Management Goal: Achieve Organizational Excellence
The USPTO’s Universal Laptop intranet site.
Fulfillment of the USPTO’s mission requires strong leadership and collaborative management. While the three strategic goals focus on our core mission, our overarching management priorities focus on the shared responsibility that is a prerequisite for achieving those goals and objectives, namely, the priorities of sound resource management, solid workforce planning, corporate support services, and effective use of IT.
Objective 1: Improve IT Infrastructure and Tools
The USPTO continued to make improvements in our IT enterprise architecture, internal processes, and organizational alignment to improve our ability to be more responsive and better manage and deliver quality products at enhanced service levels. In particular, these initiatives directly support the USPTO 2010-2015 Strategic Plan to:
- Improve overall efficiency;
- Improve availability of and streamline access to USPTO information, data, and services with improvements to the USPTO Website;
- Serve an increasingly geographically dispersed workforce with the deployment of the Universal Laptop (UL);
- Implement faster, more secure information exchange by adhering to the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA);
- Continue expansion and improvement of e-filing, e-processing, and other e-government efforts; and
- Improve the USPTO’s IT infrastructure and tools.
In October 2010, OMB released the “25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management.” This “25 point action plan” directs the Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO), OMB, and Federal agencies to take specific steps in solving the most pressing Federal IT problems. The USPTO is implementing many of these points while keeping with the Administration’s commitments for “Transparency, Participation, and Collaboration.” The USPTO expanded access to all patent and trademark data through the www.data.gov and www.google.com Websites; has a “cloud first” policy; is working to align the IT budget with modular development; is reforming and strengthening the Agency’s Investment Review Boards; and has created a “TechStat” model for the USPTO.
The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) continues to work in improving the visibility of IT costs by instituting a standardized budget execution system with assistance from the OCFO. This has allowed for the OCIO to work with all of the USPTO business units to create an improved long-term IT investment strategy, which is discussed further in the USPTO Strategic Information Technology Plan. See http://www.uspto.gov/about/offices/cio/ITP_Overview.pdf.
In fulfilling responsibilities under 44 U.S.C. § 3504(h), the USPTO uses a Capital Planning and Investment Control process to prioritize investments and determine funding levels for subsequent fiscal years. Projects are carefully managed throughout their life cycle, and progress reviews are conducted at key milestone dates to compare the project’s status to planned benefit, cost, and schedule, along with technical efficiency and effectiveness measures. All major IT system investments are reported in OMB Circular A-11, Exhibit 53, Exhibit 300A and 300B, and the USPTO’s IT Investment Portfolio.
The USPTO’s OCIO continued to work diligently with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the DOC to improve the USPTO’s overall IT security program and the quality of the certification and accreditation.
The chart (Figure 18) shows trend of total number of Open Plan of Actions and Milestones (POA&M) for the USPTO 33 operational systems at the end of FY 2010 and every quarter of FY 2011. Any known security weakness requiring remediation is tracked using POA&M. Our goal is to bring total number of open POA&M as low as possible by remediating security weaknesses in the systems.
Objective 2: Implement a Sustainable Funding Model for Operations
The USPTO operating structure is like a business in that it receives requests for services—applications for patents and trademark registrations—and charges fees projected to cover the cost of performing the services it provides. Unlike a business, however, the USPTO did not until recently have the flexibility to adjust its fees or spending authority if actual application filings and revenues are different than those previously estimated. A USPTO funding model must span multiple years and be adaptable to fluctuations. Anything less will not sustain operation of our nation’s IP system over an extended period of time.
Student and Inventor Rebecca Hyndman introduces President Barack Obama to the stage at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology September 16, 2011, in Alexandria, Virginia, before he signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) into law.
The FY 2011 President’s Budget began to move the USPTO toward a sustainable funding model by proposing:
- Ensuring access to fee collections to support the performance objectives;
- Instituting an interim increase on certain patent fees as a financial bridge until the USPTO obtains fee setting authority and develops a new fee structure that will provide sufficient financial resources in the long term;
- Pursuing the legislative authority to adjust our fee structure by regulation to better align fees with the cost of providing services; and
- Creating an operating reserve to manage operations on a multi-year basis.
