Patent Office budget hit by financial crisis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The global recession has hit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, whose budget depends on fees that are becoming increasingly scarce, said John Doll, acting director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, on Friday.

The patent office, which is funded by fees from patent applications and other services, is projecting a 2 percent drop in applications if early trends from 2009 persist, said Doll.

But patent industry specialists are telling the USPTO that applications could end up being down 10 percent for the year, with a similar drop in fees for other services that the patent office provides, said Doll.

“I talked to a large corporation today and they’re going through their patent portfolio to see what’s core,” said Doll, adding that the company could decide to abandon much of its portfolio.

The budget woes mean that the patent office has stopped recruiting examiners, which it had been doing in an effort to clear a tremendous backlog of patent applications.

“We’ve stopped hiring at this time,” said Doll. “If we closed our doors today, it would take us almost two years to clear out our backlog.”

“It would be a great time to hire,” he added.

The USPTO has a budget of just over $2 billion in the 2009 fiscal year, which ends on September 30.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Richard Chang