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Trademark Office to lay off attorneys this summer

The Patent and Trademark Office could lay off up to 135 trademark examining attorneys this summer because agency officials say there is not enough work for them to do.

Trademarks Commissioner Anne H. Chasser announced Wednesday that the PTO would begin laying off examining attorneys in July, and could eliminate up to 135 positions by Sept. 30. The agency currently employs 383 examining attorneys.

The move to downsize was prompted by declines in trademark application filings, according to a spokeswoman for PTO.

"After eight years of double-digit increases in trademark application filings, we've seen a drop of 33 percent in the last two years," said PTO spokeswoman Brigid Quinn. "As a result, the trademark office doesn't have the current or projected work to support the full staff that we have currently."

In 2000, trademark applications peaked at 375,000, but last year that number dropped 21 percent to 296,000--the largest single-year decrease ever, according Quinn. Applications are expected to fall again this year to 250,000.

The staff reductions will be made according to grade level beginning with GS-11s and working up through the grades until the agency reaches the number "that's determined necessary," Quinn said. PTO has also received approval from the Office of Personnel Management to offer early-outs to trademark attorneys.