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GAO a Helpful Partner on AIA Implementation
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos
USPTO is making it a major focus to actively engage and have regular conversations with our stakeholders on a host of issues. Look no further than how we have managed the rulemaking process to implement the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), including – for the first time in the Agency’s history – proposing and setting a new fee schedule.
Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that looked at USPTO’s user fee design. GAO’s report is quite positive. The report found that the USPTO has a robust fee review process in place, and applauded our efforts to manage funding uncertainty by creating an operating reserve, borrowing from a practice widely used in industry. The report also notes that the USPTO has a strong stakeholder communication base on which to build, assisting us in our ongoing pursuit of transparency and two-way communication.
The report did, however, note opportunities to ensure superior implementation going forward, opportunities we have already begun pursuing. Because the Office has not yet issued a notice of proposed rulemaking for setting fees under section 10 of the AIA, the findings are based largely upon past practices going back several years. Since we are just now reaching the mid-point for our fee-setting process, and the “new” information available to GAO was gathered very early in the process, the report comes at a great time for us to gain value going forward. As such, the report serves as a guide to help the Office successfully carry out the authorities entrusted to it, and not as a comprehensive review of the entire fee setting process.
The report recommends that the USPTO continue to build upon the communication successes we have already achieved, by enhancing transparency through providing detailed accounting of program costs as well as communicating clearly our policy choices. This is a fair recommendation, especially considering the GAO’s review and conclusions were based on the high-level informational materials provided in advance of the fee setting hearings held in Alexandria and Sunnyvale in February. Enhancing transparency remains critical to our business model.
Finally, GAO encouraged us to continue building on current successes by establishing guidance and protocols for communication with the PPAC and other stakeholders regarding our fee setting process. This will help ensure consistency far into the future. We have taken this recommendation to heart, and plan to incorporate specific protocols for communication into our fee-setting process.
We welcome the guidance and assistance that GAO has provided to us in their report, and look forward to continuing this strong relationship. We’ll be looking for additional ways to engage and seek help from our stakeholder community to ensure the best possible implementation of AIA, as well as numerous other initiatives underway at PTO.