US government shutdown may affect USPTO

Published on: 10 October 2013

The United States government shutdown*, that began on October 1, 2013, may have an effect on the operations of the USPTO over some three weeks or more. Should the shutdown continue, the USPTO, in a statement made on their website, noted that a reduced number of staff would continue to work to accept new applications and maintain the IT infrastructure. The USPTO has estimated that they can continue to operate as usual, using reserve funds, for about three or four weeks.

The notice directs applicants to the government’s plan for “an orderly shutdown”, which refers to the following situation:

“The excepted employees will ensure the functionality of processes and systems minimally necessary for the preservation of patent rights, to allow compliance with statutory provisions that cannot be waived, and avoid disclosures of information that would be detrimental to the national security. Additionally, the excepted employees will ensure the functionality of processes and systems minimally necessary to preserve trademark rights. Preventing the public from accessing the USPTO’s electronic filing and payments systems may result in the complete or partial loss of intellectual property. Therefore, in order to prevent the loss of valuable intellectual property, these systems should remain open during any closure of the USPTO.” (US Government shutdown plan, page 83, available here)

The USPTO also announced that the 18th Annual Independent Inventors conference, programmed for October 11-12, has been cancelled and that it hopes to reschedule it after the Office is again fully operational.

One area which has already been affected by the shutdown is the access to paper file histories, used for looking up older trademarks and patents. The File Repository Warehouse which contains these files is in a federal facility that is owned and operated by the General Services Administration, which is closed during the shutdown. Nevertheless, electronic files will be accessible.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and remain aware of any disruption in service, as our work takes us to the USPTO website for filings and review on a daily basis. It is believed that the USPTO will continue to accept new filings and responses, so that deadlines will not be missed nor intellectual property rights lost”, commented Dan Gurfinkel, Director of Dennemeyer & Associates’ Chicago office.

Unless otherwise stated by the USPTO, all deadlines and priority dates remain in force and should be observed. Should the IT infrastructure of the USPTO fail as a result of the shutdown, filings can and should still be made using the US Postal Service Express Mail procedures and/or facsimile transmissions.

Dennemeyer & Associates will be happy to help you with your filings and response, or help to answer any of your questions regarding the USPTO.


* The US financial year ended on 30 September and the government has failed to agree on a new budget for the financial year 2013-2014. The US government has consequently begun a partial shutdown and has ceased most non-essential functions. This is the first shutdown in 17 years, but the US government has partially shut down 17 times before.