Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Wednesday Jun 29, 2016

Teaming Up to Cure Cancer

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

Anyone who has held the hand of a friend or family member suffering through chemotherapy and radiation or comforted a friend or colleague dealing with the loss of a loved one understands the savagery of cancer. With a disease that causes such devastation and loss, we are often left feeling alone and with more questions than answers.

During his final State of the Union, President Obama reminded all of us that we are not alone in this fight against cancer, and that if we work together, answers are within our reach.  With a nearly $1 billion dollar budget and a commitment to success, the President is committed to doubling the rate of progress in cancer research and treatment.

The President’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative is not an endeavor that one person or one institution can accomplish in isolation. Such a herculean goal requires, as Vice President Biden opined, “… the need for more team science and increased collaboration among the private sector, academia, patient foundations, and the government.”  Working together through public and private partnerships, we can overcome the many barriers that currently impede progress towards treatment and we can identify where resources can be more strategically included to foster and advance solutions.

The USPTO is proud to join this team of allies in the President’s effort to refocus, reinvent, and reprioritize the fight to cure cancer. As “America’s Innovation Agency,” it fits squarely in our mission to contribute to this massive and just cause. And, in collaboration with the Vice President’s office, we are excited to unveil two major projects to support the National Cancer Moonshot. 

To start, we are implementing a free initiative in July called Patents 4 Patients that will “fast-track” reviews of patent applications related to cancer treatment. The goal of this accelerated program is to complete review of applications that are accepted into the program in one year or less after they are received. The sooner we can identify and patent these innovations, the closer we are to a cure.

In addition to this “fast-track” program, we will unveil an Intellectual Property (IP) “Horizon Scanning Tool”. This tool will allow the public and the federal government to analyze and build rich visualizations of intellectual property data, often an early indicator of meaningful R&D. When combined with other economic and funding data (such as Security and Exchange Commission filings, FDA reports and National Science Foundation grants), the Horizon Scanning Tool can illuminate trend lines for new treatments and allow federal funding and policy efforts to be more targeted.

President Kennedy’s revolutionary moonshot challenge to the American people more than 50 years ago was a galvanizing call to collective action to achieve a worthwhile yet potentially unattainable goal in a very short period of time. That historic call to action echoes today.

President Obama recognizes that data and technology innovators can play a role in revolutionizing how medical and research data are shared and used to reach new breakthroughs. Innovations in data and technology can break down silos and bring all the cancer fighters together. Working together and sharing information, we can provide hope to the more than 1.6 million Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer this year.  

It is my desire that we also inspire a new generation of scientists to pursue new discoveries. I am proud of the part the USPTO will play in this most worthwhile effort, and I count as well on your strong support.

With the leadership of President Obama and under the guidance of Vice President Biden, we can make a difference and we can change the future so that upcoming generations do not have to experience the same pain that cancer has caused over the last decades.

For information and updates on how the USPTO is advancing President Obama’s call for a Cancer Moonshot, please visit www.uspto.gov/about-us/national-cancer-moonshot.

 

Tuesday May 17, 2016

USPTO Regional Offices Forge Ahead in 2016

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

USPTO regional offices support our core mission of fostering American innovation and competitiveness by offering services to entrepreneurs, inventors, and small businesses, while effectively engaging communities and local industries. All four of our regional offices now have directors, making us well-positioned to fully advance this mission. The establishment of four USPTO regional offices fulfills a commitment dating to September 16, 2011, when President Obama signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) into law. All the regional offices have been busy these last few months, including holding events for World IP Day and enabling local innovators to participate virtually in the Patent Quality Community Symposium.

Since its grand opening on November 9, 2015, the Texas Regional Office in Dallas welcomed its first class of patent examiners in January, and they are expected to complete their initial training and move into their offices by the end of April. The office also welcomed five new Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) judges in the first quarter of 2016, thereby reaching a total of 17 PTAB judges. The Texas Regional office has already held a number of outreach events in 2016, including three seminars on patents, trademarks and petitions, and a Congressional App Challenge celebration for students and their families who participated in the competition from Congresswomen Eddie Bernice Johnson’s district.

