The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has just ruled that it is okay for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to charge fees in excess of its operating costs. The Federal Circuit also ruled that it is okay for the USPTO to spend excess fees on things unrelated to patents and trademarks, things which include homeland security.
According to the Federal Circuit at least $400 million of excess patent fees have been redirected to non-USPTO spending, just since 1992. The ruling would not be nearly so unsettling if it did not appear the USPTO could spend a little of this largess paying more examiners more money to cut down, at least a little, on the monstrous backlog of pending applications languishing in the USPTO.
It is a shame to think about the number of inventions that have never come to fruition as a result of such large fees being charged inventors to fund non-invention related projects.