What you need to know
The newly enacted FY2011 budget significantly cuts US Patent and Trademark Office funding and has forced delays in a variety of initiatives, including the proposed Track One accelerated examination program and recent efforts to reduce the backlog of patent applications. Trademarks will apparently not be affected by the cutbacks.
What you need to do
Companies can no longer strategize for fixed fee expedited review, as that option will not be available, but should prioritize their portfolios to maximize value and consider the existing accelerated examination program, since the budget cuts will further delay processing of patent applications.
The newly enacted FY2011 budget significantly cuts US Patent and Trademark Office funding and has forced delays in a variety of initiatives. These reductions impact patent practice. The trademark branch of the PTO “is unaffected and will maintain normal operations.”
Unfortunately, the PTO is postponing indefinitely an exciting new program that we recently advised you about and that was scheduled to have taken effect in early May 2011. The program, Track One, would have allowed applicants to obtain final decisions on their patent applications within 12 months by paying a fixed fee of $4,000 for prioritized examination without any requirement to characterize the prior art.
Apparently, the PTO’s current accelerated examination program, under which applicants must meet stringent administrative requirements and characterize the prior art, remains in effect. Though expensive and not without risks, this program may prove more appealing for certain cases when the alternative is significant delay.
Numerous other PTO initiatives and activities have also been impacted by the reductions, including:
- The opening of a new PTO worksite for patent examiners in Detroit has been postponed; and
- PTO employee hiring has been frozen, payment of employee overtime has been suspended, and employee training has been reduced.
While the precise impact of these reductions is unknown, these cutbacks will almost certainly slow the progress the PTO has shown in reducing its backlog of patent applications.
We always encourage strategic review of patent portfolios, including regular assessment of the costs associated with individual filings and the likely timing for issuance of valuable patents. News of PTO delays is always disappointing, but can offer additional opportunities, or at least a re-sorting of priorities. In our experience, the current environment in front of the PTO remains pro-patent, and we look forward to working with you to take best advantage of current opportunities.