Bush makes new push for Patent Office to keep fees

Agency's proposed budget includes incentives to retain "highly qualified and productive workforce."

The Patent and Trademark Office would receive $1.8 billion under the Bush administration's fiscal 2007 budget, an increase over the $1.7 billion that the administration requested and lawmakers approved in fiscal 2006.

Once again this year, the administration proposed that PTO be able to keep the fees it collects from patent and trademark applications. Congress in fiscal 2004 approved a two-year increase and retention of PTO fees. In his fiscal 2007 budget proposal, President Bush said the provisions should be extended another year, and the administration plans to introduce legislation that would make the change permanent.

It has become standard practice in recent years for congressional appropriators to divert the revenues from patent and trademark applications toward government's general operations.

The House Judiciary Committee in November approved a bill that would end the practice permanently. The bill, H.R. 2791, is similar to one the House passed during the 108th Congress. The Senate failed to clear that measure, but Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., has sponsored a new bill, S. 1020, with the same goal but a different approach.

In budget documents released Monday, the administration said it anticipates that by fiscal 2007, it will take the PTO an average of two years and eight months to approve patent applications. That figure would exceed the two years and five months it took in fiscal 2005 and the expected two years and seven months in fiscal 2006.

The administration also anticipates that it will receive 444,014 patent applications in fiscal 2007, an increase from the 414,966 applications expected in fiscal 2006. The administration also projects that PTO will become more efficient at approving patents.

The fiscal 2007 budget projects that the office will spend $4,196 to approve each application. That number would be slightly less than the $4,279 in fiscal 2006.

The new budget aims to increase the efficiency of the patent process by further encouraging applicants to file electronically. The administration has granted the PTO director the ability "through regulation" to lower patent fees for such applicants.

The administration said PTO's budget in fiscal 2007 would go toward helping patent examiners with their workloads, implementing e-government initiatives and offering incentives to retain a "highly qualified and productive workforce," among other things.