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Use of Patent Fees Raises Concerns

February 27, 1998

Industry associations are expressing concern that the diversion of user fees from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is adversely affecting the speed of innovation. The PTO receives no taxpayer dollars and is supported entirely by user fees; however, for the last several years, most of those user fees have gone to the government's general fund to help balance the budget rather than to support PTO operations.

Under the Clinton Administration's 1999 budget proposal, $119 million in user fees would go to the general fund. This amount is up from $92 million in FY1998 and $54 million in FY1997.

Several professional associations and trade groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, have argued that if PTO were able to retain more or all of its user fees the PTO would be able to cut its backlog of pending patent applications and speed the process of bringing new products to market.

This provision is expected to be discussed by industry leaders at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property scheduled for March 19.