Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Deputy Director Michelle K. Lee
Langdon Education Campus, Washington, D.C.
March 26, 2014
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you so much for that introduction, Peggy, and good morning, everyone. We have a great program today, and I'm delighted that you all could be here with us to mark this exciting milestone in American innovation. We're joined by a number of distinguished visitors today, including Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker; Diane Tipton, president of the Board of Directors for the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital; and Robert Lattuga, senior vice president and general counsel for Leapfrog Enterprises. I'm also thrilled to see some members of the IP community in the audience. Finally, I think we all owe Principal Shannon Foster and her staff a warm round of applause for graciously hosting this event.
Secretary Pritzker and I share a deep commitment to education, especially when it comes to the STEM fields-science, technology, engineering, and math-and their role in the creation of intellectual property. Since that phrase "intellectual property" may be new to the younger members of our audience, let me explain what it means. When our nation's Constitution was drafted in 1787, it included a clause that gave authors and inventors "the exclusive right to their respective writing and discoveries" for a limited time. Those writings and discoveries were their "intellectual property"-the creations of their minds-legally protected by an exclusive right in the form of a patent, trademark, or copyright. Today, that legal protection allows inventors to create new products, services, and jobs that help improve our lives in so many ways, and add value to our nation's economic prosperity. Without such protection, competitors can steal their ideas and profit from them, which in the long run discourages innovation and risk-taking.
Now, there are a few different kinds of patents today, including what we call design patents that protect the way an invention looks. The iPad, for example, is legally protected by a design patent. So, at one time, were LEGO bricks, Coke bottles, and the Statue of Liberty. And those are just some of the most famous design patents. There are many, many more. Last year alone, our United States Patent and Trademark Office issued more than 22,000 design patents. And since this is Women's History Month, I should note that Commissioner Focarino-who is the first female Commissioner for Patents in our agency's 200+ year history-is responsible for managing more than 9,000 examiners who have to approve or reject those patent applications.
Like Commissioner Focarino, I was once a Girl Scout, too-first a Brownie and then a Junior. I remember the many patches we could earn for demonstrating new skills like sewing and selling cookies. As the daughter of an engineer in Silicon Valley, I grew up building radios and TV sets with my dad, and I kept wondering, where were the patches for inventors? Engineers? Scientists? There weren't any patches for the kind of career I wanted to follow. Today, of course, there are many more patches Girl Scouts can earn for a variety of important skills, including this new intellectual property patch that we are excited to announce today. Developed by a partnership of the Girl Scouts Council of the Nation's Capital, the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation, and the USPTO, this patch is awarded to girls who demonstrate an understanding of the impact that intellectual property has on technology and the economy. We'll be awarding the first of these intellectual property patches in just a few minutes to some very bright girls making history themselves today: they'll be the first Girls Scouts to ever earn the patch, which we hope will eventually be available to all 2.3 million Girl Scouts nationwide.
I'm also thrilled to be able to share this new inventor trading card which the USPTO and the Girl Scouts USA developed together. This is Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts, and a patent owner herself. I hope the card will serve as an inspiration to young girls who, like I did at their age, dream of building and creating new things that can change our lives for the better. And for all you girls who might be thinking about a job in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math, or intellectual property when you grow up, let me tell you: there is bright future full of opportunity waiting for you.
At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, five of our top leadership positions are held by women. In addition to Commissioner Focarino and me, our Commissioner for Trademarks, Director of Policy and International Affairs, and our new General Counsel are all women who were once girls with big dreams, like you.And of course, President Obama has a number of women leaders in his own cabinet, including our Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker. Secretary Pritzker knows first-hand the importance of intellectual property protections, having launched five businesses and serving on the boards of five others over the past 28 years.
She built companies from the ground up, helping create thousands of jobs around the country-in fields ranging from senior living, to real estate development, to capital investment, and more. Clearly, she has a passion for business and she understands the needs of those who build and run our nation's most successful companies, as well as those who are still struggling for that first innovative breakthrough. And somehow, in addition to all of her responsibilities as a leader and mother, she's also an avid runner and triathlete. Most importantly, she believes, as I do, that if we provide more paths for Americans to innovate and create jobs, our nation will be even stronger and more competitive in the years ahead.
Please join me in welcoming Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.