USPTO’s FY 2021 Performance and Accountability Report: A clean bill of financial health

Jay Hoffman

Here at America’s innovation agency, we place a high value on transparency and providing our stakeholders with the most up-to-date information on our agency’s activities and goals. One of the ways we do that is through the publication of our annual Performance and Accountability Report (PAR). This document, now available online for fiscal year (FY) 2021, serves as a comprehensive report on the state of the USPTO.

In addition to describing how the agency is responding to the administration’s directives and executive orders on certain priorities, the PAR describes our progress toward our goals of optimizing patent and trademark quality and timeliness, and providing domestic and global leadership to improve intellectual property policy, enforcement, and protection worldwide. In short, it offers our stakeholders a detailed update on how we are using our financial resources responsibly to deliver organizational excellence to all those who work with us.

Overall, the USPTO’s financial health is strong, and we continue to carefully monitor demand and revenue and work towards establishing a prudent spending and investment plan. The USPTO maintains operating reserves that enable us to consistently fund operations. We closed the year with strong and healthy balances in both our patent and trademark operating reserves, which will position us well as we look to the future.

One of our most important achievements highlighted in the FY 2021 PAR was the removal of a long-standing “significant deficiency” associated with our information technology (IT) internal security controls. This deficiency was present for the past several audit cycles and was based on the auditor’s finding that the agency could strengthen the processes, procedures and technologies that help not only ensure that those authorized had access to our IT systems, but that those systems are also properly configured to be secure in order to prevent unauthorized access. By successfully implementing a series of corrective actions over the years, the USPTO was finally able to resolve the IT deficiency first identified by the independent auditor dating back to 2015.

We recognize the trust that our stakeholders place in us every day by providing us with information related to the protection of their intellectual property. This is why USPTO continues to focus on improving the security of our financial information and our IT infrastructure to keep up with evolving risks.

This focus on security proved essential when, as recently as last month, we proactively and deliberately shut down all external access to filing systems for about 12 hours in light of a serious and time-sensitive concern related to Log4j vulnerabilities. The shutdown was necessary to perform critical maintenance to safeguard not only our infrastructure, but also the security of our filers’ data. Stakeholders were still able to file documents via email channels we created during the outage. In the new normal of continuous cyber threats, we will continue to actively monitor, prevent, and remediate cybersecurity vulnerabilities as quickly as possible to ensure the safety and security of our American intellectual property system.

While the PAR highlights our achievements, it is also a frank assessment of the challenges we face as an agency. We will continue to address those challenges, which include working to continue to provide stable and sustainable funding and investments to maintain and improve USPTO services, and ensuring IT development and operations are agile, reliable, and adaptable.

We take great pride in our long record of producing annual PARs that meet the highest standards of transparency, quality, and accountability. FY 2021 marks the 29th consecutive year that the USPTO’s financial statements have received an “unmodified” (or clean) audit opinion from an independent public accounting firm. In addition, for FY 2021, the auditors reported no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies in the design and operation of the USPTO’s system of internal controls over financial reporting, and the financial system complies with all relevant laws and regulations.

This past May, the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) also recognized the USPTO with its Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting for the 19th consecutive year. The AGA awarded the USPTO its “Best in Class” honors for displaying “a prominent, clear, and concise one-page of their financial and performance highlights, including key financial measures, trends, performance measures and color-coded results.” Our team has worked hard to ensure this year’s PAR continues to deliver this standard of excellence. I am grateful to everyone who contributed to this effort.

I hope you find value in this document, and that it provides you greater insights into the USPTO’s activities and achievements.