By Donald Zuhn --
On Monday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a notice in the Federal Register (77 Fed. Reg. 4509) announcing that the Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) will be holding two public hearings in February regarding proposed patent fees. The public hearings are being held pursuant to § 10 of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which concerns the Office's fee setting authority. Under that section, the Director is permitted to set or adjust any fee established, authorized, or charged under Title 35 (but "only to recover the aggregate estimated costs to the Office for processing, activities, services, and materials relating to patents").
AIA § 10 also outlines the process whereby the Director is allowed to set or adjust such fees. In particular, the Director must submit a proposed fee change to the PPAC not less than 45 days before publishing the proposed fee in the Federal Register, after which the PPAC shall have 30 days to deliberate, consider, and comment on the proposal as well as hold a public hearing on the proposal. The Director shall then consider and analyze the PPAC's comments, advice, or recommendations before setting or adjusting the fee. AIA § 10 also requires that the Director provide the public with a 45-day period in which to comment on any fee change, and specifies that fee changes shall not become effective until 45 days after the final rule regarding such change is published in the Federal Register (in order to give Congress an opportunity to enact a law disapproving of the fee change).
In Monday's notice, the Office indicated that it is planning to set or adjust fees pursuant to its § 10 fee setting authority. In order to comply with the requirements of § 10, the Office will be holding two public hearings on proposed patent fees. The hearings will take place on from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm (EST) on February 15 in the Madison Auditorium, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314; and from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm (PST) on February 23, 2012 at the Sunnyvale Public Library, 665 W. Olive Avenue, Sunnyvale, California 94086. Both public hearings will be made available via webcast (details forthcoming).
The notice indicates that the Office will publish a proposed patent fee schedule and related supplementary information for public viewing on the USPTO's AIA webpage no later than February 7, 2012. Following the public hearings, the Office intends to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register setting forth the proposed patent fees, after which the public will be afforded an opportunity to comment on the fees again.
Individuals wishing to present oral testimony at either hearing must request an opportunity to do so in writing no later than February 8, 2012. Requests to testify must be submitted by e-mail to Jennifer Lo at Jennifer.Lo@uspto.gov, and should include: (1) the name of the person wishing to testify; (2) the person's contact information (telephone number and e-mail address); (3) the organizations the person represents, if any; and (4) an indication of the amount of time needed for the testimony.
Those wishing to submit written comments must do so on or before February 29, 2012. Written comments can be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail addressed to: United States Patent and Trademark Office, Mail Stop CFO, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA 22313–1450, ATTN: Michelle Picard.