Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Given the ongoing economic downturn in this country, patent fee collections at the Patent and Trademark Office are running short, based on earlier estimates. If things do not improve, the agency must initiate furloughs of its staff in the fall, an outcome that no one wants.
Aside from affecting the individual workers, mostly examiners, these furloughs would create another setback in the effort to reduce application backlogs and expedite the processing of new applications.
The agency has already reduced its operating plan for fiscal year 2009 by $120 million and is pursuing another $125 million in cuts. But the PTO cannot accurately estimate at this time how much additional revenue it needs to survive through this fiscal year. H.R. 3114 responds to this crisis by allowing the director to shift necessary funds from the trademark ledger to patent operations through June 30, 2010, less than 1 year from now.
The bill also requires the Patent Office to reimburse the Trademark Office for any funds reassigned to it within the CBO's 5-year scoring window. The bill also is an appropriate legislative response because trademark operations currently have a projected surplus of $60 million to $70 million.
In addition, there is precedence for allowing such an intra-agency revenue transfer. Twice in the past 10 years, the Trademark Office borrowed more than $24 million from patent operations. This is an unfortunate but necessary response to a funding crisis at an agency that is crucial to the economic vitality of this country.
American IP industries now account for over half of all U.S. exports and 40 percent of our economic growth. These industries provide millions of jobs for Americans with high-paying salaries. Patents encourage innovation and provide incentives to create, build, and market new products.
Delays in obtaining patents stifle entrepreneurship in our country. We want new ideas, new technologies, and new patents. America has always been the Nation of great inventors. Now we must protect those inventors and their inventions with timely patents.
Mr. Speaker, this bill won't cure all that ails the Patent and Trademark Office long term. For that we need the other body to confirm the new PTO director who will work with Congress to implement fundamental change to the agency; but failure to enact H.R. 3114 at this time will place PTO in an even deeper hole that jeopardizes agency jobs, harms the interests of inventors, and damages a crucial component of our national economy.
I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 3114.
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