Unfortunately, the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, did not include authority for the USPTO to apply the 15 percent interim increase on certain patent fees that was included in the FY 2011 President’s Budget. Without this interim financial bridge, the USPTO did not have sufficient funding to implement the Administration’s Priority Goal of reducing the patent application backlog and pendency or the patent pendency performance targets outlined in the FY 2011 President’s Budget.
The Leahy-Smith AIA (Pub. L. No. 112-29) was enacted on September 16, 2011. The AIA authorizes the USPTO to set and adjust fees by regulation. It also improves the USPTO’s funding model and access to fee collections by establishing a fee reserve fund where the Agency will deposit all fees collected in excess of the annual appropriation. These fees will be reserved for USPTO’s use and the spending will be authorized in annual appropriations. Fee setting authority, along with maintaining an operating reserve and ensuring access to fee collections, will begin to put the USPTO on solid ground to support performance objectives and adjust for volatility in the economy and/or demand for products and services without putting the Agency at risk.
Objective 3: Improve Employee and Stakeholder Relations
The Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (OCAO) plays a critical role in the Agency’s efforts to meet the management goal to “achieve organizational excellence” by making significant and continuous improvements to many of our routine programs and services in the areas of human capital, telework, security, safety, and environmental awareness.
Effective and Efficient Recruitment plus Employee Satisfaction Equals Retention
In line with the President’s call for hiring reform and in an effort to streamline the hiring process, the USPTO implemented Monster Hiring Management, and simplified the application process for candidates. As a result, the Agency is able to provide timely notifications to applicants, as well as more quickly generate a list of qualified applicants for the hiring managers. This resulted in increased external and internal customers’ satisfaction with the process and the results.
In support of the USPTO’s goal of optimizing patent quality and timeliness, a targeted hiring plan was developed to recruit highly qualified individuals who have had meaningful IP experience. These enhanced recruitment initiatives stem from a marketing strategy aimed at building the USPTO’s brand at the forefront of technological advancement and innovation.
Effective recruitment and employee satisfaction are essential to mission achievement. Employee feedback obtained through the annual Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) is critical to understanding our employees’ concerns and satisfaction with the agency overall. In an effort to increase employee participation, the Office of Human Resources (OHR) embarked on a strategic campaign to market the 2011 EVS to USPTO employees. Multiple communication techniques were employed. As a result of these efforts, the USPTO response rate on the 2011 EVS was 65 percent, an increase of 17 percent from the 2010 survey. Using the results of the EVS, OHR partnered with business units to help identify and address human capital opportunities. One program that was identified based on EVS results, was the newly implemented agency-wide USPTO Creativity and Innovation Challenge. This program provides employees with an opportunity to submit ideas and suggestions for improving all aspects of the Agency.
The USPTO continued to offer training and development opportunities through its Leadership Development Program. The diverse set of development strategies in the program are designed to efficiently and effectively identify and close competency gaps, as well as strengthen leadership values, knowledge, skills, and abilities. Additionally, an Executive Education Program was established to address both individual and common development challenges across the executive ranks. It consists of a 360 degree leadership assessment; executive coaching; online, classroom, and mobile training (book abstracts and Web/pod-casts); and executive development plans. The Executive Education Program is designed to maximize the capabilities, contributions, and potential of our entire SES team, build and sustain a common leadership vision, and enhance learning across the Agency.
This year a Leadership in Action Program was implemented to provide employees an opportunity to acknowledge supervisors and mentors who model best practices in leadership or mentoring, and exemplify the values set forth in the USPTO Leadership Vision. The program was designed based on requests from employees wanting an agency-wide method to recognize their supervisors. In FY 2011, 106 supervisors were presented with Leadership in Action Awards.
