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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Appropriations Process: A Brief Explanation

Wendy H. Schacht
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) examines and approves applications for patents on claimed inventions and administers the registration of trademarks. It also assists other federal departments and agencies protect American intellectual property in the international marketplace. The USPTO is funded by user fees paid by customers that are designated as “offsetting collections” and subject to spending limits established by the Committee on Appropriations.

Until recently, appropriation measures limited USPTO use of all fees accumulated within a fiscal year. Critics of this approach argued that because agency operations are supported by payments for services, all fees were necessary to fund these services in the year they were provided. Some experts claimed that a portion of the patent and trademark collections were used to offset the cost of other, non-related programs. Proponents of limiting use of funds collected maintained that the fees appropriated back to the USPTO were sufficient to cover the agency’s operating budget.

P.L. 112-29, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, keeps the use of fees collected within the congressional appropriations process, but requires that fees generated above the budget authority provided by the Committee on Appropriations be placed in a separate fund within the Department of the Treasury. While use of these “excess” funds still remain under the control of the appropriators, they may only be used for the work of the USPTO.

Date of Report: June 18, 2013
Number of Pages: 7
Order Number: RS20906
Price: $19.95

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