What's Going on Here?
The Government closure is having a strange effect on the denizens of the Washington Metropolitan Area and its constituents. The town is strangely devoid of rush hour traffic. Even the local Starbucks is noticeably quiet. Not a good sign here in the Capitol of the Free World. Here is a summary of some of the goings on and their impact on the patentsphere.
USPTO reports that it will remain open
using prior year reserve fee collections to operate as usual for approximately four weeks. We continue to assess our fee collections compared to our operating requirements to determine how long we will be able to operate in this capacity during a general government shutdown. We will provide an update as more definitive information becomes available.So far so good. The most important part of this message is that when the money runs out USPTO staff that process inbound patent applications will stay in business. Imagine the scene if after switching from first to invent to first to file, USPTO stopped taking applications and setting filing dates.
Should we exhaust these reserve funds before the general government shutdown comes to an end, USPTO would shut down at that time, although a very small staff would continue to work to accept new applications and maintain IT infrastructure.
The Independent Inventors Conference has been canceled. While this event was partially funded by fees, USPTO wants to preserve funds so they can stay open longer (a good thing) or perhaps the optics of having a conference while the rest of the government was closed didn't sit well. It is unfortunate that an important event for the small inventor has been canceled. And, it is also unfortunate that all of the inventors who planned to come to Alexandria for the conference are probably losing money spent on travel arrangements.
Other Patent Players
Federal Courts —the federal Judiciary will remain open for business for approximately 10 business days. On or around October 15, 2013, the Judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance. All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised.
US International Trade Commission is closed. According to what remains of the Commission's website, "the schedules and deadlines for all investigative and pre-institution activities will be tolled. All hearings and conferences will be postponed, subject to the exceptions described below. Once the Commission receives funding and the period of the shutdown ends, all schedules will resume starting with the day on which the Commission recommences operations. For example, if the shutdown lasts four days (e.g., October 1-4), then the deadline for the filing of any document on October 4 would be extended four days to October 8. If a rescheduled deadline falls on a nonbusiness day, the deadline will be extended to the next business day." So basically everything is on hold. If you have a matter on unfair imports (Section 337) it will have to wait.
Federal Trade Commission is closed. Another blocked website. The FTC's patent assertion entity (PAE) investigation which was getting traction on the web is on hold. It is unclear if the Commission will extend the due date for comments on the PAE investigation. In theory it shouldn't need to because the organizations and people who provide comments aren't furloughed.
National Science Foundation is closed. So much for getting statistics on US R&D activity.
Small Business Administration still has its website up with notes that the information on the site is out of date.
Grants and Contracts Most of the contracting shops are closed so there are no new grants being awarded, no SBIRs for the new fiscal year to help innovators commercialize their inventions and get the show on the road. There might have been a delay this time of year anyway since the government fiscal year ended on September 30, 2013 and the new fiscal year started on October 1. Once the Feds are back at work, it will probably take some time for things to ramp up again.
Government Web Sites
Many government websites are down or kind of down. Instead of being operational they flash their "We're Closed" screen which explains why the site isn't accessible. The local media is reporting that the government had to close down their websites because, well, no one is keeping the sites current and that sites with forms that can be submitted to the agency might overwhelm the federal employees when they come back from furlough.
20% of classes at the Naval Academy are cancelled. The Navy—Air Force game will proceed on schedule. The game is funded by a private foundation. The classes are funded by the Navy and many are taught by civilian professors.
All the Hill staffers are at work. Lots of self-important people running around.
The Palm, the Washington hang-out for the political crowd and downtown corporate crowd, is less crowded. Bad optics to be out having a good time while the furloughed guys have no idea when they will be getting their next paycheck. (At this posting, the Congress appears to be authorizing back pay for the folks who were furloughed. Otherwise, chaos will ensure at state unemployment offices.
The same people who are blocking the Greatest Generation veterans access to the World War II Memorial have also shut down Claude Moore Park Colonial Farm. The farm staff were told that only one person could stay to feed the animals and take care of the facilities. The Farm sits on federal land but gets NO federal money. The problem with this move is that the farm had to cancel the events that fund its operations and is now down over $20,000 in just three days. Local news reporting notes that the folks running the farm point out that they won't get that money back unlike the rest of the federal parks that do get park service funding.
And it goes on and on and on.