15 April 2020

Concern for USPTO’s finances amid decline in filings

US lawmakers are concerned that a reduction in trademark filings could impact the operations of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

To help businesses cope during the COVID-19 crisis, the USPTO announced last month that it was waiving certain fees for patent and trademark applications, as well as late fees for missed deadlines.

But six lawmakers including senators Thom Tillis and Christopher Coons fear the crisis could require the agency to need financial support.

“As a fully fee-funded agency, the USPTO is more likely than other agencies to feel the residual effects of any crisis’s impact on the private sector,” said a  letter addressed to USPTO director Andrei Iancu, signed by several other lawmakers with an interest in IP.

The legislators want the USPTO to provide a “status update” on the USPTO’s operations during the pandemic, including its transition to a fully virtual working environment, and the potential impact that any decline in filings may have on the agency long-term.

“We also request additional details on the scope of the declining trademark filings, the impact that declining filings may have on the agency in the long-term, and what financial contingencies might be required should the decline continue or expand beyond trademark operations,” the letter said.

Governments and IP offices around the world have waived or cut fees for IP services in order to help businesses cope during the economic slowdown.

Yesterday, WIPR reported that the  United Arab Emirates (UAE) had cut certain fees by up to 95%, while trademark filing fees were slashed by a quarter.

China has already announced it would  forego fees for missed patent deadlines, where the delay could be traced back to the COVID-19 crisis.

Senator Tillis, chair of a senate IP committee, has also hit out at the  Internet Archive, who established a free “emergency library” online during the pandemic.

According to Tillis, the move is in violation of copyright law, and the IP rights of publishers and authors.

The Internet Archive has responded that the emergency library is protected under the “fair use” doctrine in copyright law.

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More on this story

30 June 2020   The US Patent and Trademark Office has further extended fee payment deadlines for small businesses, despite fears for the office’s funding.
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