The Judiciary Committee aproved a Coburn amendment that ends fee diversion by congressional appropriators from U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) fees they receive from patent applicants.
The amendment is seen as a key piece to improving patent quality for the patents being issued by USPTO. USPTO and other patent organizations support the amendment. In fact, there is no organization involved in the patent system that opposes the permanent end of fee diversion.
The amendment cuts off congressional appropriators’ ability to divert fees collected by the USPTO for other general revenue purposes by cancelling the Appropriations Account for USPTO fees and setting up an new account in the U.S. Treasury for the fees to be directly deposited.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, such fee diversion occurred regularly and hampered USPTO’s ability to hire examiners, replace retirees and keep down the backlog of patents issued. The new USPTO revolving account in the US Treasury will receive all fees and allow for expenditure without first going through the appropriations process.
The PTO’s dependence on yearly appropriations makes it difficult to undertake long term planning and to adjust to long term needs related to personnel and technology improvements.
Currently it takes about 31 months for a patent to be issued. The ideal time for final issuance is 18 months.
A House appropriations subcommittee commissioned a report published in August 2005 which called on Congress to do exactly what this amendment says. The report also found that had Congress not diverted the fees, the patent backlog would have been reduced to about 22 months, almost the ideal issuance timeframe.
Thus, Congress’ past practice of fee diversion directly contributes to slower issuance of patents which means that inventors and their companies are losing time bringing their technology to market and benefiting consumers, the economy and the American public.