Monday, February 05, 2007

Bush budget proposes end to USPTO fee diversion noted: The Patent and Trademark Office would receive $1.9 billion in fiscal 2008 under the budget plan President Bush released February 5, 2007.

Of fee diversion: This also is the fourth year in a row the White House has recommended the Congress allow the agency keep fees collected from patent and trademark applications instead of diverting funding to other government programs.

The govexec article also addressed attrition at the USPTO: In fiscal 2008, the PTO anticipates hiring an additional 1,200 patent examiners and plans to continue expanding the agency's telework efforts. The net gain in examiners would be about 800 employees because the agency's attrition rate is about 10 percent annually, Pinkos said. The funding request also would let the agency move toward its goal of processing all patent and trademark applications electronically. Almost 50 percent of patent applications already are filed electronically, he said.

Further, the article stated:

According to PTO, examiners completed 332,000 patent applications in 2006 -- the largest number ever -- while achieving the lowest patent allowance error rate (3.5 percent) in more than two decades. At 54 percent, the amount of applications reviewed and approved also was the lowest on record, the agency reported.

PTO also processed a record number of trademark applications in 2006, Pinkos said. His agency's trademark attorneys took final action on 378,111 applications, a 36 percent surge over the previous year.

California Democrat Howard Berman, chairman of the House Judiciary's Court, the Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee, praised the budget request's stipulation barring fee diversion. The agency should keep the fees they collect "so they can implement quality initiatives for higher quality patents and hire additional necessary staff to reduce pendency," he said.

A spokesman for patent crusader Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, echoed Berman's remarks. He said PTO's full access to its fees, plus a $72 million increase over the fiscal 2007 budget, is the key to a healthy future for the agency.

IPBiz notes that the govexec article did not get into the downside of the 10% yearly examiner attrition. Although "new" examiners may have background in "new" technologies, the caseload of the 10% of the departing examiners has to be shifted to other examiners, who have to spend time getting up to speed on the caseload of the departing examiners. Separately, there are some other issues, such as the "flat goal program," discussed in the Feb. 07 POPA newsletter.


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