Citing Budget Concerns, Fast-Track Program Suspended
On Friday, April 22, 2011, the Director of the Patent Office, David Kappos, announced on his public blog that “significant reductions” will be implemented at the Patent Office during the current fiscal year. Mr. Kappos announced cutbacks for various programs, including the planned patent application expedited examination process ("Fast-Track"), as well as the elimination of planned PTO satellite offices, including in Detroit, Michigan.
The announcement on the Director’s blog came in response to the much publicized 2011 U.S. federal budget that was formally enacted on April 15th. Appropriations in the federal budget for the Patent Office through the end of this fiscal year (September 30, 2011) have been limited to $2.09 billion. The PTO Director makes clear that this represents a significant reduction in anticipated Patent Office appropriations.
Some Patent Office reductions that are listed on the director's blog include the following programs. Part 1 of the expedited patent examination program that was scheduled to go into effect on May 4th has been indefinitely postponed. The opening of PTO satellite offices, including in Detroit, is also put on hold. All new position and backfill hirings have been frozen. Planned information technology projects are to be scaled back. Funding for Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) outsourcing is significantly reduced. Employee training is also cut back, and there is an immediate suspension of all overtime work at the Patent Office. Other reductions include funding for business units that include non-compensation-related expenses, such as travel, conferences and contracts.
Suspension of these programs and the various funding restrictions caused by the federal budget may negatively impact patent examination quality. Programs and proposals that were proposed to decrease patent pendency have been curtailed, which may increase delays in patent prosecution. Hopefully, all of the programs and funding will be restored in fiscal year 2012.
We will continue to monitor and report on this important development on our website and Facebook page.
For a link to the PTO Director’s public blog, Click Here.