The USPTO promotes and fully embraces a wellness culture through a voluntary program of formal and informal activities designed to improve the health and well-being of all employees to foster positive lifestyle change. The Agency drafted a comprehensive wellness plan and held a very successful wellness fair this past year. The USPTO has set a goal to have 75 percent of all employees participating in wellness and fitness activities by the year 2017.
USPTO and union executives sign a telework enhancement agreement July 5, 2011 at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. (Left to right, standing: Tim Callahan, David Dalke, Pam Schwartz, Bob Oberleitner, Andrew Lawrence and Meryl Herschkowitz. Left to right, sitting: Harold Ross, Pat Richter, Robert Budens and Howard Friedman. Danette Campbell is not pictured.)
Advancements in Telework
Telework at the USPTO continues to be a primary corporate business strategy and the USPTO continues to be a model for telework in the federal government. The USPTO started its telework programs more than 13 years ago with 18 Trademark examining attorneys. Today, more than 6,200 employees agency-wide are working from home at least one day per week. The successful program continues to draw industry attention as more than 30 agencies and organizations interested in starting or expanding their respective telework initiatives contacted the USPTO.
The Telework Enhancement Act was signed into law on December 9, 2010. The law specifies roles, responsibilities, and expectations for Federal agencies with regard to telework policies, employee eligibility and participation, program implementation, and reporting. In addition, the Telework Enhancement Act enables the USPTO to conduct a pilot program called the Telework Enhancement Act Pilot Program (TEAPP). This pilot program will enhance USPTO’s current telework programs and will allow employees teleworking full-time to decide, for their convenience, to live farther than 50 miles from the USPTO Headquarters located in Alexandria, Virginia. Pilot program participants will be able to change their duty station to their home, or in some instances, a location near their home.
"Telework has been shown to save money on infrastructure, transportation, and other costs. At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, for instance, millions of dollars have been saved through the reduction of office space due to increased use of telework."
—Representative JASON CHAFFETZ (R-UT),
on May 5, 2010, on the House floor while discussing
H.R. 1722, the Telework Improvements Act of 2010
The legislation specifies that an oversight committee be established and be comprised of equal representation of management and labor. The USPTO’s Oversight Committee included representatives from the Patent Office Professional Organization, National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) 245, NTEU 243, the Patent and Trademark organization, and the OCAO. This committee designed the TEAPP’s operating procedures. The Memorandum of Understanding for the TEAPP was signed on July 5, 2011. Implementation of this pilot program will have a significantly positive impact on the effectiveness, productivity, and work-life balance for USPTO employees.
Safe, Secure and Green
The USPTO has created an environment for employees that is favorable to enhancing their effectiveness by taking measures to ensure the workplace is modern, safe, secure, attractive, and energy efficient. For example, with the full-scale issuance of new identification cards, the USPTO made significant progress in implementing Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, the government-wide mandate to establish a common identification standard for all Federal employees and contractors. Approximately 2,000 new cards have been issued as of September 30, 2011.
To further employee awareness during emergency situations, the Agency’s emergency preparedness program was expanded to include computer-based training to 500-plus Occupant Emergency Plan team members. Additionally, the USPTO’s Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) was updated and valuable COOP-related tabletop exercises were held with Business Unit COOP managers, Emergency Response Group personnel, and Reconstitution Team members in June 2011.
The Green at the USPTO intranet site.
The USPTO continues to develop energy and environmental programs to meet Federal mandates and to educate employees on the benefits of sustainability. To that end, the Green at the USPTO intranet Website was redeveloped to focus on new sustainability initiatives; the third annual “Green Fair” was hosted in April 2011; a commuter survey was conducted, which launched a ridesharing Website; and recycling policies were expanded to include many more options in single-stream recycling beyond glass and cans.
Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity
On October 1, 2010, the Agency reorganized its operational structure establishing the new Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (OEEOD). The Director of OEEOD reports directly to the Under Secretary and Director and is a member of the Agency’s Executive Committee and Management Council. The reorganization resulted in a more strategic, proactive, and organizationally independent functional unit than its predecessor, the Office of Civil Rights, with the goal of supporting an increasingly diverse workforce. Notably, the USPTO is 26 percent Asian, 24 percent African-American, 2 percent Hispanic (Figure 19). Also, females comprise 39 percent of the USPTO’s employee population.
The reorganization paved the way for a number of new initiatives. Including one designed to increase diverse interest in the Agency’s senior-most positions. In support of this initiative, OEEOD hosted a seminar designed to expand the pool of qualified SES applicants. The program consisted of two-parts: an overview about the SES and the application process; and executive-led roundtable discussions about SES candidacy.
OEEOD also piloted a New Examiner Mentoring Program. The program’s goal is to help new examiners acclimate to the Agency and improve retention past the initial probationary period.
OEEOD actively supports a network of 11 new affinity groups. This support involves conducting quarterly meetings with the leaders of the affinity groups to discuss joint projects, delivering a leadership training retreat for the affinity group leaders, hosting an annual International Food Sample Festival that allowed the affinity groups to showcase diversity through food. Comprising the 11 affinity groups are the:
- American and Muslim and Arabic Cultural Association
- Asian Pacific American Network
- Blacks in Government
- Caribbean Intellectual Property Association
- Intellectual Property Society of Iranian Americans
- Lambda PTO
- National Society of Black Engineers Alumni Extension Chapter
- Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
- Society of Ethiopian American Engineers and Scientists
- Women in Science and Engineering.
In addition to these new initiatives, the Agency hosted its annual Community Day event, a major celebration of the Agency’s diversity. The Agency also held observances for National Hispanic Heritage Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Caribbean Heritage Month, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.
Providing Information and Feedback Channels for Employees and the Public
Implementation of the Patent Ombudsman Program was a direct response to the public’s request for a dedicated resource to provide patent applicants, attorneys, and agents assistance with application-specific issues related to patent prosecution advancement. This program serves as a means for maintaining the lines of communication between practitioners and examiners. The Patent Ombudsman Program has resulted in improved, high-quality customer service by advancing the status of patent applications while simultaneously demonstrating the Agency’s commitment to achieving its strategic goals by improving patent quality and timeliness, promoting confidence in the patent examination process, and improving relations with stakeholders, all in an effort to ultimately spur innovation and economic growth.
The USPTO continues to support the independent inventor community and enhanced its efforts with the newly created Office of Innovation Development (OID) within the Patent organization. The OID serves a key role in promoting innovation and technology creation in the United States. The OID oversees programs that foster and support innovation in the independent inventor communities, universities, and non-profits. The OID also works closely with other officials and agencies throughout the government in support of the Administration’s efforts to promote small business, entrepreneurship and job creation. The OID designs and implements outreach programs to a wide range of groups including independent inventors, women, small business concerns, minorities, and other underserved communities. As part of this effort, the OID held a Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium and a California Regional Conference.
The USPTO also participates in outreach initiatives with inventor organizations throughout the United States. These non-profit inventor organizations assist inventors with innovations and the desire to start a business based on those inventions.
Online public chats are held bi-monthly. These chats provide ongoing education opportunities and allow the public to ask questions in a live chat room and receive an answer.
The USPTO encouraged the establishment of pro bono IP services through universities and law associations. In all cases, the USPTO will be instrumental in helping in the development of concepts and finding partners. The USPTO acts as an information conduit for independent inventors through our Website and outreach events. There are 13 universities currently offering IP law clinics on IP rights education aimed at independent inventors and small businesses. The IP law clinics will also provide basic IP education. A first pilot program was launched in June of 2010 in Minnesota by an association of law offices and private companies to assist individuals and small businesses with certain financial needs to protect their valuable inventions and innovations. This program, in conjunction with the OID, will offer education and guidance to new and financially needy inventors. Independent inventors can work directly with experts to gain assistance in filing a new application or improving their existing applications.