For the most part, government accountants do not care that the USPTO is fee-funded rather than taxpayer-funded. Thus, $100 million cut from the USPTO budget counts as $100 million cut from the federal budget. In the current budget climate, you can imagine where this is going.
It appears that the most recent federal budget compromise (H.R. 1473, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011) would strip approximately $100 million from USPTO collected fees and divert that money to other federal programs. The proposed budget provision is written as follows:
Notwithstanding section 1101, the level for ”Department of Commerce, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Salaries and Expenses” shall be $2,090,000,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That the sum herein appropriated from the general fund shall be reduced as offsetting collections assessed and collected pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 1113 and 35 U.S.C. 41 and 376 are received during fiscal year 2011, so as to result in a fiscal year 2011 appropriation from the general fund estimated at $0: Provided further, That during fiscal year 2011, should the total amount of offsetting fee collections be less than $2,090,000,000, this amount shall be reduced accordingly.
The USPTO currently expects to receive about $2.19 billion in fee collections for FY2011, but the bill would limit the Agency’s spending to $2.09 billion. That extra $100 million would then go to pay for other government expenditures. Although $100 million only about 5% of the USPTO’s annual budget, the cuts ask for $100 million from the next five months, which would represent a 10% cut in spending over that time period.
The AIPLA has continued to lobby congress to allow the USPTO to spend the fees that it collects. AIPLA executive director Todd Dickinson wrote “The ability of the Office to do an efficient and reliable job depends on these funds, none of which comes from Treasury or has any impact on reducing overall government spending.”