Washington -- House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today introduced the Patent and Trademark Office Funding Stabilization Act. This legislation assists our nation's inventors and innovative businesses by providing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with urgently needed resources for reliable and sustainable funding.
Specifically the bill gives the USPTO fee-setting authority, provides it the authority to impose a 15 percent temporary surcharge for all of the USPTO’s fees, and prevents fees collected from being diverted from the agency for unrelated government programs. This bill responds to the present fiscal crisis at the USPTO by helping the agency hire additional examiners, help reduce the backlog of patent applications, and improve patent quality.
Chairman Conyers: “The bill we introduce today is not intended to impact the negotiations over the larger patent bill pending in the Senate. Ranking Member Smith and I remain optimistic and hopeful about the prospects for passage this Congress of comprehensive patent reform. We expect to continue to work with our Senate colleagues on the larger bill.
“We had initially planned to introduce a bill solely addressing fee setting authority and bring it up for a vote. However, upon reflection, it has become evident that fee setting authority, fee diversion, and a temporary surcharge are interrelated and we hope to now work with all stakeholders on this package.”
The USPTO is in the midst of a crisis. According to Commerce Department figures, the number of unexamined patents has ballooned to over 750,000. Exacerbating this problem is the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars in fees have been diverted from the USPTO over the years. This year we expect another $200 million to be similarly diverted. This fee diversion robs the USPTO of valuable resources needed to hire and retain qualified examiners and address patent backlog issues. Increased backlogs and poor patent quality affect not only the agency, they hurt American innovation, and delay our economic and jobs recovery.
Ranking Member Smith: “More than 750,000 patent applications are pending before the Patent and Trademark Office. Every year, close to 500,000 new applications are filed. New products and innovations drive the American economy and help create jobs. By giving the Patent and Trademark Office the authority to set or adjust user fees, Congress can help the PTO hire much-needed patent examiners to reduce the backlog and improve patent quality. We can also help ensure that money collected by the fees is no longer diverted to other government agencies.
“The quick and thorough processing of patent applications is critical to getting new products onto the market and into the hands of consumers. While Congress still needs to take up comprehensive patent reform, this bill is a good first step to updating our patent system, expediting review and improving patent quality.”
The text of the legislation is attached: CONYER_076_xml.pdf