The West Coast Regional Office in Silicon Valley continues to engage in conversations about policy decisions that affect innovation. It’s hard to believe the Silicon Valley office officially opened only six months ago, on October 15, 2015. It has already celebrated the graduation of its first training academy of examiners and welcomed its second academy in February.

The office is serving the regional entrepreneurial community with events such as “Speed Dating for Startups,” co-sponsored by Santa Clara University, where over 150 entrepreneurs, small business owners, and students learned about incorporating IP into their business strategies. Several top USPTO officials also participated in an “Inventor and Entrepreneur Forum” at the University of California, Irvine Applied Innovation Lab, which had 700 attendees in person and online. The office also recently welcomed Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who discussed the importance of open data to innovation in an entrepreneurs’ showcase, and Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews who met with the newest class of examiners and the newest PTAB judge.

The Rocky Mountain Regional Office, which will celebrate its second anniversary in June, has experienced a number of firsts since our last update. The office hosted its first Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) argument, with participants in Denver appearing before the TTAB via the USPTO’s telecommunications system, and will also be holding its first AIA trial proceeding in the month of April. The office is now fully staffed with PTAB judges and examiners, with the addition of two new PTAB judges, and a third class of patent examiners that graduated recently.

Under the leadership of Regional Director Molly Kocialski, education efforts and partnerships in the Rocky Mountain region have expanded significantly, with outreach visits and events across Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. These include conferences, listening tours, participation in startup weeks in the region, STEM engagement, presentations, office hours, and meetings with members of the public and partners across the region. Additionally, we were very excited to release a new USPTO inventor trading card featuring Rocky Mountain inventor and noted autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin.

The Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit has continued to host PTAB hearings, including their first live Inter Partes Review trial in January, and recently welcomed a new Administrative Patent Judge, bringing the total to 11 PTAB judges. The office has been active in the community as well, recently hosting the first Patent Drafting Competition in conjunction with University of Detroit Mercy. Law schools from around the Midwest region sent teams to Detroit to present in front of a panel of judges including patent examiners, PTAB judges and IP practitioners, with Indiana University Maurer School of Law winning the competition.

In March, Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Boney Denison joined Midwest Regional Director Dr. Christal Sheppard at the IP Spring Seminar in East Lansing, Michigan, coordinated by the Michigan State Bar IP Section, and also spoke to 60 local entrepreneurs at a Trademark Lunch and Learn at TechTown Detroit. In a continuous effort to attract a talented workforce, the Midwest Regional Office will be hiring a new class of patent examiners soon and has been on the recruiting trail with stops at several local university career fairs and informational sessions.

The USPTO regional offices play an important role in supporting the overall mission of our agency, including ensuring easier access by innovators and entrepreneurs to resources and intellectual property protections they need to compete in today’s global economy. To find out more about events in any of our regional offices, visit the events page of the USPTO website, and for employment opportunities, visit USAjobs.gov for openings. I will continue to keep you informed about new updates on our regional offices throughout the year on this blog.

 

Friday May 13, 2016

Protecting U.S. Trade Secrets

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

Innovators of all types, from independent inventors to large corporations, rely on trade secrets to safeguard their creativity, gain competitive advantage, and further their business goals. Congressional passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and the signing of the bill by the President this week, strengthens U.S. trade secret protection for U.S. companies and innovators, allowing trade secret owners to now have the same access to federal courts long enjoyed by the holders of other types of IP.

Read more in my opinion editorial, “Protecting America’s Secret Sauce: The Defend Trade Secrets Act Signed Into Law,” in The Huffington Post.

Thursday May 05, 2016

USPTO Celebrates World IP Day and Digital Creativity

Guest blog by Russ Slifer, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO

Last week, the USPTO celebrated World IP Day in the Washington, D.C. region, across the country, and abroad. World IP Day was established in 1999 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to celebrate the important role of intellectual property (IP) and the contributions made by creators and innovators around the globe. We had a lot of fun with this year’s theme, “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined.” We chose to highlight the importance of the video gaming industry, its exponential growth, and impact on our daily lives.

