STATEMENT BY SENATOR JOHN H. CHAFEE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
HEARING ON THE PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE CONSOLIDATION

The Patent and Trademark Office_or PTO_is the government agency that is charged with the advancement and protection of intellectual property. It is at the PTO that inventors apply for patents and register their trademarks for their creations. As time and technology have progressed, the number of patents and trademarks have not only increased, but become more complicated. To maintain and promote intellectual property protection, therefore, PTO staff need to operate effectively and efficiently.

Toward that end, GSA and PTO began discussions in the late 1980s to determine how best to house this agency and its employees. The goal was_and still is_to provide space in a manner that maximizes efficiency for both the PTO staff and the user community, and to the ultimate benefit of the taxpayer.

In 1995, this Committee and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure authorized GSA to proceed with procurement of a long-term operating lease. That procurement is well underway, and indeed, is drawing to a close.

But throughout this lengthy process, concerns have arisen regularly about the scope and projected cost of the consolidation, despite numerous comprehensive studies. A number of reports_some accurate, some not so accurate_about the proj ect have aired. While such mixed signals are not unusual in cases where a number of interests (and a great deal of money) are at stake, it does not make for good public policy.

The point of today's hearing is to air the various concerns and charges made about this project, and determine their legitimacy. We owe it to the PTO and its staff, the user community, and the taxpayers to ensure that this project is worthwhile and merits continued support. I am confident that the testimony we hear today will answer that question for once and for all.