Last week, I reported that the new appropriations for the remaining five-months of FY2011 would force the USPTO to cut approximately $100,000,000.00 from its budget. That figure represents more than a 10% cut in what the office was expecting to spend during this period. Today, USPTO Director David Kappos confirmed my statements in a message to USPTO Employees. He writes:
In view of the funding cuts reflected in the final budget and affecting the U.S. government as a whole, we will be unable to expend the additional $85-100 million in fees that we will be collecting during this fiscal year—funds that we had anticipated being able to use to fund operations this year.
… Further, I am mindful of the fact that we may very well be operating at the FY 2011 level for the foreseeable future. As a result, we have had to make some difficult decisions in order to ensure the responsible stewardship of the agency.
Based on the budget cuts, Director Kappos has announced the following changes for the patent examination corps:
- No overtime;
- Hiring freeze;
- Training limited to "mandatory training";
- PCT search funding is cut severely;
- Detroit satellite office is indefinitely postponed;
- IT infrastructure investments eliminated except for "mission-critical" issues;
- Track One expedited patent examination program indefinitely postponed; and
- Mandatory reductions in expenses including travel, conferences, and other contracts.
The $85-100 million in fees that the USPTO will collect but not be allowed to spend will be passed to the general federal government coffers to be spent on other non-patent projects. These cuts will obviously have a negative impact on patent quality, patent pendency, and examiner morale.