House Budget Committee recommends USPTO be independent agency


The House Budget Committee recently released a non-binding budget blueprint titled Building a Better America: A Plan for Fiscal Responsibility. As a part of this proposed fiscal year 2018 budget, the House Budget Committee is proposing that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) be made an independent agency.

On page 50 of the House budget proposal, under a heading discussing the elimination of overlapping Department of Commerce functions and consolidating necessary Department of Commerce functions into other Departments, the proposal includes the line item: “Establish the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as an independent agency.” No further information is provided relating how that might be accomplished. The budget proposal does say, however, that the Commerce Department and its various agencies “are rife with waste, abuse, and duplication,” which is why House Republicans are recommending a different approach for the federal government supporting commerce moving forward.

The USPTO is the federal agency charged with granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks, and falls within the Department of Commerce. The USPTO advises the President of the United States, the Secretary of Commerce, and U.S. government agencies on intellectual property (IP) policy, protection, and enforcement. The USPTO also promotes stronger and more effective IP protection around the world.

Meanwhile, there has also been at least some discussion in the halls of Capitol Hill of an independent Copyright Office. Earlier this year, on February 2, 2017, Congressman Tom Marino, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced H.R. 890, known as the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act. H.R. 890, which has only two co-sponsors, would establish the U.S. Copyright Office as a separate independent agency in the legislative branch, to be headed by a director appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

On March 23, 2017, Congress Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced H.R. 1695, known as the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017., which seeks to make the Registrar of Copyrights a Presidential Appointment.  The bill has 33 co-sponsors, with 29 of those co-sponsors sitting on the House Judiciary Committee. Thus, it is no great surprise that only days after it was introduced, on March 29, 2017, the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 1695 by a vote of 27-1. The House passed H.R. 1695 by a vote of 378-48 on April 26, 2017. A companion bill has been submitted in the Senate — S. 1010 — but no action other than introduction has taken place to date.

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