Featured eBooks
Best Dates to Retire 2020
What’s Next for Federal Customer Experience
 The Future of the Air Force
Patent Office chief questioned about alleged lobbying

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., Wednesday asked Patent and Trademark Office Director James Rogan to respond to allegations that "some" in his agency are lobbying to move the agency outside the budget process.

House Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf, R-Va., Wednesday asked Patent and Trademark Office Director James Rogan to respond to allegations that "some" in his agency are lobbying to move the agency outside the budget process.

"It has come to my attention that some in the USPTO have contacted technology companies and urged these company representatives to lobby the Congress to take the United States Patent and Trademark Office outside the federal budget process, a position the administration opposes," Wolf said in a letter to Rogan. The letter was dated last Thursday, but was sent today, according to an Appropriations Committee spokesman.

Wolf said such a lobbying effort would be "unproductive and divisive as the committee works to support" the administration's fiscal 2004 budget request. In a handwritten note at the bottom of the letter, Wolf also told Rogan: "This is very important. Have you been lobbying companies in opposition to the position of the administration? If so, you are doing wrong."

Officials from the PTO and the House Judiciary Committee were unavailable to comment on the letter.

At issue is a provision in the bipartisan "United States Patent and Trademark Fee Modernization Act," which the Judiciary Committee approved in July. The bill would increase patent user fees by an average of 15 percent, which Wolf said would increase the PTO's fee revenue by $192 million. The legislation also would prevent congressional appropriators from diverting any of the agency's fee revenue to unrelated programs.

Bill sponsors have said the legislation would help to improve patent and trademark quality and reduce application backlogs. Appropriations Committee leaders oppose the section of the bill that would modify PTO funding because it would "strike the requirement" that appropriators determine their funding levels, according to the committee spokesman.

"Basically, the authorizers would set their funding levels, which is a mistake," the spokesman said.

Wolf said the Commerce Department, "with the support" of the Office of Management and Budget, also opposes that section despite its general support for the enactment of fee revisions. "The department cannot support enactment of the bill in its current form because the resultant funding level for the USPTO and the removal of the USPTO from the appropriations process are inconsistent with the president's budget for fiscal 2004," the Commerce Department said in a June 12 letter to the committee, as quoted in Wolf's letter to Rogan.

Noting that appropriators have increased the PTO's budget by more 36 percent since 2000, Wolf also told Rogan that PTO officials have been "unable to provide a detailed justification to the committee on how a proposed fee increase of $192 million ... or the $1.203 billion requested in the president's budget" would be allocated. Wolf asked Rogan to submit that information to the Appropriations Committee by Friday.