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Patents, copyrights a bargain--for now.

From basement workbenches to national labs, creative minds are constantly developing what they hope will prove popular and useful products. With a patent, these inventors can establish a right to profits from the commercialization of their innovations. A congressional audit now reports that fees to cover the costs of processing U.S. patent claims are generally not commensurate with the services an inventor receives. Its recommendation: Raise those fees.

The Patent and Trademark Office, which is supposed to be economically self-sustaining, is not running in the red yet. Trademark processing fees "appear to be aligned with costs," according to a new report by the General Accounting Office (GAO), an investigatory arm of Congress. Many of the 139 types of patent fees, however, are not in line with the expenses.

Evaluation of the material filed by an inventor accounts for about 90 percent of a patent's costs, the GAO notes. Yet owing to the agency's fee structure, it brings in only 19 percent of the revenues. Applications that a filer abandons midway through the process--about one-third of all submissions--incur normal patent examination costs, yet bring in only a small submission fee. Among other inequities, large entities pay twice the fees of small inventors, even though the cost of processing their claims is the same, and fees for complex filings are identical to those for simple ones.

The report also observed that copyright fees, typically $20 per filing, do not cover the average processing costs of $36.53. In addition, the Library of Congress holds a copy of most unpublished works granted a copyright, and it does so throughout the copyright's full term, usually about 125 years. GAO recommends that Congress establish far shorter holding times for unpublished works, perhaps 5 years, after which the library should dispose of the work--unless the author antes up an additional one-time holding fee of $270.
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Title Annotation:General Accounting Office report recommends raising patent and copyright fees
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 12, 1997
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