Appropriations Committee: Patent Office shouldn't keep fees

ADVERTISEMENT
“After years of underfunding, the PTO now has a backlog with more than 1.2 million patent applications pending. These are products and innovations that can grow businesses, create jobs and save lives," said the bill's sponsor, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), in a statement.

"Allowing the PTO to retain the fees it collects means more patent examiners to help get products to market faster. And that means more jobs for American workers and more tax revenue for the federal government.” 

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke agreed in a letter to Smith last month outlining the Obama administration's support for the legislation, which they called the most meaningful reforms to the patent system in 60 years.

"Fee-setting authority, coupled with the right to use all fees paid by patent applicants without fiscal year limitation, will permit the USPTO to engage in multi-year budget planning and achieve a stable funding model that supports future investments and improvements in operations," Locke wrote. "This structure is critical to enable the USPTO to better meet the needs of America's innovators."

But opposition from the Appropriations Committee and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) could delay the bill, which had appeared likely to reach President Obama's before the end of the summer.

“It would be both irresponsible and unwise to allow the PTO to operate solely under the authority of bureaucrats and White House political appointees — without being held accountable to the American public through their elected Representatives in Congress,” wrote Ryan and Rogers in a letter to Smith on Monday.

Smith's response noted that allowing the USPTO to keep the feels it collects doesn't increase federal spending or contribute to the deficit.

“The money collected by the PTO is not taxpayer dollars, but rather fees paid by inventors and trademark filers for agency services," Smith said.

"Under current law, the PTO is forced to give the money it raises from these fees back to the Treasury and must later request the funds from Congress during appropriations. Unfortunately, appropriators do not always give the money back to the PTO, but rather divert a portion of the funds to other, unrelated programs. Since 1992, nearly $1 billion has been diverted from the PTO."