing to the most uninformed of the country. The federal gov’t employees have become the”whipping boy” for all congress’s”self inflicted” issues.

    Bottom line, USPTO funding is for the costs associated with the application of the patent, analyzing of the patent, and any further approval/denial of the patent. NOT for congress to come in and TAKE whatever they want to balance a mess that they put us in.

    I am so disgusted with the way our congress is conducting themselves. It is a ME type of mentality in there and come election time I am casting my first vote ever…. not in favor of my party.

  4. That’s it. I’m done w/the Republicans as well.

    Stand on principles only if and when it suits.

    As many earmarks as the Democrats (bridge to nowhere, anyone?).

    Personal attacks on our President instead of principled, respectful debate.

    Won’t raise the national debt ceiling (I don’t like it either, but if you think the economy’s been tough these last few years . . . ) . . . for debt they’re equally responsible for.

    Enough.

  5. Congress needs the money to pay the CZARs. If Barry wasn’t such a fiscal ****** they wouldn’t have to play this kind of hardball. You got what you voted for, USA.

  6. Gene,

    Excellent post on the abdication of oversight by the Congress on the USPTO. Of course you are too politically correct to point out the biggest abdication was to allow the idiot Jon Dudas to be the Director of the Patent Office, but since his actions amounted to treason I am not.

    Congress is in the position of a trustee with regard to the PTO fees. They can demand that they be spent wisely, but when they spend them on other projects it is fraud pure and simple. If Congress were in the private sector they would all go to jail for this. When the private sector is held to a higher legal standard than the public sector it is the essence of tyranny.

    Since your were a vocal advocate of this so called patent reform legislation when it was introduced, I was wondering if your opinion had changed. For instance, you said that “first to file” issue was not big deal because the legislation preserved the one year grace period and even expanded it. However, subsequent events have shown that the one year grace period will be a complete sham. This legislation is a clear violation of the Constitution and the legislative history has made it clear that this piece of legislation is nothing but a big give away to large corporation – see the Wall Street bailout on business method patents. How did you miss this? (please excuse me if I missed a post or two on these points).

  7. Attaboy Gene!

  8. Unfortunately,

    This last move on behalf of the Republican party has sealed their fate on election day for me. They are not looking to curb an economy, they are looking for re-election. Any American that has even the least bit of understand on ANY of our issues can see that the Republicans are playing to the most uninformed of the country.

    Can (like any political comment) just as easily be said by replacing the word “Republican” with the word “Democrat.”

    As mush as one would like to paint this as a “partisan” bug, the truth is that it is a “political” bug.

    And just as unfortunately, I do not have a solution for this bug.

  9. Gene -

    What you termed the “really cynical answer” is, in fact, the “most [sic] correct answer”. Let us not forget that the mouthpiece of the far right, Rush Limbaugh, has stated that he wants Obama to fail. Rogers and Ryan have track records that show they agree with this goal. Not cynical but realistic.

  10. Gene,

    Once more I sense Congress reneging on its promise not divert funds from the USPTO. Addington’s comment that this an appropriations issue (when it’s really an authorization issue, i.e., authorizing the USPTO to spend fee money it’s earned) is disingenuous. I too am a Republican and am completely dismayed by Ryan and Roger’s efforts here. The amount of the diverted funds per year is a drop in the bucket compared to our national debt, but is gargantuan in terms of impact on the USPTO operation. I say it again: H.R. 1249/S.23 is a sham and calling these pieces of legislation the America Invents Act is oxymoronic. As far as I’m concerned, let the whole package go down with no survivors.

  11. Gene and tifoso:

    Many politicians simply want *government* to fail, not just Obama. Government represents what little protection the ordinary person has from the big corporations. These politicians use hot button topics–largely irrelevant to whether people have jobs to provide for their own food, shelter, health, education, safety, and transportation–like abortion, religion, and gays (and traditionally race) to get those same ordinary people to vote against their own interests. Reducing taxes is not the cure for all the world’s ills, the situation you describe above being just one case in point. We should require that the flag-waving rich of this country contribute to the Good of the Order in a measure consistent with the amount of resources they suck out of it.

