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Google Inc. (GOOG) and 3M (MMM) Co. are among the top patent-holding companies which agreed two years ago to pay higher fees if Congress let the U.S. Patent and Trademark Officeuse the funds to address a work backlog and improve application scrutiny.
Congress instead held back as much as $148 million in fees due to automatic federal spending cuts under a process known as sequestration -- and the companies are crying foul.
“We were willing to pay those and thought it was an investment that needed to be made in the patent office,” said Kevin Rhodes, chief intellectual property counsel for 3M, the , Minnesota-based maker of , Ace bandages and boat wax. “All we asked in return was that all the fees be used to pay for the services we paid for.”
The patent office, with a $2.9 billion fiscal 2013 budget funded by user fees, has had to scale back plans to update its computer system, stop most hiring and delay moving into new permanent regional offices in , Denver and Silicon Valley.
paying 15 percent higher fees have been lobbying the White House and Congress, saying the patent office should be immune from the forced U.S. cuts because it isn’t tax-supported. Withholding patent office funding, they say, could stifle innovation by lengthening the average 18-month wait for completion of an application’s first review and imperiling a new post-grant reappraisal process, causing more disputes to end up in court.
Congress passed legislation in 2011 that changed how patent applications were handled from the moment they entered the Alexandria, Virginia-based agency and added new review processes for patents already issued.
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