Not even a month ago, I attended a talk by Director Kappos on the future of the USPTO and the many improvements he had in store for 2011. Initiatives, such as the Three-Track Examination program designed to reduce the considerable backlog plaguing the USPTO, were extolled. Dir. Kappos also discussed the hiring of new patent examiners and the opening of the first USPTO satellite office in Detroit, Michigan. Dir. Kappos’ enthusiasm was infectious and many left the session optimistic about the future of the USPTO.
All this momentum came to a crashing halt on April 15, 2011 after the FY 2011 budget, containing the USPTO’s appropriation through to September 30, 2011, was announced. The Patent Office’s total budget for 2011 was limited to $2.09 billion, forcing it to make reductions to many of its planned activities.
In his April 22, 2011 Director’s Forum blog entry, Dir. Kappos announced the following:
- Track 1 of the Three-Track Examination program, scheduled to begin on May 4, 2011, is postponed;
- Opening of the Detroit satellite office is postponed, and the hiring of new Examiners is frozen;
- IT projects would be scaled back;
- Funding for Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) outsourcing would be substantially reduced;
- Employee training would be reduced; and
- All overtime is suspended.
Talk about a major downer. Seems rather hypocritical hearing politicians tout innovation as a major factor for turning America’s economy around, but then taking away the funding needed to accomplish just that. If there’s ever been a time to allow the USPTO to keep its own fees, that time is now!