  12. I, too, generally favor the Republican viewpoint on most matters. However, the Bush 43 Patent Office was deplorable, and now this.

    The result is that to vote Republican I have to vote against my most immediate interest (i.e. a well-run patent office) in order to vote for what is otherwise in the public interest (overal fiscal discipline). I like to think I have the public interest in mind, but they are pushing me to the limit.

  13. AC-

    This election cycle the Republicans will not be awarding delegates on a winner take all basis, but rather a proportionate share to the top 3 vote getters in a State. So perhaps a “good government” candidate will emerge from the Republicans, which could allow for us to vote Republican without voting against the Patent Office.

    I’m not saying I am voting for him (still waiting to see what develops) but don’t forget that it was Mitt Romney that first interjected a serious patent specific issue into the 2008 campaign. While others were talking in platitudes he specifically promised to appoint a patent attorney to run the Patent Office. Of course, not all patent attorneys are created equal, but having someone who understands the intricacies of what is 90% of the Office’s business makes all the sense in the world.

    -Gene

  14. Dale-

    Point taken. I’ll say that I don’t think it is about political correctness though. The problems are well documented, and the more I learn the more I don’t blame Dudas in a direct sense. I think he meant well and is a nice guy, but listened to all the wrong advice. I think it is fair to say that his many (maybe most) of his inner circle were those who felt they worked for the Patent Denial Authority. It seems that the senior management that worked for the Patent Granting Authority were dismissed or marginalized. That was the root cause of everything that followed (in my humble opinion).

    What I did mean to mention in the article, however, was the appointment of Margaret Peterlin, who had absolutely no experience in intellectual property. That appointment directly violated the law and Congress didn’t care.

    -Gene

  15. Gene,

    Once more, Congress reneges on its promise not to divert user fees from the USPTO. Addington’s statement is particularly bad in confusing “appropriation” (which user fees are not) with “authorization” (which is what would happen in allowing the USPTO to spend all user fees it has earned). I too am a Republican and am dismayed by what Rogers and Ryan (who is pretty savvy and should know better the difference between “appropriation” and “authorization”). The diverted fees are a drop in the bucket for getting us out of our huge national debt, but are large enough to impact significantly the USPTO’s operation. My view on H.R. 1249/S. 23 remains unchanged: this so-called “patent law reform” is a sham and calling this legislation the America Invents Act is oxymoronic.

  16. Government represents what little protection the ordinary person has from the big corporations.

    Have you checked your representtives’ take from special interest groups lately?

  17. Gene,

    Great post. For me, as I believe for you, my deep interest regards what fundamentally makes sense and is good practice, i.e. adequately and self-sufficiently funding the patent office. It’s straightforward to do, and makes sense from a taxpayer standpoint, and an innovation standpoint. From an objective standpoint, it even seems to makes sense from both sides of the aisle. Yet as we see on so many issues that either could reach common agreement which are chose as battlegrounds, good sense is exchanged for political sense.

  18. Actually, EG’s post reminds me: This legislation has that stinkin’ first to file provision.

    Maybe Ryan is savvily doing us a favor. That is, he takes the big campaign cash from the big corporations who like first to file and kills the abomination with this position. That way he can say he was for it before he was against it.

  19. AC,

    I sure hope so. I hope this oxymoronic America Invents Act sinks with no survivors. What an awful piece of legislation both in purpose and in execution.

  20. All,

    As you all know I am not an [patent] attorney, I am simply married to one! But after all these years of reading what Gene writes and following this congressional debate on USPTO funding, I too am angry and utterly appalled. It is not rocket science. The USPTO is a FOR PROFIT entity of the US Government. It brings in all of the money it needs to run the USPTO.

