Message from the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Now more than ever, the work of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is vital to our nation’s well-being. As we stand at an important crossroads in the country’s economic evolution, our ability to foster new products and cultivate new inventions proves instrumental in creating the next generation of jobs, investments, and growth. We are committed to accomplishing our mission of fostering an intellectual property (IP) system that allows American business and entrepreneurs to thrive. And in order to strengthen the very infrastructure that marshals new innovation to the marketplace, under our 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, the entire USPTO team made some important strides in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011.
We’ve undertaken a series of initiatives to improve the speed and quality of patent processing in an ongoing effort to further strengthen the examination capacity of the USPTO. We’ve also aggressively been reengineering many systems and processes including our internal information technology (IT) systems. We are working toward a 21st Century system that is smarter, better, faster, and stronger for all stakeholders. For the first time in several years, the USPTO team was able to push the number of patent applications awaiting first action well below 700,000—an important milestone proving that our range of initiatives are helping to usher technological innovations from the drawing board into the economic sphere more quickly. Another significant milestone the Agency surpassed this year was the issuance of its 8,000,000th patent. This is an important signal of the technological vigor and creative industry underpinning a healthy and highly-productive U.S. IP system.
And for the fifth consecutive year, our outstanding Trademark organization has consistently exceeded its pendency targets for first action and final disposition. Going above and beyond expectations with final pendency below 11 months, we’ve also implemented the new “excellent quality” measure.
But even with all of this activity, the USPTO faces enormous challenges with the likelihood that FY 2012 will be a difficult year financially. That is why the historic patent reform legislation—passed this summer by Congress, and signed into law in September by the President—is pivotal to our operations. The America Invents Act ensures that the USPTO remains sufficiently resourced to modernize our IT infrastructure, hire more examiners, and swiftly implement new cost-effective provisions that will increase the efficiency and the quality of our patent system. Various working groups have already been convened to roll out a staged implementation of the bill over the next 18 months. Ultimately, this sweeping legislation will offer inventors the strong property protections they need to grow their businesses, and afford our Agency the tools it needs to drive down the backlog, and deliver cutting-edge technologies to the marketplace—all without adding a dime to the deficit.
Under Secretary Kappos speaks at the Innovation Alliance Conference January 21, 2011, in Washington, D.C.
But, in order to remain competitive in a global economy, and in order to ensure that businesses can create more jobs and increase their hiring, develop and invest faster, there’s more we must do. That’s why we will continue to work with the Administration, Congress, and our stakeholders to identify and implement solutions for a sustainable and robust IP system that better equips the nation’s innovators.
We are confident that the USPTO’s financial and performance data are complete, reliable, accurate, and consistent as we improve our ability to measure progress toward our performance goals. For the 19th consecutive year, we earned an unqualified audit opinion on our annual financial statements. For FY 2011 financial reporting, the independent auditors did not identify any material weaknesses, significant deficiencies, or instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations.
Even though we’re proud of what we achieved, we look forward to challenges that remain ahead. I know that the requisite talent, creativity, and innovative spirit are alive and well among USPTO employees and are producing positive results for the American people and our economy. That’s why I look forward to another productive year, working with you all to ensure that the USPTO drives innovation, creates jobs, and guarantees America’s competiveness in the century ahead.
David J. Kappos
Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and
Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office
November 4, 2011