Bob Schwartz

Patents: Just One More Shutdown Victim

Election Game

You have heard stories, but you may not be directly affected by the shutdown at the moment, or know anyone who is. The shutdown may end tomorrow, but it may go on for weeks, as the last one did in 1996.

You understand the human misery that begins today. But maybe you don’t realize the legitimate, non-controversial things that the federal government does—things that are actually required by the U.S. Constitution, which even the most radical and extreme government haters say they respect.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office is one of those functions. It is an engine of innovation, which is one of those buzzwords that everyone across the political specturms like to throw around. How busy and important is the USPTO? Right now, there is a backlog of 1,000,000 patent applications in the pipeline

The USPTO site features this:

USPTO Operation Status

During the general government shutdown that began October 1, 2013, the United States Patent and Trademark Office 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.

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, among other functions. (Should it become necessary for USPTO to shut down, details of the agency’s plan for an orderly shutdown are available on page 78 of the United States Department of Commerce’s shutdown plan, available here.)

Any new or updated public information related to USPTO operations during the government shutdown will be placed on this page.

The mentioned shutdown plan includes 87 pages and obviously took many hours to create and will take many more to execute.

While there, a search of the patent database found numerous political games (above). Unfortunately, there did not seem to be any patents for helping political extremists understand that government is not a game, and that the extraordinary founders of the nation who they claim to love never meant it to be one. Those founders believed in government, and could never imagine any representatives irresponsible enough to believe otherwise.

The Most Significant Shutdown Front Pages

El Diario

Republicans should pay close attention to the front pages of America’s newspapers this morning, the first day of the government shutdown prompted by their obsessive opposition to Obamacare.

Most papers carry some version of “shutdown” or “gridlock,” with photos of John Boehner and Harry Reid, or John Boehner and Barack Obama (it’s all about John Boehner).

But the big story on two front pages is the opening of the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges. These two papers just happen to be two of the largest Spanish-language dailies—El Diario in New York (above) and La Opinion in Los Angeles (below).

La Opinion

Why is this significant for Republicans? Because they claim (but in their heart of hearts still may not believe) that here in the second decade of the 21st century, they can’t become an American national party without broad Latino support. That is true, but the fact is that a large part of that constituency is uninsured and is deeply interested in the benefits of Obamacare. This is reflected in those front pages. But the Republicans are sworn enemies of Obamacare, so committed that they are willing to put people out of work to do it. How can the Republicans be a party attractive to Latinos under that circumstance?

The answer is that they can’t. It is a circle Republicans cannot square. And no matter how much lip service they pay to underserved populations, everything they do says something else. Actions, like front pages, speak louder than words.