    I agree with you Gene, where was Congress when all of these issues were accuring, especially their “paperless” system? I am really, Really, REALLY surprised that Republicans are taking such a stance. If their agenda is clearly political and they are simply out to make Obama look bad, um, wouldn’t allowing the biggest innovation creator, the USPTO to keep the money it brings in actually create jobs, lower the unemployment rate and in turn, make Obama look bad? I cannot believe that these educated Congressmen, cannot figure out that they will not be FUNDING this agency, because this agency brings in more than enough money. Obviously, because it still runs, albeit not very efficiently, even with using only that which is left AFTER Congress STEALS most of the money that the USPTO brings in.

    This is just utterly unfathomable.

    -Renée

  21. I am fully in support of ending USPTO fee diversion. Fees that are paid for patent office services should only be used for those services. BUT THAT IS NOT THE SAME AS GIVING THE USPTO UNLIMITED FEE-SETTING AUTHORITY! (Sorry for yelling). Congress has the right and duty to exercise some oversight on all federal fees, whether it be for National Parks, the USPTO, or any other bureaucracy.

  22. Can’t say I agree that fee diversion is necessarily a bad thing. Does everyone here think the PTO just happens to certainly need each and every dollar exactly it brings in? What I mean is this – if the PTO bring in 3% more than it had planned to, isn’t it ridiculous to think that un-counted-on money just so happens to be exactly how much the PTO needs? It’s like a kid at the candy store – whatever he happens to have in his pocket, well, by George, it just so happens that’s exactly how much he needs to spend – there’s no way he couldn’t get buy with spending a penny less. Does anyone here really know if the PTO will be adequately funded (especially by government standards) at 1%% under what the collect? Or 2%? Or 5%? Or maybe 7%? Maybe the PTO is relatively overfunded (especially by governmen standards) even after fee diversion. Why do you disagree? Because you could make a case that the PTO *could* spend more? I guess Trump is underfunded then, because I’m sure no matter how he has, he could always identify something else he *needs* to buy.

    Examiners are paid way too much as it is. I remember leaving engineering for a patent office job, seeing the comp time, the flex time, the benefits, the overtime, the bonuses. These guys were making more than my previous boss at Martin Marietta with 15 years experience in the aero field. And all the Examiners did was whine and cry for more. Looks like that is the corp culture at the PTO – give me more. This was 15 years ago, since the numbers are obviously lower. I was making 38k in engeering. Friend from the PTO also worked at MM – he had a masters degree so his base was 45k(?). He said c-ya after a few months, went back to the PTO so he could make his 75k+ for the same hours, be his own boss, and pretty much report to no one. Yeah, tough life at the PTO, need more money at the PTO.

  23. Fat Alberto-

    The USPTO does need every dollar it brings in and then some. The fees they charge are quite inadequate to cover the work they are expected to do as it is. For example, the basic fee for a utility patent application with 20 claims is $1,090, which is cut in half if the filer is a small entity (i.e., 500 or fewer employees). Examiners get on the low end about 15 hours, so that is no more than $72 per hour (or $36 per hour if a small entity is involved). That doesn’t take into consideration the support staff, electronic filing systems, office space, etc. etc. etc. So the fees are too low, which is why so little time gets devoted to each case, which is why quality is not as high as most would like it to be.

    When Congress takes money away from the Patent Office they compound the problem. More work for no money, not even the money that isn’t adequate enough already to meaningfully provide the services we want them to provide.

    As for examiners being paid way to much, as you say, that is just ridiculous.