On April 26, the USPTO hosted the “Legend of World IP Day,” in Alexandria, Va., an event focused on the history of IP and creativity in the video game industry. Video game curator and patent holder Chris Melissinos discussed how video games have rapidly evolved, been commercialized, and have become ingrained in our culture during his keynote remarks. Watch the recorded livestream of the event, and watch our USPTO video which goes behind the scenes on IP and the history of the video games. 

I spoke on Capitol Hill on April 26 at the World IP day event, “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined,” where I discussed the importance of digital creativity, the USPTO’s progress on copyright treaties, and the importance of ensuring that our copyright system and laws keep up with the digital age. Read my remarks.

The White House also recognized World IP Day, with President Obama issuing a commemoration of World IP Day, stating: “Whether through the music or movies that inspire us, the literature that moves us, or the technologies we rely on each day, ingenuity and innovation serve as the foundations upon which we will continue to grow our economies and bridge our cultural identities.” The President even tweeted his favorite movie, song, and invention. Others posted their list of favorite American innovations and creative works using the hashtag #AmericaCreates.

Our USPTO regional offices held events to celebrate World IP day across the country. On April 20, the Midwest Regional Office held a World IP day event in Detroit recognizing local students for their innovations and contributions to their community. The West Coast Regional Office in Silicon Valley held several World IP events, including a gathering of the Bay area intellectual property community on April 21, featuring the Honorable Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose. The Rocky Mountain Regional Office held “The Evolution of Cultural Expression through Digital Creativity” on April 25, focusing on Native American culture, as well as a Lunch and Learn with startups and entrepreneurs on April 26. And on April 27, the Texas Regional Office hosted a World IP Day exposition in Dallas, where business, legal, academic, and federal experts provided attendees tips on protecting their IP, developing technologies, and building their businesses. See our Facebook photo album of World IP day highlights.

Finally, USPTO IP Attachés participated in World IP Day events around the world with U.S. Embassies, consulates, and the American Chamber of Commerce, including roundtable discussions in China and Thailand, events in Mexico and Qatar, a film screening and discussion in Singapore, and cyber working group meetings in the Ukraine.

The USPTO is focused on safeguarding the rights of creators of all types and supporting an ecosystem where innovation can flourish. We are honored – not only on World IP Day, but every day – to do our part to support creators, innovators and entrepreneurs as they define their ideas in the form of patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

Thursday Apr 07, 2016

USPTO Launches Two New Online Fee Payment Tools

Guest Blog by Chief Financial Officer Tony Scardino

For several years, the USPTO has been making significant progress in modernizing its information technology (IT) infrastructure and tools for both employees and the public. Our financial tools are no exception, and I’m excited to announce that on April 9, the USPTO is launching two new online fee payment tools to the public:  Financial Manager and the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront. Watch the short video overviews of Financial Manager and the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront.

These new tools incorporate feedback from customers that we received through outreach efforts, including interviews, surveys, and user design sessions. The result for users is increased efficiency, better information, and a workflow that is better streamlined to integrate with users’ business processes. Here are some of the tools’ new features:

  • For the first time, customers will have streamlined uspto.gov accounts. To access Financial Manager, customers will easily create their own uspto.gov account. Then once signed in to their account, customers will also have access to advanced features in the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront, like bulk file payments and a virtual shopping cart.
  • In Financial Manager, customers will be able to store and manage their payment methods online; assign secure user permissions, allowing others to access and help manage payment methods; receive administrative email notifications; and create transaction reports, including monthly deposit account statements. Each individual in an organization will need their own uspto.gov account to access or help manage a stored payment method. 
  • In the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront, customers will be able to retrieve patent maintenance fee information (including payment window dates for up to 10 patents at once); upload bulk files to pay any number of patent maintenance fees at once; check out more quickly using their stored payment methods; add fees to an online “shopping cart” and save them for payment later that day; receive an itemized receipt for each payment; and download a statement for each patent.
  • In the months ahead, we’ll be expanding the stored payment methods feature to pay for other patent, trademark, and USPTO service fees.

