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USPTO will remain open if government shutdown goes ahead

Alli Pyrah, New York

USPTO acting director Teresa Stanek Rea told staff that the Office will remain open in the event of a government shutdown tomorrow

Most federal government services will be shut off tomorrow unless the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House reach an agreement over budget plans before the financial year ends at midnight tonight.

A resolution passed by the Republican-controlled House would fund the US government on the condition that the Democrats accept a one-year delay for funding Obamacare but it is unlikely that the Senate will accept this condition.

In a memo, Rea told employees that the USPTO will use reserve funds to keep the Office open if the shutdown goes ahead. An update on the USPTO’s website on Friday said the Office expects to remain open for business as usual for approximately four weeks.

If the USPTO exhausts its reserve funds before the shutdown ends, a small number of staff will continue to work to maintain IT infrastructure and accept new applications. A list of the staff the Office expects to retain during a shutdown is available in the USPTO’s Plan for an Orderly Shutdown.

The last government shutdown happened in 1995 under the Clinton administration.

The USPTO is facing other difficulties including budget sequestration and the imminent departure of Rea, who announced to staff earlier this month that she intends to resign. The USPTO has also been lacking a director since former leader David Kappos left in January.

Teresa Stanek Rea’s memo to USPTO staff:

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, the Obama administration is working diligently with Congress to try to ensure that the federal government remains open and continues to do its work on behalf of the American people. However, I wanted to inform you that even in the event of a government shutdown on October 1, 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will remain open, using prior year reserve fee collections to operate as usual for at least a few weeks. We continue to assess our fee collections compared to our operating requirements to determine how long we would be able to operate during a government shutdown; we will update you as more definitive information becomes available.

Because the USPTO maintains sufficient carryover funding from prior fiscal years, our agency can and will stay open for business for a period of time using these available reserves. During that time we will all continue to conduct our duties and serve our Nation, by processing the patent and trademark applications that drive our country’s innovative economy. Should we exhaust these reserve funds before the government shutdown comes to an end, USPTO would have to 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.

I realize you likely have many more questions. As new information becomes available, we will inform you promptly and thoroughly. Your respective business unit managers will also be reaching out to you to provide further clarification, as needed.

I thank you for your hard work, and the continuing dedication you demonstrate to the American people.


Terry Rea



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