USPTO Seeks User Comments on Fee-Processing Initiative


The USPTO currently uses a number of fee-processing methods. The processes were purpose-developed for specific business units and were limited by the technology available at the time, as well as the predominate payment methods. In support of the USPTO next-generation systems, the Chief Financial Officer is updating the fee-processing system to one that operates on an integrated platform, complies with new US Government financial-system requirements, and meets the needs of both internal and external customers.

Paying fees electronically via the USPTO web site has resulted in numerous benefits for customers, such as eliminating the need to draft checks, reducing mailing expenses, avoiding late payments, and minimizing delays in processing payments. However, the Office of Finance is seeking ways to improve the online payment experience and is considering options to offer stakeholders greater customization of preferences. These improvements might include changes to how stakeholders establish and manage accounts and how transaction notifications are reported to stakeholders.

Current Activities

The Fee-Processing Next Generation (FPNG) initiative is a top-to-bottom redesign of the USPTO's fee-collection, processing, and refund system. The Office of Finance is currently researching ways to streamline trademark fee-payment processes, including accepting and recording fees, administering deposit accounts, issuing refunds of fee payments, and interfacing with applicants on financial matters. The vision of this effort is to streamline and standardize the fee-collection and refund process, while minimizing manual handling and data entry.

The USPTO has finished a complete evaluation of current fee-related processes, and has compiled a set of internal requirements. At this time, the USPTO is investigating the benefits and drawbacks of the currently accepted methods of payment, including cash, checks, credit cards, deposit accounts, and electronic funds transfer (EFT). Alternatives to these payment methods, for example, customer-generated ACH credits, are also being identified and evaluated.

Concurrently with these activities, the USPTO has been laying the basic groundwork for the new fee-processing system, has determined the basic design parameters, and is interfacing with the Office of the Chief Information Officer as well as the Trademarks Next Generation (TMNG) system architects.

Request for Comments

The USPTO would like to hear the views of U.S. trademark owners and practitioners regarding fee-processing methods by receiving your responses to the following questions:

1. Do you have any comments or suggestions regarding the current fee-payment system and/or refund experiences?

2. Which existing payment methods are the most and least valuable?

3. Are there methods that we do not currently offer that would provide enhanced value and service?

4. How might we improve the online payment system? These improvements might include anything from how to establish accounts and manage payments, including the electronic reporting of transactions, to preferences for the method (i.e., email, text message, etc.) used to communicate payment-transaction status.

Please provide any comments to the TMFeedback mailbox.