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Archived updates for Monday, July 24, 2006

Excerpts from the Senate Report on USPTO Appropriations for 2007

Here are a few excerpts from the July 13, 2006 Senate Report (S. Rpt. 109-280, Text, PDF) on the DEPARTMENTS OF COMMERCE AND JUSTICE, SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ("Funding") BILL for 2007:
The Committee agrees to provide the Director the flexibility to reduce
patent filing fees in 2007 for documents filed electronically in accordance with
Federal regulation. Having granted this flexibility, the Committee directs USPTO
to provide a report to the Senate Committee on Appropriations detailing the cost
savings associated with this reduction in patent filing fees.

Hiring, Retention, and Human Resource Practices -- An innovation friendly
Government depends on an efficient patent system. Since fiscal year 2004, the
Committee has provided a 45 percent increase in funding for PTO, including
funding to hire thousands of new patent examiners. Yet during the same time
period, the backlog of pending patent applications has grown to over 500,000,
and it still takes an average of over 2.5 years to process a patent application.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General has received repeated complaints that PTO has
allowed or encouraged unfair personnel practices. The IG has identified these
problems as one of the top 10 management challenges of the Department of
Commerce. Even with increased funding, the problems at PTO are getting worse,
evidence that what is needed is better management. The Committee notes that in
June 2005, the Government Accountability Office [GAO] recommended several steps PTO should take to improve retention of patent examiners. The Committee directs PTO to provide a report to the Senate Committee on Appropriations, by March 2, 2007, on the status of implementation of GAO's recommendations, as well as, additional steps PTO will take to improve hiring, retention, and human resource

The Committee is concerned by the lack of information provided on the
progress of the National Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordination
Council [NIPLECC]. Funding was provided for NIPLECC in the amount of $2,000,000 under a separate heading in fiscal year 2005 and $500,000 under this heading in fiscal year 2006. The budget request proposes $990,000 for NIPLECC under the Department of Commerce's Departmental Management account in fiscal year 2007. The Committee questions the ability of any program to be successful without continuity within the Department and further questions the need to continue funding a program that neither the Department of Commerce nor the Department of Justice, the Co-Chairs of NIPLECC, are able to adequately justify or that has proven to be of any success. The Committee notes with disdain that the report required by the fiscal year 2006 conference report was never received and directs USPTO and DOJ to submit a report on the progress of NIPLECC no more than 30 days after the enactment of this act.
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