Since Congress failed to pass a budget before the October 1st deadline for funding the government, we have a partial government shutdown. This affects some agencies immediately – national parks, including the Panda Cam at the National Zoo, have already closed. Other agencies have gone into wind-down mode, and are making plans for a shutdown.
The USPTO will remain open because it has funds that are not tied to government appropriations. These funds, that have been reserved from fee collections, will allow the Office to continue to function as usual for as long as four weeks. After four weeks, only a small staff will remain, and a shutdown plan will go into effect. However, the Office will accept new applications for patents and trademarks and maintain the IT infrastructure during any shutdown.
The Federal Courts have enough funds to remain open for ten business days. After that time, the criminal courts will continue functioning as required in the interest of public safety, but the impact on civil cases in unclear. The Department of Justice has published a contingency plan that provides for postponement of civil litigation.
The Copyright Office has not offered any guidance as to its functioning during a shutdown, but it is likely it will have to trim down to essential personnel. There is a notice posted on the Copyright Office home page stating that the Office is closed as of October 1st. However, the Office continues to accept applications and monitor unauthorized online activity.
While many government entities may be shutting down, if you have a patent, copyright, trademark, or civil suit that you need to file before a critical date, do not delay filing because of the government shutdown.