The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced on Thursday that it may have to cease patent operations in the second week of February if the partial government shutdown continues.
The patent office, part of the Commerce Department, said in a statement that trademark operations will be able to continue through mid-April.
The agency is funded entirely through user fees and does not get any government funding, however, Congress must appropriate the money the office collects.
The USPTO had a budget of $3.3 billion and during fiscal 2018 has asked for $3.5 billion for fiscal 2019, according to Bloomberg.
A reserve account for “temporary changes in our cash flow” has been used to keep the agency operating since the partial shutdown began on Dec. 22.
“The agency continues to evaluate options for conserving funds to lengthen the time those operations can continue for as long as possible,” the agency said in a statement.
Delays in the patent process could cause serious delays in reviewing applications for new inventions.
More than 640,000 patent patent applications were filed in fiscal 2018 and each application takes an average of 15.8 months before a preliminary response is given by one of the USPTO’s 8,185 examiner, Bloomberg noted.
The USPTO had 12,579 employees as of Sept. 30, according to the annual report. Bloomberg noted it is unclear how many of them would be furloughed if the shutdown continues.
The record-breaking government shutdown began last month amid an impasse between lawmakers and the White House over President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE's demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding.
Roughly 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or forced to work without pay.