February 9, 2001
Dear Mr. President,
Intellectual property is the currency for the new, high-tech economy. Patent and trademark laws administered by the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) encourage invention, innovation, and investment. The PTO plays a critical role in promoting the continued development of intellectual property in this country. For established companies, patents improve competitiveness, increase productivity, help bring new products and services to market, and create jobs. For entrepreneurs, patents can make or break a new business.
The explosive growth of the high-tech economy has played a major role in not only balancing the federal budget, but also in creating the surplus. That growth has also dramatically increased the PTO's workload. Since 1996, the agency's workload has increased by more than 60%. Last year, trademark applications increased by more than 25% for the second consecutive year. A well-staffed, efficient PTO is essential to keep the high-tech economy growing.
The PTO is an entirely fee funded agency. Patent and trademark fees are set at a level to cover the cost of processing the applications. These fees are paid by independent inventors, small business owners, entrepreneurs, and a wide variety of technology companies. In recent years, the Clinton Administration and Congress agreed to withhold a portion of the fees collected by the PTO as a budgetary offset for other spending programs. Last year, we supported bipartisan efforts in the House and Senate to reduce fee-withholding at the PTO because we believe that underfunding the PTO delays the development of new technologies.
As you work to finalize the President's upcoming fiscal year 2002 budget, we urge you to request sufficient budgetary resources for the PTO to handle the workload associated with the twenty-first century economy.
[signed by Orrin Hatch, Robert F. Bennett, Bill Frist, Patrick Leahy, Harry Reid, and George Allen]