Here are some additional changes to be aware of:

  • These new tools will replace the current Office of Finance Online Shopping Page and Financial Profile. Once the new tools go live, the old web pages will no longer be available.
  • Similarly, anyone attempting to pay a patent maintenance fee online will need to use the new Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront.
  • Deposit accounts are “going green.” Deposit account holders will now manage all deposit account activities online using the new Financial Manager. Monthly statements are also going paperless. Deposit account holders will be able to access their statements online at any time in Financial Manager, and the USPTO will no longer be mailing paper statements. 
  • Finally, for deposit account holders with multiple users in their organization, each user must create their own uspto.gov account in order to be able to access the deposit account.

We will be working with our current customers to ensure a smooth transition to these new tools. This includes implementing a temporary transition period to allow customers to adjust to the new way of managing financial transactions and paying fees at the USPTO.

Customers currently using a deposit account or EFT to pay fees at the USPTO will still be able to do so by entering their current deposit account or EFT credentials (i.e. deposit account access code or EFT profile name and password) immediately after the release of Financial Manager. After the temporary transition period, customers will need to store and manage deposit accounts and/or EFTs in Financial Manager, and only users who have been granted “Fee Payer” permissions for the payment method will be able to use them for payment. The transition timeline will be posted on the Financial Manager page of the USPTO website when Financial Manager goes live. In the meantime, customers can refer to the Fee Payment Transition Resources section of the USPTO website to find additional information on the payment method migration.

We are very excited about bringing these new financial and fee payment tools to the public, and we’re confident that they will enhance our customers’ experience of doing business with the USPTO. If you have additional questions, please visit the FAQ page for Financial Manager, or the FAQ page for the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront. You can also email us at fpng@uspto.gov. We rely on customer feedback to drive our plans for future improvements.

Friday Mar 11, 2016

USPTO’s National Summer Teacher Institute – Bringing Innovation to the Classroom

Guest blog by Russ Slifer, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Teachers across the country have until April 18 to apply for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) 3rd annual National Summer Teacher Institute—an exceptional opportunity  for teachers to garner additional skills in innovation, “making,” and intellectual property, to incorporate into their classrooms.

The institute will be offered in collaboration with Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing from July 17-22, 2016. Fifty elementary, middle school, and high school science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) teachers will be selected to participate, and they will explore experiential training tools, practices, and project-based learning models to help foster skills and motivation for innovation.

Speakers and hands-on workshop instructors will include experts from the USPTO, faculty from MSU, noted scientists and engineers from the Science of Innovation curriculum, and representatives from other federal government agencies and non-profit organizations.

Invention projects provide a practical experience for participants to understand concepts of intellectual property in the context of STEM. Teachers will have access to maker spaces on the campus of MSU during the institute and are encouraged to take ideas and lessons learned back to their own classrooms. The program is designed to help teachers enhance student learning and outcomes, while meeting the rigors of common core and next generation science and engineering standards.

Steve Bennett,  an 8th grade engineering and technology teacher at a middle school outside of Houston, participated in the teacher institute in 2014 and served as a teacher ambassador in 2015. Bennett stated the teacher institute was the best summer experience he has had as an educator. He learned about the patent process, how to teach his students about it, and activities to use in the classroom such as making a microscope from a simple laser pointer.  Along with the tools and techniques to inspire intellectual property and innovation in his curriculum, Bennett said it’s the connections he made at the institute that help continue to drive him professionally. He’s met more than 60 teachers across the country who he continues to collaborate with and share ideas with. He now works with other schools and universities to promote STEM teaching programs, activities, and events. “The teacher institute opened up a whole new world for me,” he said. “The USPTO’s program can be used for any subject, and I recommend it for any teacher.”

Requirements for the USPTO’s National Summer Teacher Institute include three years of teaching experience and a commitment and willingness to take what they learn back to classrooms to help inspire a new generation of innovators. Teachers are chosen from across the country, and will have travel and lodging expenses covered if they live more than 50 miles from the venue.

Monday Feb 29, 2016

USPTO Maintains Productivity Despite Inclement Weather

Guest blog by Russ Slifer, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

The big East Coast snowstorm last month demonstrated the continuing effectiveness of the USPTO’s telework program, as more than 9,600 of our approximately 12,000 USPTO employees were able to telework despite the aftermath of the blizzard, allowing the agency to maintain high levels of production and efficiency.