    -Gene

  24. You can’t compare income for a Patent examiner to someone not living in this area. MD, DC, and VA (esp. Northern VA) is costly. Another reason for the Republicans to NOT of fought the telework bill that just passed (no thanks to the Republicans and just another point… the Republicans were the ones orig. through Bush who tried to pass the telework bill and it died in the Senate) but once Obama and the Democrats picked up the “torch” to try and make a national workforce and cut costs, go greener, and the many other perks that came with this, all the sudden the Republicans had an issue with THEIR own orig. legislation. Again, Politics and playing to the most uninformed of Americans. The Republican party (my party for the last 21 yrs) would rather play old politics rather than step up to the plate with any real debate about a real issue. Yes, I have been watching the live debates taking place and if someone needs funding cuts it needs to start in the politicians pocket. Seriously, we pay them to look like fools during these debates. Do they not realize how transparent they really are?
    You cannot strip the USPTO of funding in order to fix the debt of this country. The USPTO is the ONLY part of our gov’t that MAKES money. A patent passed opens the door for jobs to be created. Right now they are backlogged and had hoped that they would make a dent in patents waiting to be approved. Thanks again to POLITICS and their “2M should suffice to continue to run the USPTO” attitude, all the hard work they have done appears to be for nothing. I am not a Democrat but Obama at least appears to have a vision for the “future” of the USPTO, as well as the current head of the USPTO.
    Anyone who does not see that it is wrong for the Gov’t to just take fees from another agency, who receives these fees for services to be rendered is just lacking any type of wisdom. Our congress takes from Social Security, USPTO, and anywhere they can, and puts in an IOU. These are the same people who talk about “transparency” and debt reduction, and they need to “oversee” the USPTO. Well as the good book says: “Dig the “LOG” out your own eye before you try to dig the “splinter” out of someone elses eye.”

  25. Fat Alberto,

    You make a good case for satellite offices, but you are dead wrong on patent office fees. If the USPTO brings in more than it needs to operate, then they should lower their fees moving forward or send out refund checks to the people who paid the fees. Congress is in the position of a trustee of these funds and has absolutely no right to spend them on other projects – THAT IS FRAUD AND THEFT.

  26. I have tried to avoid political comments on this blog, and I have urged Gene to do the same. Politically, Gene and I are on opposite ends – not that I’m a communist, I just don’t think government isn’t as necessarily bad as everybody makes it out to be – it is no better (or no worse) than most big corporations.
    After being a Republican for the first decade of my politics-aware life, I came to the realization that Republicans engaged in more hypocrisy than Democrats. I think it is the result of the coalition that they developed over the years. You have anti-abortionists (anti-killing) combined with gun-rights (pro-killing devices). You have the religious right (pro-government intrusion) with libertarians (anti-government intrusion).
    Of course, it has worked because of certain synergies (e.g., both libertarians and corporations want less government oversight and nobody likes to be taxed). Politically, you cannot go wrong saying that there are too much taxes, no matter the amount of taxes. The problem with have a philosophy that “any taxes are too much” is that you can never say “no, I think we have just enough taxes.” Hence, we have House Republicans saying that the USPTO cannot keep all their funds under the auspices of not letting a Federal Agency having a free reign with spending.
    However, what you don’t see is the House Republicans actually submitting a bill to reduce the amount of fees charged by the USPTO. The USPTO is underfunded. Actually, most agencies are probably underfunded given their missions – it is just that we don’t see them because our focus is on the USPTO. As mentioned by many people already on this blog, the House Republicans are engaged in politics. It isn’t about doing what is right for our country. It is about scoring points with their constituents who don’t understand the consequences of these actions.
    We may have a wonderful government, but it isn’t perfect – and this is just one of the many instances where the imperfection of our government shines through. Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do beyond what we are already doing – which is point out the hypocrisy. A politicians job is to be reelected, and they are just doing their job by appealing to their constituencies.

  27. “Just visiting” makes some good points. However, when he/she/it says “government isn’t as necessarily bad as everybody makes it out to be – it is no better (or no worse) than most big corporations.” he/she/it overlooks a very signficant difference. Governments are monopolies and most big corporation are not.

