The Latest News & Events

Government Shutdown Impact on USPTO: What You Need to Know

Government Shutdown

Government Shutdown Impact on USPTO: What You Need to Know – As we approach October 1, 2023, patent attorneys and intellectual property professionals find themselves facing a potential challenge – a U.S. federal government shutdown. In this article, we’ll delve into the implications of a government shutdown, especially concerning the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and provide guidance on how to navigate this scenario.

Understanding Government Shutdowns

Government shutdowns are not new to the United States. Over the past five decades, there have been twenty-two shutdowns, often occurring when the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives are not controlled by a single party. The longest shutdown in recent history, spanning 34 days, occurred during the Trump Administration in 2018-2019.

In the event of a government shutdown, federal agencies, including the USPTO, will release operational contingency plans and guidelines. While about 13 departments and agencies have posted contingency plans, many of these are from previous shutdowns, such as those in 2018-2020. This article aims to provide current guidance, focusing on what to expect during a government shutdown and how it may affect the USPTO. We will also outline proactive measures to take in preparation for such an event.

USPTO: An Overview

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) serves as the nation’s patent office and trademark registration authority. It operates as an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce. To effectively protect American intellectual property and combat IP theft, the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) collaborates closely with the USPTO.

One noteworthy aspect is that even when the USPTO is labeled as “closed,” most of its operations can continue through electronic systems. The USPTO offers a website, “USPTO Systems Status and Availability,” providing real-time updates on the status of their electronic systems.

USPTO Operating Reserves (ORs)

During a government shutdown, many non-essential agencies furlough their staff. However, the USPTO generally keeps its staff working, thanks to operating reserves (ORs) and national security concerns. The USPTO submits budget proposals directly to Congress, demonstrating a clear commitment to transparency and fiscal responsibility.

Over the years, the USPTO has strategically set aside funds in “Operating Reserves” to prepare for shutdowns. These reserves ensure that the USPTO can continue to operate for months, even in the absence of congressional appropriations. The agency’s commitment to safeguarding intellectual property and preventing disruptions during shutdowns is evident in its financial planning.

Planning for the Future

The USPTO remains committed to transparency about its use of ORs during government shutdowns. Its operating reserves have been instrumental in preventing service level degradations and patent pendency delays during past shutdowns. This planning has been meticulous, as shown in the detailed Congressional Reports and budget submissions.

As we approach October 1, 2023, it is advisable for patent attorneys and IP professionals to continue planning their operations with the USPTO as usual. While the USPTO electronic systems are robust, it’s always wise to be prepared for any potential hiccups. The “USPTO Systems Status and Availability” website offers real-time updates on the status of electronic systems and will be closely monitored by Global Patent Solutions personnel.  Feel free to contact us if you have specific questions you would like answered.

Conclusion – What you need to know about the USPTO during Government Shutdown

Despite the potential government shutdown, the USPTO’s diligent planning and robust operating reserves ensure that the protection of intellectual property remains a top priority. Global Patent Solutions anticipates that intellectual property practitioners will experience very little or no impact from the USPTO unless any shutdown were to become particularly prolonged. By staying informed and taking proactive measures, patent attorneys can continue to serve their clients effectively even during challenging times.


[1] Source: USA Today – When was the last government shutdown?

[2] US Department of Commerce – Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

[3] The Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC)

[4] USPTO Systems Status and Availability

[5] USPTO FY2024 Congressional Budget Submission

[6] FY22 IPEC Annual Report

[7] USPTO Blog – eBiz

[8] JDSupra/Legalnews – What Happens to Your Patents and Trademarks if the USPTO Shuts Down on October 1, 2023?