While the federal government in the Washington, D.C. area was officially shut down, 77 percent of the total USPTO workforce was teleworking at peak times of the day. Not every USPTO employee has a telework agreement. Among those who do, nearly 93 percent of all employees were working at peak times.  In terms of productivity, our Trademark examining attorneys performed more than 90 percent of the work they did on recent comparable days without closures or storms. Patent examiners accomplished an average of 84 percent of the work they did on recent comparable days. Patent Trial and Appeal Board staff continued to respond to customer enquiries, judges conducted hearings remotely, and over 20 America Invents Act decisions were entered. 

The USPTO has been leveraging telework for many years; since 1997 in fact, when the Trademark Work at Home program started. In those days, telework in most federal government agencies was still considered to be the “shiny new penny” and federal agencies were just starting to get on board the telework train. In addition to our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, the USPTO’s regional offices across the country also effectively use telework when needed to serve inventors and entrepreneurs in their regions.

Prior to this year, February 2010 saw the last severe blizzard-like weather in the Washington metropolitan area. When the 2010 “Snowmageddon” storm hit, the USPTO was prepared: Trademarks was able to maintain fully 86 percent of normal workday production, and, agency-wide, more than 3,000 USPTO employees logged on to the PTO Virtual Private Network (VPN). The 2010 blizzard also helped the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act gain traction, especially in the Washington metropolitan area.

Although Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring, the Farmer’s Almanac indicates more inclement weather before winter’s official end. Whatever the case may be, at the USPTO it is business as usual.

Friday Feb 26, 2016

USPTO Submits its Fiscal Year 2017 Congressional Budget Justification

Guest Blog by Chief Financial Officer Tony Scardino

Each year, the USPTO submits a budget justification to Congress in order to obtain authority to spend the patent and trademark fees we collect. I’m pleased to announce that the USPTO has published its fiscal year (FY) 2017 Congressional Budget Justification.

The FY 2017 Congressional Budget Justification, which covers the period from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017, provides detailed information on how the USPTO plans to spend fees in the upcoming fiscal year. The FY 2017 budget documents our plans to enhance patent quality and continue reducing patent application pendency and backlog in order to help bring innovations to the marketplace and create jobs for the American people. It also enables us to continue maintaining our high levels of trademark quality and pendency despite increasing numbers of application filings; modernizing our information technology (IT); carrying out the provisions of the America Invents Act (AIA); and providing domestic and global intellectual property leadership.

In FY 2017, the USPTO expects to collect—and has requested an appropriation of—$3.3 billion in fee revenue, which is derived primarily from patent and trademark fee collections. This is approximately $49 million more than our FY 2016 appropriation.

Our estimated fee collections have been modified from the projections included in the FY 2016 President’s Budget to reflect new assumptions about the growth rate in patent application filings—based on our latest assumptions about demand for our services—and to incorporate proposed fee adjustments that were presented to the USPTO’s Public Advisory Committees (PACs) in early FY 2016. Both PACs have held public hearings on the agency’s proposals. We are currently awaiting and analyzing the findings and recommendations reported from our PACs. Once our analyses are completed, we will update our fee collection estimates in the notices of proposed rulemaking that will be published in the coming months.

The USPTO FY 2017 budget tells the story of a dynamic organization that is continually adapting to the ever-changing environment in which we operate. The agency maintains operating reserves to help us effectively manage through these changes. Even as fee collections vary from year to year, the operating reserves allow us to continue to make critical, multi-year investments to improve the USPTO and its operations. In FY 2015, the USPTO established minimum operating reserve levels for FY 2016 and FY 2017—$300 million for the patent operating reserve and $55 million for the trademark operating reserve—to help us mitigate known financial risks. Our goal is to continue to grow these reserves to their optimal levels of three months for patents and four months for trademarks within the five year term reported in the budget.