    If you think Microsoft is a bunch of jerks, you can by Apple stuff or linux, etc. If you think Congress is a bunch of jerks, you can’t shop anywhere else. The best you can do is try to vote them out of there, but then you are likely to replace them with equally incompetent jerks. As I said, the problem with government solutions to issues is that they are monopoly solutions. If they don’t work, there is no alternative to try.

    One of the immense benefits of the conventional American federalism is that you had the different states trying different things to see which worked. More recently, its seems, the political instinct is that whatever new governmental program must be done by the Federal government (or the states, adhering to rules set down by the Feds) and that reinforces the monopoly problem.

    In the patent field, we have had that situation since the first Congress, for better or worse. Lately, for worse.

  28. I have just seen a matching letter (nearly, but not quite word for word) from the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, dated June 7, 2011.

    This letter is signed by
    Harold Rogers, Chariman
    Frank Wolf, Chairman Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science
    Norm Dicks, Ranking Member
    Chaka Fattah, Ranking Member Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science

    In addition to the actual signees, the letterhead includes:
    C.W.Bill Young, Florida
    Jerry Lewis, California
    Jack Kingston, Georgia
    Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, New Jersey
    Tom Latham, Iowa
    Robert B. Aderholt, Alabama
    Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri
    Kay Granger, Texas
    Michael K. Simpson, Idaho
    John Abney Culberson, Texas
    Ander Crenshaw, Florida
    Denny Rehberg, Montana
    John R. Carter, Texas
    Rodney Alexander, Louisiana
    Ken Calvert, California
    Jo Bonner, Alabama
    Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio
    Tom Cole, Oklahoma
    Jeff Flake, Arizona
    Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida
    Charles W. Dent, Pennsylvania
    Steve Austria, Ohio
    Cynthia M. Lummis, Wyoming
    Tom Graves, Georgia
    Kevin Yoder, Kansas
    Steve Womack, Arkansas
    Alan Nunnelee, Mississippi
    Marcy Kaptur, Ohio
    Peter J. Visclosky, Indiana
    Nita M. Lowely, New York
    Jose E. Serrano, New York
    Rosa L. DeLauro, Connecticut
    James P. Morgan, Virginia
    John W. Olver, Massachusetts
    Ed Pastor, Arizona
    David E. Price, North Carolina
    Maurice D. Hinchey, New York
    Lucille Roybal-Allard, California
    San Farr, California
    Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., Illinois
    Steven R. Rothman, New Jersey
    Sanford D. Bishop, Jr., Georgia
    Barbara Lee, California
    Adam B. Schiff, California
    Michael M. Honda, California
    Betty McCollum, Minnesota

    If you notice any familiar names, You may want to contact your representative and let them know how you feel about this.

  29. @ Fat Alberto,

    Pay at the PTO is good but by no means out of line for the Alexandria area. 38k for someone with an engineering degree is miserable no matter where you live, and 45k for someone with a master’s and experience is a joke –that’s a pretty unreasonable comparison to make imho.

    As to whether or not the PTO “needs” the money, we absolutely DO need the money to hire more people and update the computer system if we want to get patents issued within a reasonable time frame. Setting up satellite offices would save the office money in the long run through reduced cost-of-living.

    I know we need to control spending, but getting stingy with our patent system at a time when we really need to spur innovation is a penny-wise, pound-foolish strategy.

  30. [...] allow the Patent and Trademark Office to keep and use the fees collected to run the agency.  See House Republicans Oppose an Adequately Funded Patent Office.  This is an extremely myopic and ill conceived notion.  The Patent Office is unlike other [...]

  31. Until reading this article, I thought that ending fee diversion was pretty much universally accepted as being the only sensible option in preventing the USPTO (an important driver of the economy) from imploding. After having read this article, I still can’t see how anyone in his or her right mind would oppose the anti-fee-diversion provisions in the pending patent reform act.
    http://www.aminn.org/patent-reform-act-2011-s23

  32. [...] letter from the organizations was prompted by another letter last week from House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan and Appropriations Committee chair Harold Rogers, both [...]