U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, May 5, 2011
CONTACT: CONTACT: Ian Koski at 202-224-4216

Congress is shortchanging innovators by delaying patent-processing reforms

PTO’s Innovative expedited patent-application processing program would have started this week

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) today lamented the need for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel its innovative “Track One” expedited patent-examination pilot program because of archaic budgeting rules that would be fixed if the House passes its version of the America Invents Act. The Senate passed the bill in March.

“The pace of American innovation far exceeds the pace of American bureaucracy,” Senator Coons wrote in an op-ed on Huffington Post today. “If you were looking for ways to limit economic recovery, stifling PTO’s ability to grant patents would be pretty high on the list. Fee diversion is effectively a tax on innovation, punishing the very people we ought to be empowering.”

The op-ed is pasted below but can be read on HuffingtonPost.com here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-coons/shortchanging-inventors-i_b_857990.html

The Track One program would have given businesses with time-sensitive inventions the option of paying an additional $4,000 fee for PTO to review and decide on the application within one year. A pilot program authorized by Congress would have allowed up to 10,000 applications to be accepted for the fast-track program.

The Patent and Trademark Office had planned to debut the Track One program yesterday, but had to cancel it because the funding level approved in the FY11 continuing resolution was at the FY10 level – $85 million to $100 million below what was requested. Though the PTO collects fees on each application, it is only allowed to spend the amount allocated by Congress for that fiscal year – even when it collects more than what’s allocated. PTO Commissioner David Kappos canceled the Track One program last week after determining the agency couldn’t afford the expedited program at the FY09 funding level.

The result is a continued backlog of more than 700,000 patent applications that means a patent filed today wouldn’t even be reviewed for two years and a Patent and Trademark Office that is prevented from taking the necessary action to process those applications.

“Congress’ delay in ending patent-fee diversion is costing America jobs at a time when we desperately need to be getting more Americans back to work,” Senator Coons wrote.

The America Invents Act, which Senator Coons cosponsored and which passed the Senate in March with an overwhelming and bipartisan 95-5 vote, would end fee-diversion and give PTO the flexibility to reduce the application backlog. Senator Coons called on the House of Representatives to take up its version of the legislation, H.R. 1426, which cleared the House Judiciary Committee last month.

“I hope Speaker Boehner moves quickly to bring H.R. 1249 up for a vote on the House floor,” Senator Coons wrote. “Every day we fail to act is another day that hundreds of thousands of innovations – and the millions of jobs they can create – remain nothing more than unread good ideas on paper in someone’s inbox.”

Senator Coons is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Patent and Trademark Office
America Invents Act
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