USPTO Will Remain Open . . . for Now

by McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP
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USPTO Building FacadeWith day one of the latest federal government shutdown nearly at an end, and with Washington bracing for a prolonged government shutdown, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a notice to applicants and practitioners regarding the status of Office operations for the next few weeks.  The Office indicated it would remain open and would be "using prior year reserve fee collections to operate as usual for approximately four weeks."  The Office also indicated that it would continue to assess its fee collections as compared to its operating requirements in order to determine how long it will be able to operate in this capacity during the shutdown, adding that it would provide an update as more definitive information becomes available.

If the shutdown continues past the time the Office exhausts its reserve funds, the Office noted that it "would shut down at that time, although a very small staff would continue to work to accept new applications and maintain IT infrastructure, among other functions."  The notice directs applicants and practitioners to the agency's plan for "an orderly shutdown," which indicates that after its reserve funds are exhausted:

[E]xcepted employees [at the USPTO] will ensure the functionality of processes and systems minimally necessary for the preservation of patent rights, to allow compliance with statutory provisions that cannot be waived, and avoid disclosures of information that would be detrimental to the national security.  Additionally, the excepted employees will ensure the functionality of processes and systems minimally necessary to preserve trademark rights.  Preventing the public from accessing the USPTO's electronic filing and payments systems may result in the complete or partial loss of intellectual property.  Therefore, in order to prevent the loss of valuable intellectual property, these systems should remain open during any closure of the USPTO.

The plan provides a list of 106 of the Office's 11,789 employees who are excepted.

USPTO SealIn addition to the above, the Office noted that the 18th Annual Independent Inventors conference, originally scheduled for October 11-12, has been cancelled.  The Office hopes to reschedule the conference after the government resumes full operation.  The Office also noted that requests for paper files have been temporarily suspended because those files are housed in a federal facility which is owned and operated by the General Services Administration (GSA), and which is closed during the shutdown.

According to Wikipedia, the government shutdown that began earlier today is only the latest in a series of such shutdowns, which includes eight full government shutdowns lasting between one and three days apiece during the Reagan administration, a four day shutdown during the first Bush administration, and two full shutdowns lasting five and 21 days during the Clinton administration -- the 21-day shutdown being the longest of any government shutdown.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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