January 24, 2017

Law360 interviews Adam Hess on impact of federal hiring freeze on USPTO

2 min

Venable partner Adam Hess was interviewed in a January 24, 2017, Law360 article on President Donald Trump's executive order instituting a hiring freeze on federal workers and the effect it could have on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The hiring freeze, one of Trump's top campaign promises, halts the hiring of new and existing positions within the federal government with the exception of those in the military or positions vital to national security or public safety. While no short-term effect is expected at the USPTO, a prolonged hiring freeze could be significant for its operation.

"What it would result in is longer delays in getting patent applications through the patent office, or potentially lower-quality patents if examiners have to spend less time on each application in order to get it through in the same amount of time," said Hess.

One area of concern is the patent office's staffing of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, a popular venue for challenging patents. By law, the board must issue a decision within a year of a review being initiated. "It could get tight to meet that statutory deadline for all [inter partes reviews] if the patent office isn't allowed to hire any more [administrative patent judges]," said Hess. "Or the APJs just get stretched too thin and then you have to worry about the quality of the work. Neither is a good result."