Employee Event with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke

Remarks As Prepared

USPTO Employee Event

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

USPTO Alexandria Campus

Thank you for the kind words. Good morning everyone. It's great to be here with Director Kappos, Deputy Director Barner, and all of you. Let me start by acknowledging the recognition by the Partnership for Public Service bestowed on the USPTO in its annual "Best Places to Work" survey as one of the most improved agencies - jumping 50 spots over last year's rankings. It's a sign of innovative leadership and an agency-wide commitment to transform the organization.

I know that transformation has not been easy. Over the years, I'm sure some of you have felt like the mythological character Sisyphus, who spent each day rolling a huge bolder up a steep hill, only to watch it roll back down before he reached the top.

I was last here in May, when we talked about some of the challenges many, if not most, of you have been dealing with for a long time: a huge patent application backlog and an examination process for granting or denying a patent that exceeded 34 months. Both are just plain unacceptable. They hurt our economy, and as you all know, I asked Director Kappos to make reducing patent pendency his top priority.

When the first Patent Board, chaired by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, was overwhelmed by applications, Congress changed the law. There was a registration procedure, and patents could be issued without an examination.

It proved an unpopular move ... and one, needless to say, unlikely to be repeated. Eventually (and happily), the patent examination system was reestablished. This system has kept America competitive globally, created a culture of entrepreneurship that fostered small businesses and spawned giant industries, and has been a key component of job creation and a thriving economy.

Our challenge today is to bring the patent system and USPTO into the 21st century ... to continue to unleash the innovation, ingenuity, and creativity that has made America the envy of the world. Together, that is what we are working to accomplish. I am a great believer in stretch goals. And, obviously, so are Director Kappos and all of you.

I'm here today to applaud you for setting a goal of bringing the number of pending patent applications down below 700,000 - and for the outstanding effort the team has put into making it happen. Today, Dave tells me you are within striking distance of reaching the "699" backlog goal. That speaks to leadership, commitment, and a lot of hard, hard work. And I thank you for the outstanding job you are doing.

My philosophy has always been that it's better to set the bar high, to constantly challenge ourselves to excel. If we worry about failure, we'll never take the risks necessary to achieve the extraordinary. That's what you're doing here. In the face of financial constraints and increasing patent applications, the agency has been moving forward, not only in reducing the patent backlog, but on several other fronts as well.

Among these:

  • A new operational reorganization which took effect on October 1 that contributes to increased efficiency, productivity and transparency.
  • Programs and proposals designed to give applicants more control over how quickly their application is examined-such as the Green Technology program and the Three-Track proposal;
  • A proposal to incentivize the development and dissemination of humanitarian technologies;
  • An overhaul of Patent and Trademark IT systems;
  • Streamlined review of appeal briefs;
  • Expanding worksharing efforts with international IP offices in order to speed patent examination for applications filed in multiple jurisdictions;
  • Establishing a new trademark quality metric to measure examination excellence; and
  • New communications tools-such as blogs and Facebook--to strengthen USPTO's relationships with employees, the IP community and other stakeholders.

We were pleased to see that Congress appropriated $129 million in the supplemental to enable the USPTO to access more of its fee collections for the essential work you are doing here. Make no mistake, that work is central to President Obama's goal of rebuilding America's economic foundation. And much like the PTO, we're making significant progress. Consider that when President Obama took office, we were hearing serious commentators from across the political spectrum warning that we were on the cusp of a second Great Depression.

But the president and leaders in Congress acted quickly. Today, we are moving in the right direction. The private sector has now added jobs for eight months in a row. And our GDP is up for four straight quarters. But we are not there yet. We still have a long way to go. One of the surest ways to strengthen this economy for the long-term is by increasing American competitiveness. President Obama's vision recognizes that innovation is the key to making that happen. And the Commerce Department has a leading role to play.

We're working to ...

  • Open international markets to U.S. products and services to meet the President's National Export Initiative goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015, supporting several million new American jobs;
  • Protect the intellectual property of our innovators, inventors and businesses which will help grow businesses and create new job; and
  • Move the "next big thing" - whatever it is - out of the research pipeline and into the marketplace.

It is simply critical that this recovery be built on stronger stuff than real estate bubbles and debt-fueled consumer spending.

Innovation is the leading driver of economic growth and high-paying jobs. It makes our country safer, stronger and more productive and prosperous. So as part of the team that's been encouraging innovation since our nation's founding over 200 years ago, everyone here has a big job to do, an important job. And I want to thank Director Kappos, Deputy Director Barner and all of you for the tremendous effort and seriousness of purpose with which you've attacked the challenge before you.

By providing the highest level of service to our inventors, innovators and creators, you are doing a great service to our nation and to the American people.

Thank you.