Maria V. Hernandez
The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is soliciting comments on a proposal to amend its rules of practice to provide for payment of any patent or trademark fee by credit card. This initiative would offer patent and trademark customers an alternative method of paying required fees in situations other than point of sale and Internet transactions.
PTO previously limited payment by credit card to the fees required for information products, such as copies of patents or trademarks, or for an electronic submission involved in a trademark application. The PTO processes about 2.6 million payment transactions a year totaling $887 million. The PTO currently accepts MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and the Discover Card in limited situations, primarily for point of sale transactions in the PTO search rooms and for trademark applications filed over the Internet. The PTO processed about 60,000 credit card transactions during FY 1999 totaling about $7 million, including about 19,000 credit card transactions for trademark applications filed over the Internet.
"We believe our customers will appreciate the ease of using credit cards as more and more of the agency's products and services become available on the Internet. It should be particularly helpful to small businesses and small inventors as it makes it more convenient to make required fee payments for patents and trademarks," said Q. Todd Dickinson, acting commissioner of patents and trademarks.
To be assured of consideration, written comments must be received on or before December 3, 1999. For further information, the full federal register notice can be found on PTO's website at http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/notices/fr991103.pdf.
The PTO is the Commerce Department's user fee-funded bureau that administers laws relevant to granting patents and registering trademarks; advises the secretary of commerce, the president of the United States, and the administration on patent, trademark and copyright protection; and advises the secretary of commerce, the president of the United States, and the administration on the trade-related aspects of intellectual property. Nearly 6 million patents have been issued since the first patent in 1790. Last year PTO issued 155,000 patents and registered 106,279 trademarks.