The Puerto Rico State Department has a backlog of about 20,000 trademark and corporation registration applications pending review, which it is looking to eliminate this year, Secretary of State David Bernier said Tuesday.
To get there, the agency has reached agreements with the University of Puerto Rico Law School and the Inter American University Law School to bring in student interns to speed up the process of updating those records.
“The State Department is the gateway to the island’s economic activity. The first thing a company does when it decides to establish itself on the island is to incorporate and register their trademarks,” Bernier said. “That’s the reason behind our efforts to ensure efficiency in the process.”
“If we want to be competitive, we have to be efficient in the services provided to citizens and corporations doing business in the island. The backlog is unacceptable,” Bernier said, adding that in the first 100 days that the current administration has been in office, staff has managed to reduce the backlog by about half.
The current backlog includes about 5,000 new trademark applications and another 13,000 or so petitions for amendments to existing records. Another 2,000 applications are pending review for corporate registrations, mergers, amendments or dissolution, said Francisco Rodríguez, deputy secretary of services at the State Department.
“We’re not behind in new corporation registrations. The backlog is related to applications that were not computerized,” he said. “The goal is to catch up by the end of the year and put mechanisms in place so we never fall behind again.”
Through the agreements with the universities, the State Department expects to have a total of 20 interns rotating through the registry office, Rodríguez noted.
By increasing staff, the State Department will be able to extend trademark and corporation registration services to offices that currently only process passports, in Plaza Las Americas, Arecibo, Fajardo, Guayama and Mayagüez, which will open soon.
“In 2014, we should be operating under international quality standards, processing corporation registration petitions within 48 hours and trademarks in less than 60 days,” Bernier said.
The State Department accepts manual and online corporate and trademark registration applications for several years, with the latter method gaining momentum during former Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock’s tenure.
The current backlog seems significant considering that Comptrollers Office records show that between 2009 and 2012, the State Department granted seven contracts worth more than $13.7 million to North Carolina-based FileOne Inc., a company specializing in secretary of state records management processes.
Those contracts are valid through 2014 and Rodríguez said they will be honored.