The automatic federal spending cuts imposed by the U.S. government this March have been met with strong resistance by lobbyists suggesting that their affiliated organizations are either too important to be hamstrung by budget cuts or should be immune from the austerity measures on principle. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could be classified in each of those categories, according to some, with several leading technology firms now framing sequestration as a personal betrayal to their historical good will.
As Bloomberg recently noted, Google and 3M were among a handful of industry leaders which agreed in 2011 to pay 15 percent higher patent fees in exchange for assurances that their surplus funding would be directly allocated toward paring down the USPTO's administrative backlog and increasing the rigor of patent examinations. Now that the agency is facing automatic budget cuts totaling nearly $150 million, those private sector partners fear that their early investments could be all for naught.
Indeed, even former USPTO director David Kappos is concerned that the innovation foundation laid during his tenure could be undone by the impending austerity measures.
"Unless the PTO is given access to the fees it's collecting and released from the constraints it's under, it will be hard-pressed to do anything," Kappos told reporters. "I am very concerned about its ability to successfully implement everything that's already on the plate."
While these legislative developments are certainly frustrating, industry leaders have become increasingly adept at navigating political processes in recent years. According to Politico, the technology sector's consistent presence in immigration reform debates likely provided invaluable experience for company representatives to draw on when angling for the procedural changes they still hope to see within the country's patent management framework.