The Silicon Valley Business Journal is reporting that the General Services Administration has cancelled the process for procuring a lease for a permanent patent satellite office in Silicon Valley.
This is an unfortunate side effect of the federal sequester process, and it’s one that’s totally unnecessary in the case of the USPTO. The sequester locks the various federal departments into budgets that were defined years ago, and it doesn’t permit those departments from deviating from those budgets. I’ve mentioned this before, and many departments are struggling to survive due to some really stupid effects of this. For instance, NASA is having problems because their budget is locked into one that existed when the space shuttles were still operating. So its budget has a huge pot of money for shuttle operations that no longer exist – money that NASA can’t touch, leaving it with insufficient money budgeted for its R&D efforts and no ability to rearrange their spending priorities under sequester rules.
The USPTO is affected because it cannot budget to handle the new Silicon Valley patent satellite office. And the sequester is equally stupid in the case of the USPTO, because the USPTO is an entirely self-sufficient agency. Every dime it spends comes from patent and trademark licensing revenue, and it relies on zero tax dollars to make ends meet. The USPTO is very much like Sunnyvale’s enterprise funds for solid waste, water, golf & tennis, and so on – they’re all standalone businesses, in effect. But even so, the USPTO is not permitted to define its own budget within the sequester, and it’s Silicon Valley that is now bearing the brunt of the sequester damage. Worse, Congress is treating the USPTO like a cash cow and diverting revenue out of the USPTO to pay for other departments.
Our congressmembers Honda, Eshoo, and Lofgren are working to try and address this, recognizing that the USPTO should be a sequester exception. But it’s difficult since they’re in the minority party in the House. In the meantime, the temporary office in Menlo Park will continue to operate.