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April 13, 2009

Hunkering Down

The USPTO is battening the hatches for the turbulent waves of the current economic storm. Herein, today's "USPTO Weekly Extra - Budget Update: Supplemental on Training and Other Issues."

Budget Update: Supplemental on Training and Other Issues

In his video on March 16, Acting Director John Doll indicated that the USPTO would continue to pass on important information regarding filing rates and the budget to you. As Chief Administrative Officer Steve Smith did last week, we will continue to provide details on some of the issues covered in Acting Director Doll's video.

First, we would like to provide updated information regarding filing rates and the impact these changes have on our budget. We have been completely fee funded since 1991, and in many years, fees collected were diverted to support other government programs. Over the past few years, fee diversion has stopped, and Congress has appropriated all of the fees we collect back to the USPTO. The agency tries to forecast filing rates and to base our expenditures on the amount of money we will collect during the year.

Highlights of the current situation include the following:

• We are seeing downturns in both patent and trademark filings in fiscal year 2009 (FY09) year-to-date. We believe this is due to the current economic downturn, which has caused both large and small entities to reduce such activities.

• If patent filings continue at the current rate through the rest of FY09, we will end the year approximately 2 percent below where we were at the end of FY08. This is compounded by the fact that we had projected a growth in filings of five percent.

• Likewise, we are seeing a decline in the collection of a number of different patent fees--including filing, maintenance, and requests for extensions of time. If these collections continue at their current rates through the end of FY09, we will end the year collecting roughly $100 million below what we projected.

• Unfortunately, what we have heard from some international offices as well as U.S. filers is that we should expect much more significant drop-offs in filings and fee collections.

I also want to keep you posted on the actions we have taken so far in response to changes in filing rates. Other actions may be necessary if the filing rates decline further.

So far, the agency has taken the following steps:

• Hiring: After several years of hiring more than 1200 patent examiners per year, Patents has suspended further hiring at this time, but will honor all of the offers already extended. Agency-wide hiring has been significantly reduced to only those positions that are mission-critical.

• Awards and Bonuses: Many non-negotiated awards have been curtailed or suspended and will be reevaluated as the year progresses.

• Overtime: All non-production, non-revenue generating overtime has been suspended. Overtime that is revenue producing has been limited.

• Travel: All travel is being rigorously scrutinized by the business unit heads with the goal of reducing costs and focusing on mission-critical activities.

• Training: Most training, other than that required to sustain job-critical qualifications, has been suspended.

• Office Supplies: All business units have cut their remaining supply budgets by at least 25 percent.

• Contracts: We have reduced contracts and services.

• Events: Many agency events for employees and external audiences have been canceled or postponed indefinitely.

A few questions have come in regarding non-duty training and education programs. As noted in Acting Director Doll's video, all training that is not needed for job critical qualification has been suspended. This includes the three non-duty training programs: Non-Duty Hours Legal Studies Program, Non-Duty Hours Technical Studies Program, and After Work Education program. Employees enrolled in current courses already funded under these programs will be able to complete the courses they are currently enrolled in. Because the fees have already been paid, these courses are not affected in any way by the suspension.

For the Legal and Technical Studies programs, applications that had been fully approved by March 16 will be honored. Funding for any applications that had not been approved will be denied. An application that has been fully approved is one that has been signed and approved by first and second line supervisors as well as reviewed and approved by the Patents' training coordinator.

For the After Work Education Program, applications that have been fully approved by March 20, 2009 will be funded. Funding for applications submitted after that date by employees, other than those engaged in Trademark work, will be denied. Because of differences in agency funding rules between Patents' and Trademark's funds, we do have funding for technical support staff in Trademarks and in the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board. Applications from these employees will be processed as normal until further notice.

The agency has distinct agreements with POPA and NTEU Chapter 243 covering these training programs. These agreements contain special provisions regarding the continuing service agreement period in the event that the programs are suspended. If you are a program participant, please check your agreement for specifics.

As Acting Director Doll said in his video, we will continue to monitor filing rates and fee income. Maintaining employee salaries is the top priority. There are no plans to implement furloughs. We will keep you informed as additional budget information becomes available.

Thank you for your continued hard work during this period. We will continue to update you as we get more information.
 

