In a message to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) employees today, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos discussed the effects of the Continuing Appropriations Act for FY 2011.
The FY 2011 budget was signed by the president on April 15, 2011 and contains the USPTO’s appropriation through the end of this fiscal year, September 30, 2011. With the enactment of the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (Pub. Law 112-10), USPTO spending authority for FY 2011 has been limited to $2.09 billion. In view of the funding cuts reflected in the final budget and affecting the U.S. government as a whole, the USPTO will be unable to expend the additional $85-100 million in fees that will be collected during this fiscal year – funds that the USPTO had anticipated being able to use to fund operations this year.
In short, according to Kappos, the Continuing Appropriations Act for FY 2011 does not allow the USPTO to maintain spending at the levels planned for this year. Further, Kappos stated that he was mindful of the fact that the USPTO may very well be operating at the FY 2011 level for the foreseeable future. According to Kappos, the Office had had to make some difficult decisions in order to ensure the responsible stewardship of the agency. Against that backdrop he announced, effective immediately, that:
- All overtime is suspended until further notice;
- Hiring – both for new positions and for backfills – is frozen for the rest of the year unless an exemption is given by the Office of the Under Secretary;
- Funding for employee training will be limited to mandatory training for the remainder of the year;
- Funding for contracting of Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) search is significantly reduced;
- The opening of the planned Nationwide Workforce satellite office in Detroit and any consideration of other satellite locations are postponed until further notice;
- Only limited funding will be available for mission-critical IT capital investments;
- The Track One expedited patent examination program, scheduled to go into effect on May 4, 2011, is postponed until further notice.
In addition, all business units will be required to reduce all other non-compensation-related expenses, including travel, conferences and contracts.
Trademark activities are unaffected and will maintain normal operations.
Kappos ended by saying “I want each of you to know that we have not come by these decisions easily. I recognize that these measures will place additional burdens on your offices, your staff, and your ability to carry out the agency’s mission. However, I believe that they are absolutely necessary to ensuring that the agency can continue to operate through the remainder of this fiscal year and into FY 2012.”