By Donald Zuhn --
In a letter sent to President Trump earlier this month, a group of twenty companies, organizations, and individuals expressed concern about the effect of the President's January 23, 2017 hiring freeze on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and innovation in the United States. The group noted that the USPTO is not supported by taxpayer dollars, but instead operates entirely on user fees. The Group also noted that from 2010-2014, $409.8 million in user fees were diverted from the USPTO to general government spending. According to the group's letter, as a result of this fee diversion, the hiring freeze essentially amounts to a tax on America's inventors that is diverted from USPTO operations to general government spending, and "[t]axing inventors in this way thwarts innovation and harms the economy."
The group also contends that fee diversion, coupled with the hiring freeze, also limits the USPTO's ability to hire new examiners, which "will stymie efforts to improve the total patent pendency rate which is currently 25.6 months, down from 27.4 months just two years ago." The letter suggests that increasing the pendency rate by decreasing the number of patent examiners "will be a boon to our foreign competitors," and specifically to China, which the group points out is granting patents at a faster rate than the U.S. Noting that the U.S. fell from first in 2016 to ten in 2017 in rankings of patent system strength released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center, the letter contends that "[t]he United States should have the best patent system in the world, and not allowing the USPTO to hire needed examiners will cause the U.S. to fall farther behind."
The letter concludes by expressing appreciation for the President's efforts to "put America first," and asking the President to "keep this purpose in mind in exempting the USPTO from the hiring freeze and asking Congress to permanently end the practice of USPTO fee diversion."
The following companies, organizations, and individuals were signatories on the letter: Alliance of U.S. Startups & Inventors for Jobs (USIJ); Bernard Shay, Entrepreneur and Patent Attorney; Bi-Level Technologies; Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO); Earlens Corporation; ExploraMed Development, LLC; IEEE-USA; InterDigital Inc.; Kenneth Stanwood, CTO, Wi-LAN Inc.; Licensing Executives Society (USA and Canada), Inc.; Medical Device Manufacturers Association (MDMA); Miramar Labs, Inc.; National Venture Capital Association (NVCA); NeoTract, Inc.; Nuelle, Inc.; Peter A. Socarras, Senior Director, Intellectual Property, Nevro Corp.; Qool Therapeutics, Inc.; Small Business Technology Council; Susan Schmitt, Esquire; and The Innovation Alliance.