12 April 2017
Washington DC
Reporter: Barney Dixon

US innovators address USPTO hiring freeze


Groups including the Biotechnology Innovation Organization have written a letter to US President Donald Trump, lamenting the current hiring freeze at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The signatories, which include the Alliance of US Startups & Inventors for Jobs, InterDigital and the Licensing Executives Society, said the hiring freeze is ultimately a taxation on innovation, which “thwarts innovation and harms the economy”.

This is due to fees from patent and trademark applications at the USPTO. The federal government does not always permit the USPTO to keep all of the fees it collects, but generally the fees are returned to the USPTO and put back into its infrastructure.

According to the groups, the hiring freeze means the USPTO is unable to reinvest its earnings, resulting in a would-be tax on inventors and brands.

The freeze was instituted on 31 January 2017 as part of a federal hiring block across all executive departments.

The groups also said that a lack of effort to hire new examiners and update the agency would “stymie efforts to improve the total patent pendency rate which is currently 25.6 months down from 27.4 months just two years ago”.

This could directly lead to the US losing its place as the top patent system in the world. The US fell to number 10 in 2017, according to the Global Intellectual Property Center at the US Chamber of Commerce.

“The US should have the best patent system in the world, and not allowing the USPTO to hire needed examiners will cause the US to fall farther behind.”

“We cannot afford to fall farther behind our foreign competitors by obstructing access to the patent system.”

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