The Federal Government Shutdown and your IP rights

As you know, the federal government shut down at 12:01 a.m. October 1, 2013, after the Senate rejected the House’s latest budgetary proposal. This shutdown has led to a halt in non-essential federal government spending. Since patent, trademark, and copyright applications are reviewed by federal agencies that are no longer receiving government funding, we suspect this is worrisome for those of you with IP interests. The federal court system, the FTC, and the International Trade Commission (ITC) are  also impacted by this shutdown.

So how does this affect your patents, trademarks, and copyrights, pending or issued? For the time being, nothing will change for patents and federal trademarks. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a reserve fund that carries over from year to year. It has estimated that the current reserve fund will allow it to remain open for about four weeks. During this time period, the entire USPTO will remain staffed. Once these funds are exhausted, however, the USPTO will be shut down with the exception of a small staff sufficient to accept new applications and maintain the IT infrastructure. The USPTO’s electronic filing and payment systems will thus, remain open to prevent the potential of full or partial loss of intellectual property rights. There is insufficient information available at this time to determine how an actual USPTO shutdown might impact turnaround times for office actions and the like.

The USPTO has pledged to continually assess its operating expenses against the reserve fund to provide updates on the time it expects to remain fully operational and the effect of any USPTO closures. We will keep you informed of any changes to the timetable.

Unlike the USTPO, The United States Copyright Office is closed as of October 1, and will remain closed until the funding issues have been resolved. Please note that portions of the U.S. Copyright website are still functional, and applications can still be filed online. These applications will not be processed until the Copyright Office reopens, but will be given an effective date of registration that reflects the date of submission.

As for the federal courts, the federal judiciary has announced that it will remain in business for approximately ten business days, at which point the judiciary will reassess the situation. As of now, all pending deadlines remain intact. In the event that you have a pending case, please feel free to contact us to discuss the status of that case.

The FTC, which was in the process of studying non-practicing entities (or patent trolls), is shut down and has announced that the study has been suspended indefinitely. The ITC, which oversees many patent enforcement actions against off-shore entities, is substantially shut down with all schedules and deadlines tolled for the time of the shutdown.

We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated as changes occur. For the most part, we anticipate business as usual for the next few weeks and hope that the shutdown is quickly resolved. In the event that you have any specific concerns about how the shutdown may affect your intellectual property rights, do not hesitate to contact your Boyle Fredrickson attorney.


About Boyle Fredrickson

Established in 1999, Boyle Fredrickson has grown to become Wisconsin’s largest intellectual property law firm. You’ve got ideas, we protect them.

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