Strategic Plan for the 21st Century

The 21st Century Strategic Plan (image of USPTO SEAL)

The 21st Century Strategic Plan and implementing fee legislation were submitted to Congress on June 3, 2002. In July 2002, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property held a hearing to review the proposals. For a period of five months following that hearing, key USPTO stakeholders provided extensive comments about the Strategic Plan and the proposed fee changes. Many of those ideas have since been incorporated into the 37 action initiatives comprising the five-year Strategic Plan.

We are particularly grateful to the American Intellectual Property Law Association, the Intellectual Property Owners Association, the American Bar Association’s Section of Intellectual Property Law, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the International Trademark Association, the Patent Public Advisory Committee and the Trademark Public Advisory Committee for their input and full support of the revised 21st Century Strategic Plan. As a result of these changes, we are pleased to report that nearly 100 of the largest American companies and intellectual property groups have expressed their support for the 21st Century Strategic Plan.

Based upon the valuable and insightful feedback we have received from our constituency groups and others, the 21st Century Strategic Plan has been modified as follows:

  • An administrative alternative to deferred examination has been included that achieves most of the benefits of the original legislative proposal for deferral of examination. As a result, legislation will no longer be necessary.
  • USPTO will contract with private sector commercial search organizations in lieu of the previously proposed requirement for applicant-commissioned search reports.
  • USPTO will accelerate the analysis of the necessary changes to patent laws and rules affecting restriction practice and will recommend a new practice before the end of the 108th Congress.
  • Withdrawing the requirement for mandatory Information Disclosure Statements, USPTO will continue to rely on voluntary submissions.
  • USPTO will demonstrate the plan’s concepts through elaborate testing and evaluation methods, most notably in the areas of outsourcing, quality enhancements and e-Government.
  • While the long-term patent pendency goal remains 18 months, this goal will not be achieved in the near future because of the higher priority placed on quality and patent e-Government initiatives. However, USPTO will produce, on average, a first Office action for first-filed U.S. non-provisional applications at the time of 18-month publication. In addition, a patent search report for other patent applications will be issued in the same time frame.
  • USPTO has modified the fee restructuring proposal as follows:
    • Substituted the original proposal with a linear fee system to ensure that fees charged for excessive claims and pages of complex specifications are proportional to the increased processing costs.
    • Established a single patent filing, search and examination fee with provision for partial refund.
    • Eliminated surcharges for filing continuations and patentably indistinct claims.
    • Eliminated requirement for payment of separate fee to trigger examination.
    • Eliminated authority for Director to reduce examination fee amounts for micro-entities.
    • Replaced authority for Trademark fee adjustments in excess of Consumer Price Index (CPI) with establishment of three filing fee amounts.

The following legislation, “The United States Patent and Trademark Office Fee Modernization Act of 2003," was approved by the Office of Management and Budget and sent to the Congress on February 04, 2003 and formally transmitted to the Congress on February 11, 2003.

>> The United States Patent and Trademark Office Fee Modernization Act of 2003

>> Purpose and Need for Proposed Statutory Changes to 35 U.S.C. 41 – Fees

>> Section-by-Section Analysis

>> Comparison of Fee Proposals

On April 2, 2003, Congressman Lamar Smith introduced the following bill, H.R. 1561, the “United States Patent and Trademark Fee Modernization Act of 2003.”

  • H.R. 1561 makes no changes to the fee amounts in the Administration’s proposal that was formally transmitted to the Congress February 11, 2003.
  • However, the effective date of H.R. 1561, if enacted, would be October 1, 2003, or the date of enactment, whichever is later.
  • There are a number of additional minor changes, but none that would affect the fee amounts that were originally set forth in the Administration’s proposal.

>> HR 1561, “The United States Patent and Trademark Office Fee Modernization Act of 2003”

While support for the revised 21st Century Strategic Plan is high among USPTO customers, they continue to be concerned that the agency does not have access to all of its user fees in the year they are received. The Administration shares these concerns. As a result, President Bush has cut the level of fee diversion by nearly 50 percent in the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2004 Budget for the USPTO. This bold step is being taken as part of the efforts by Secretary Donald Evans, Deputy Secretary Samuel Bodman, Under Secretary James Rogan and Deputy Under Secretary Jon Dudas to create the conditions for economic growth and continued technological leadership by working to eliminate the heavily-criticized practice of using USPTO revenues for unrelated federal programs.

Implementation of the 21st Century Strategic Plan will mark an important new chapter in the history of the 200-year old USPTO. Accordingly, the Strategic Plan remains a work in progress that will be refined and updated periodically to adjust to changing conditions and to incorporate the best thinking of the entire intellectual property community. Moreover, the USPTO’s budget and performance plan that is submitted to Congress each year will document key measurements and yearly milestones that justify full funding for the Office in achieving the goals stated in the Strategic Plan.

If you have questions regarding the strategic plan or other postings on this page and are not a member of the press or media, please contact the Office of Patent Legal Administration by telephone at (571) 272-7704, or by e-mail to

All press inquiries should be directed to Brigid Quinn or Richard Maulsby at (703) 305-8341.

Notice regarding Section 508 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. Section 508 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 requires all United States Federal Agencies with websites to make them accessible to individuals with disabilities. The PDF version of the plan itself is not fully accessible at this time. Until changes can be made to make them fully accessible to individuals with disabilities, the USPTO is providing access assistance via telephone. Please contact Michael Lee at 703 305-8341 for interim accessibility assistance.

DOWNLOAD> The 21st Century Strategic Plan - Revised [PDF - 295 KB] (03Feb2003)

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