Just two weeks ago, we talked about the new “Fast-Track” program by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) designed to expedite the patent process.
Fast-Track: meet speed bump.
The USPTO has announced that, as a result of the new budget signed by President Obama on April 15, the agency won’t be able to go forward with fast-track patent review as previously planned. Under the fiscal year 2011 budget, the office will see its budget limited to $2.09 billion (less than the $2.3 billion the Obama administration had pushed for) and, more importantly, will lose the ability to spend all the fees it collects. The USPTO has long been used to its funds being diverted, and this year will be no exception.
The planned patent fast track would have allowed inventors to submit their patent applications with an extra $4,000 fee and be guaranteed complete examination within 12 months (for a time savings of between one-and-a-half and two years, on average). The program was scheduled to go into effect on May 4, 2011.
The patent fast-track isn’t the only program to take a hit as a result of the new budget. The USPTO has also cancelled plans to open a satellite office in Detroit, frozen hiring for both new positions and backfills, scaled back information technology projects, reduced employee training, and suspended overtime. And work on foreign patent programs, like the Patent Cooperation Treaty, is being scaled back. In short, the office responsible for Americans’ innovations is being hamstrung in its own efforts to innnovate. Americans should be concerned.
According to David Kappos, USPTO director: “Trademarks is unaffected and will maintain normal operations.”
Bloomberg notes that President Obama is requesting $2.6 billion for the fiscal year 2012 budget for the USPTO, so perhaps the fast track isn’t quite dead yet – but it most likely won’t be resurrected before the end of fiscal year 2011 on September 30.
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