United States Patent and Trademark Office
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The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the organization within the United States government that reviews and grants patents and trademarks. The USPTO is tasked with defining patent types and what each type covers and protects. Established under the Department of Commerce on July 19, 1952 by 35 U.S.C. §1, the USPTO is intended to fulfill the mandate in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.". Since 1790, the US has issued more than 6.5 million patents. The agency's main offices reside in Alexandria, Virginia, with several satellite offices around the country.
In April 2016, the USPTO had an unexamined patent backlog of 549,896 and 352,573 application filings for review. The unexamined patent backlog is a record of how many UPR Patents are waiting for review by a patent examiner, and application filings are how many patents are being sent in for review.  The USPTO reports that in 2016 the average total pendency time, the time between filing a patent application and issuing or dismissing a patent, has been 26 months. The USPTO stated in its Performance and Accountability Report for 2015 that it struggles to find and to maintain sustainable funding. The report shows that the funding is necessary to improve on both patent and trademark quality and timeliness. 
- 1 Organization
- 2 Funding
- 3 Fee Diversion
- 4 Contact Information
- 5 References
- Director and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property: Michelle K. Lee
- Michelle Lee was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as the Director of the USPTO on November 11, 2014 and officially took the oath of office on March 12, 2015. She is the first female to hold the office.. Her first role within the USPTO was serving as the Director of the USPTO Silicon Valley regional office.. Prior to joining the USPTO, Lee served as the Deputy General Counsel for Google.
- Deputy Director: Russell Slifer
- Chief of Staff: (Vacant)
- Commissioner for Patents: Drew Hirshfeld
- Commissioner for Trademarks: Mary Boney Denison
- Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs: Shira Perlmutter
- Chief Administrative Officer: Frederick Steckler
- Chief Communication Officer: (Vacant)
- Chief Financial Officer: Anthony P. Scardino
- Chief Information Officer: John Owens II
- General Counsel: Sarah Harris
- Acting Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property Law and Solicitor: Thomas Krause
- Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity: Bismark Myrick
The USPTO released its 2015-2018 People Plan, which outlines three pillars of focus for its workforce through the 2018 fiscal year. The Office intends to use the three pillars of lead, engage, and enable for its strategic human capital planning, which is "the process by which an organization takes stock of how its people and people-management activities align with and support the agency’s strategic goals." The primary results consist of diversifying and developing its workforce, connecting its employees with the core vision of the USPTO, and maximizing its internal leadership capabilities.
At the end of FY 2015, the USPTO employed 12,667 individuals, which includes 9,161 patent examiners and 456 trademark examining attorneys.. This number is up from 12,450 total federal employees in FY 2014 and 11,773 employees in FY 2013. The USPTO is expected to employ around 13,500 employees for FY 2016.
|Fiscal Year||Total Employees||Patent Examiners||Trademark Examining Attorneys|
The USPTO currently holds four regional offices in addition to its headquarters in Alexandria, VA. In 2010, the office piloted its first regional office in Detroit, MI through the Nationwide Workforce Program. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act provided for the USPTO to "establish 3 or more satellite offices in the United States to carry out the responsibilities of the Office." Subsequently, the USPTO decided to expand to all time zones through offices in Denver, CO, Silicon Valley, CA, and Dallas, TX.
Regional offices were created with the purpose to:
- (1) increase outreach activities to better connect patent filers and innovators with the Office;
- (2) enhance patent examiner retention;
- (3) improve recruitment of patent examiners;
- (4) decrease the number of patent applications waiting for examination; and
- (5) improve the quality of patent examination.
In 2006, the USPTO offices were consolidated in a new campus encompassing ten buildings all connected by underground walkways. The location includes 70,000-square-foot mission-critical data center and the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum, which re-opened on May 21, 2014.
The Elijah J. McCoy United States Patent and Trademark Office, serves as the first regional office of the USPTO. Originally created under the National Workforce Program in 2012, the office provides services including but not limited to complete patent databases, collaborative workstations, regularly scheduled workshops, and public tours. Christal Sheppard serves as the current director of the regional office. The regional office serves the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The Rocky Mountain Regional Office, located in the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building in downtown Denver, has been open since June 30, 2014. The office serves the states of Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.
