The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has enough reserve cash to avoid shutting down for awhile if Congress and the White House fail to reach a deal next week to continue funding the government, according to a top agency official.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria. - (Alex Brandon/AP). The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria. (Alex Brandon/AP).

USPTO deputy director Teresa Stanek Rea said in a message to employees this week that the agency would use leftover fee collections from prior years to operate as usual for “at least a few weeks” if the government runs out of appropriations.

“Because the USPTO maintains sufficient carryover funding from prior fiscal years, our agency can and will stay open for business for a period using these available reserves,” Rea said.

The agency, which largely funds itself without congressional appropriations by generating fees, would shut down if it runs out of reserve cash before the potential government closure ends, according to Rae. But it would keep a “very small staff” at work to accept new applications and maintain IT functions during that time, Rea added.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents USPTO employees, said it was pleased that the agency would be able to avoid a shutdown in the short-term.

“Our economy depends upon the work of the employees of PTO to protect new ideas and investments in innovation and creativity,” said NTEU president Colleen M. Kelley. “A dramatic increase in the already existing backlog at PTO would harm American investors and entrepreneurs responsible for much of the job growth in our country.”

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