BIO Urges Congress to Keep Patent Fees at PTO

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 19, 2004) – The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), joining with the Intellectual Property Coalition, has sent a letter asking the House Appropriations committee to oppose raising patent fees unless those fees are kept at the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for operating expenses. The letter, signed by BIO, the American Intellectual Property Law Association, the Intellectual Property Owners Association, and five others, was sent to the chairmen and ranking members of the House Committee on Appropriations and its Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies.

The Senate is expected to debate the FY2005 Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill (S. 2809), incorporating a one-year, 30 percent PTO fee increase, as part of an omnibus appropriations package in the coming days. The letter urges House Appropriators either to seek inclusion of language in conference negotiations that would allow the PTO to keep all of the fees generated by its work or to drop entirely the proposed fee increase.

“An increase in PTO application fees without an end to diversion of those funds would be particularly onerous to the biotechnology industry,” states Lila Feisee, BIO’s director of intellectual property. In a previous letter to leaders of the House Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property supporting H.R. 1561, the House version of Commerce-Justice-State appropriations, BIO explained: “Our industry has made great strides, but there is more that can be done. In fact, the vast majority of our members are small start-up companies that have yet to bring a product to market, but have 370 promising biotech medicines in the clinical pipeline. For these companies, patents are their sole assets, making the role of the PTO -- as the agency responsible for granting patents -- critical to the biotechnology industry.”

The letter affirms the need for a stable funding stream for the Patent and Trademark Office, which the one-year fee increase will not ensure. “Already, the average time it takes to get a patent is more than 27 months (and more for some technologies) and the quality of patent examinations has suffered under inadequate funding,” states BIO. The letter also strongly asserts the coalition’s opposition to a fee increase without an end to fee diversion. “The Senate CJS Appropriations bill as currently drafted is unacceptable to the PTO user community and totally ignores the premise that initially secured the user community’s support of a fee increase – ending the 12-year practice of fee diversion.”

BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.