Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Friday Feb 13, 2015

USPTO Submits Fiscal Year 2016 Congressional Budget Justification

Guest Blog by Chief Financial Officer Tony Scardino

Each year, the USPTO submits a budget justification to Congress in order to access the resources we need to operate. I’m pleased to announce that the USPTO has published its fiscal year (FY) 2016 Congressional Budget Justification.

The FY 2016 Congressional Budget Justification provides detailed information on how the USPTO plans to spend its funds in the upcoming fiscal year. Our fiscal year 2016 budget documents our requirements to enhance quality and aggressively continue reducing patent application pendency and backlog. This helps bring innovations to the marketplace and create jobs for the American people. It also enables us to continue maintaining trademark application pendency; carrying out the provisions of the America Invents Act; providing domestic and global intellectual property leadership; and modernizing our information technology (IT).

In FY 2016, the USPTO expects to collect—and has requested an appropriation of—$3.2 billion in fee revenue, which is derived primarily from patent and trademark fee collections. This is approximately $250 million below our FY 2015 appropriation, but approximately $65 million above what we currently anticipate collecting in FY 2015.

The USPTO FY 2016 budget tells the story of a dynamic organization that is continually adapting to the ever-changing environment in which we operate. Our FY 2015 and 2016 estimated fee collections have been modified from the projections included in the FY 2015 President’s Budget. Notably, projected patent fee collections for FY 2015 and the out years have been lowered to reflect new assumptions about the growth rate in patent application filings—due to factors such as the global economy and international filings, recent judicial rulings, and internal process changes—producing a $1.2 billion reduction in estimated patent fee collections over the six-year period from 2014-2019.

At the same time, however, our budgetary requirements—what we plan to spend—for both this year and next have increased from what we had outlined at this time last year. Investments in IT were elevated in FY 2015 and beyond in order to support critical agency priorities and in response to stakeholder feedback, with a net increase in spending of $500 million over the same six-year period. In FY 2016, the USPTO will fund these requirements using a combination of our 2016 appropriation along with $267 million from our operating reserves and $28 million in other income.

The spending and revenue adjustments included in the FY 2016 budget have resulted in a $1.7 billion cumulative reduction in the patent operating reserve over the next six years compared to what we projected in our FY 2015 budget. These changes demonstrate the important role the operating reserve plays in supporting the agency’s progress. Even as fee collections vary from year to year, the operating reserve allows us to continue to make critical, multi-year investments to improve the USPTO and its operations.

Looking to the future, we will continue to closely monitor fee collections and assess the ideal size of the operating reserve. The USPTO leadership team is aware of the potential risk associated with maintaining a patent operating reserve that is below our optimal target of three months and a trademark operating reserve that is below the optimal target of four to six months of budgetary resources. We are prepared to enact risk mitigation measures if they are needed at some point in the future. Our decision to move forward with smart, scalable growth reinforces the USPTO’s commitment to sound business and financial practices.

Additional details on our plans and estimates can be found in the pages of our FY 2016 Congressional Budget Justification. I hope you find value in this document, and that it allows you to glean greater insights into the USPTO’s activities and achievements.

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