On Friday, June 28, 2013, three members of the House of Representatives from Northern California submitted a bill called the Patents and Trademarks Encourage New Technology (PATENT) Jobs Act. The purpose of the legislation is to exempt the United States Patent and Trademark Office from sequestration budget cuts and to allow the USPTO full access to the collected user fees.
The text of the bill is not long. The main provisions contained in Section 1 of the bill under the title “Termination of Sequestration in Fiscal Year 2013 for the Patent and Trademark Office,” says:
“Notwithstanding the presidential order issued on March 1, 2013, under section 251A of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985 (2 U.S.C. 901a), on and after the date of the enactment of this Act, the budgetary resources sequestered under such order with respect to the United States Patent and Trademark Office shall be available for obligation for the same purpose and in the same manner as if such order had not been issued. The other section of the bill, Section 2, would exempt the USPTO from sequestration budget cuts for fiscal years 2014 through 2021.”
(Pictured: Rep. Zoe Lofgren)
Congressman Mike Honda (D-San Jose),Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) introduced the legislation. These members represent California’s 17th District, 19th District and 18th District respectively.
You may think it is obvious why these Representatives are interested in the USPTO budget, since they represent the areas in and around Silicon Valley, one of the primary concentrations of high-tech corporations in the United States. Yes, it would make sense for them to be generally interested in the USPTO, but the press release of Representative Honda holds the key to understanding the specific justification for their interest. The Honda press release explains:
“Without a legislative remedy, the shortfall effectively stops the agency from opening five new, highly anticipated regional patent offices across the country, including one located in Silicon Valley.”
The USPTO is planning to open the third, fourth and fifth satellite patent office locations, one of which will be in Silicon Valley. (The other two locations are Dallas/Ft. Worth and Denver.) The USPTO has already opened a satellite location in Detroit. With these budget cuts and lack of access to some $150 million in agency-collected fees, the USPTO will likely not be able to open those other, coveted government offices.
Time will tell whether this bill gains any traction or whether it is much ado about nothing and primarily legislative grandstanding to gain favor with local constituents and businesses. In the meantime, however, the wording of the bill is interesting in and of itself. It’s a bold move to propose legislation that basically says “ignore the President’s Budget Order issued March 1, 2013.” See also PATENT Jobs Act Seeks to Exempt USPTO from Sequestration.