Silicon Valley, CA
The USPTO receives its operating funds through application fees, officially designated as "offsetting collections" to be placed in the Patent and Trademark Office Appropriations Account. However, the office must publish annal reports to Congress on its expected level of revenue and expenditure. From there, Congress appropriates a certain level of funding that the USPTO may keep form its fee collection in order to run the office. Essentially, the USPTO must request permission to keep and use the money it receives from the application fees. No additional appropriation through Congress is usually approved. The net appropriation for the past three years has been $0.
The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) created a reserve fund for the USPTO, where all excess fees are to be deposited. Further, the AIA granted the USPTO authority "to set or adjust by rule any fee established or charged by the Office". This provision increased the office's flexibility on fee setting and helped pave the way for a new class of fees for "micro entities."
For FY 2016, the office requested $3.2 billion of allowed expenditure from its fee collections, which with funds from other income and the Operating reserve balance, is expected to fund the necessary operating budget of $3.5 billion.
Section 22 of the America Invents Act (AIA) created a Patent and Trademark Fee Reserve Fund, where excess fees collected by the USPTO are to be deposited. The reserve fund is meant to reduce uncertainty in financial stability for the office, especially during government shutdown. The reserve should be able to sustain the operations of the USPTO for three months of its patent operations and four-to-six months of its trademark operations. The office projects the reserve fund to hold $1.9 billion through FY 2019, which will allow the office "to propose reducing trademark fees in FY 2015."
However, the USPTO must still petition Congress annually for permission to spend the money deposited in the reserve fund. The Innovation Protection Act and the Patent Fee Integrity Act have been proposed to monitor and regulate the USPTO funding.
The USPTO's funding process through congressional appropriations left the Office subject to "fee diversions," a process of taking excess funds accumulated by the USPTO but not requested in the annual budget and appropriating them to the general Treasury fund. All fees collected by the USPTO must be credited to the Patent and Trademark Office Appropriations Account, from which the USPTO may take money that has been appropriated by Congress and see all excess funds appropriated elsewhere.
This practice of fee diversion helped other sectors of the federal government cover additional expenses without exceeding appropriation limits. The USPTO reacted to this practice by closely estimating expected revenue and matching this estimate with its annual appropriations proposal for Congress.
The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1990 established the USPTO as a fully fee funded organization. The passage of this act, designed to cut the budget deficit, meant that Congress would not appropriate additional sources of funding for the USPTO. Instead, the office would have to remain afloat through only the fees it collects through processing patent and trademark applications. During the eight years of OBRA, an estimated $234 million in fee payments were collected by the USPTO in excess of the budget authority for the office. The excess funds were not placed in a reserve fund, and instead were appropriated to non-USPTO related activities. A Congressional Research Service report has estimated $1.009 billion diverted or made unavailable to the USPTO from FY1990 to FY2011.
The Leahy-Smith Act America Invents Act created a USPTO reserve fund to hold excess fees collected in a given fiscal year. Although the reserve fund balance may only be appropriated to USPTO activities, the director of the USPTO must still petition Congress to use these funds in its annual budget request.
- Alexandria, VA:
- USPTO Madison Building
- 600 Dulany Street
- Alexandria , VA 22314
- Detroit, MI:
- Midwest Regional Office - USPTO
- 300 River Place South
- Suite 2900
- Detroit, MI 48207
- Denver, CO:
- Rocky Mountain Regional Office (USPTO)
- 1961 Stout Street
- Denver, CO 80294
- Silicon Valley, CA:
- Silicon Valley USPTO
- 26 S. Fourth Street
- San Jose, CA 95113
- Dallas, TX:
- Texas Regional Office (USPTO)
- 207 South Houston St.
- Dallas, TX 75202
Online Locations and Helpful Links
- Patent Classification Numbers.
- USPTO Visual Database, PatentsView.
- USPTO PAIR (Patent Application Information Retrieval)
-  'United States Patent and Trademark Office Performance and Accountability Report: Fiscal Year 2015', "United States Patent and Trademark Office", (Alexandria, Virginia).