Posted by Patent Hawk at April 13, 2009 12:54 PM | The Patent Office

Comments

"If patent filings continue at the current rate through the rest of FY09, we will end the year approximately 2 percent below where we were at the end of FY08."

ha... haha... hahaha... hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

[catches breath]

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

uhhh hhuhhhh, uhhh hhuhhhh, uhhh hhuhhhh

[o.k., I'm done]

Posted by: niRPa at April 13, 2009 1:49 PM

I must have missed the funny part NIRPA. Wutr you lafin bout?

Posted by: 6000 at April 13, 2009 3:22 PM

omgosh, good one 6K!! "missed the funny part"! R! R! R! You're too much!!!!

http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e128/swampchomp06/head-in-the-sand.jpg

Posted by: niRPa at April 13, 2009 5:03 PM

You're busting a gut over a measely 2%? Come on NIRPA I know you better than that.


In all seriousness though, can someone explain why we don't just up the fees to more reasonable levels? 2k filing etc? Like 1k will deter an applicant paying 16k to have his app filed. It'll barely stop 5% of apps I'd wager, and yet our revenue would increase by like 10-20%.

Posted by: 6000 at April 13, 2009 6:14 PM

"You're busting a gut over a measely 2%?"

I wouldn't even crack a smile over 2%, 6K.... Like you said, you've missed it, and you know me better than that.

Posted by: niRPa at April 14, 2009 2:29 AM

The PTO's numbers are actually off by 7%...which is a pretty significant number for budgetting purposes. The numbers are 2% less than last year and they budgeted for a 5% increase over last year.

Posted by: Examiner B at April 14, 2009 4:43 AM

Examiner B, even 7% wouldn't bring me to hysterics.

"Unfortunately, what we have heard from some international offices as well as U.S. filers is that we should expect *much more* significant drop-offs in filings and fee collections."

"Other actions may be necessary if the filing rates decline further."

Posted by: niRPa at April 14, 2009 4:50 AM

OK, prosecutors, grab your ankles, here it comes.

The annual patent practitioner fee will start at $500 and move steadily up to $1500 by 2015.

Somebody has to pay for all those CLE courses OED is preparing to push down our throats, and it ain't gonna' come from the issue fees.

Posted by: Babel Boy at April 14, 2009 7:23 AM

It's only going to get worse. My SPE re-iterated to my art unit some items that upper management had passed down to him. Nothing amazing, pretty obvious when you think about it. Unfortunately, it never dawned on upper management until it was revealed in meetings with IP industry leaders.

Filings are going to continue to decline as the recession continues (ie. IP cutbacks as a general cost-saving measure). However, the probability that an application would result in an allowable patent has decreased over the past couple of years. So now in these tough economic times, applicants are REALLY analyzing whether it is worth rolling the PTO dice considering the bleak allowance rate.

The end effect is that the PTO is getting hit with the double whammy of a recession compounded by the PTO's discouraging low allowance rate.

Posted by: Examiner B at April 14, 2009 7:32 AM

the pto deserves all the hurt industry can throw their way. hurts, don't it? stupidasses

Posted by: breaking bad wind at April 14, 2009 10:59 AM

"So now in these tough economic times, applicants are REALLY analyzing whether it is worth rolling the PTO dice considering the bleak allowance rate."

applicants with real inventions (mostly small entities) start to question the usefullness of a patent as a legal tool for preventing big corporations from ripping them off
Let's face it, folks, patents are worth shit today
Just take a look at the recent Ocean Tomo Patent Auction results...
What goes around always comes back
Ultimately we are talking the end of American leadership in science and technogy, no less
Thank your moronic scotus justices and congress critters alike, not to mention the PTO dudeas and other patento freaks
Amen, brothers

Posted by: angry dude at April 14, 2009 11:47 AM

"The annual patent practitioner fee will start at $500 and move steadily up to $1500 by 2015."

If we get CLE out of it, I don't see the problem. We have to do CLE anyway and it isn't free now.

Posted by: Tazistan Jen at April 14, 2009 12:08 PM

Taz

Have I missed something? Has OED started requiring CLE of PTO prosecutors already, or are you talking about your state bar CLE.

Posted by: Babel Boy at April 14, 2009 1:30 PM