Throughout FY 2015, patent application filings and fee collections were trending at less than planned levels. We recognized that planned spending in FY 2016 and FY 2017 no longer aligned to our projected resources, and the agency conducted a comprehensive financial planning and resource management review. Based on this review, the USPTO’s FY 2017 budget prioritizes the agency’s spending across multiple years and reduces our budgetary requirements—i.e., what we plan to spend in FY 2016 and FY 2017—from the levels we identified at this time last year.

The budget places high priority on financing fixed operating costs (e.g., paying for on-board staff, production and operating requirements) and carrying forward with targeted investments and improvements. We also recognize that it is prudent to extend some of our information technology (IT) investments over a longer period of time in order to continue the effective implementation of critical systems that are essential to accomplishing our strategic goals.

The spending and revenue adjustments included in the FY 2017 budget allow the USPTO to continue to make responsible investments in the agency’s mission while maintaining our minimum operating reserve levels, and demonstrate the USPTO’s commitment to sound business and financial practices. Looking to the future, we will continue to assess the proper balance between pursuing strategic improvements and mitigating financial risks to the agency’s mission.

Thursday Jan 14, 2016

Leadership in All USPTO Regional Offices

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

After much excitement in the last few months of 2015 with the opening of our final two regional offices—the West Coast Regional Office in Silicon Valley in October and our Texas Regional Office in Dallas in November—I’m happy to announce that Molly Kocialski will be the Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office in Denver, Colorado. With Molly’s addition, all four of our regional offices now have directors, making us well-positioned to fully advance the mission of the USPTO as America’s Innovation Agency.

As the new director, Molly will spearhead the Rocky Mountain Regional Office’s efforts to bring the USPTO’s resources directly to the local innovation community, helping to fuel economic growth and innovation in the region, as well as oversee the local team of patent examiners and PTAB judges.   Molly is an established IP leader in the Rocky Mountain region, having served as the Chair of the Intellectual Property Section of the Colorado Bar Association and currently on the Colorado Bar Association’s Board of Governors. Moreover, Molly brings to bear more than 20 years of experience in intellectual property. Most recently, she was the Senior Patent Counsel for Oracle America, Inc. in Denver, responsible for managing an active patent prosecution docket and all of the post-grant PTAB proceedings and patent investigations for Oracle and its subsidiaries. Prior to Oracle, she worked at Qwest Corporation and was in private practice both in New York and in Colorado focusing on intellectual property litigation for multiple high-tech companies while maintaining an active prosecution docket.  Her extensive experience and familiarity with the region’s unique ecosystem of industries and stakeholders will be an asset to the USPTO. 

Molly joins a group of exceptional office directors already in place, including Hope Shimabuku, Director of our Texas Regional Office in Dallas, whom I recently swore in on January 3, Christal Sheppard, Director of the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit, and John Cabeca, Director of the West Coast Regional Office in Silicon Valley.

The establishment of four USPTO regional offices fulfills a commitment dating to September 16, 2011, when President Obama signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act into law. These offices serve their region’s innovation and intellectual property communities and put tools into the hands of individuals who need assistance at every step of the business lifecycle. I am proud of the historic progress we have made over the last four years in establishing and growing these offices, and as we continue to bring resources to the doorsteps of innovators and serve entrepreneurs from coast to coast.

All of our offices will continue to hire talented and dedicated professionals to join their teams. For more information about openings, go to www.usajobs.gov, keyword: USPTO.

Wednesday Dec 30, 2015

Power and Systems Update

Guest blog by Deputy Director Russell Slifer

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of our stakeholders and employees for their patience and support as we worked to repair USPTO operations to full functionality. I also want to extend our sincere appreciation to the hundreds of employees, contractors, and service providers who have been working around the clock, through the holidays, to restore operation of thousands of servers, network switches, firewalls, databases, and their connections.

The USPTO contracts, through service providers, for clean uninterrupted power from state of the art, redundant, uninterrupted power supplies for our data systems. On December 22, both of these power supplies were damaged, resulting in a complete power outage to our data systems. Analysis of the damage over the last week confirms our earlier assessments and eliminates any concerns of foul play. We will take this opportunity to work with our service providers to ensure that lessons are learned and improvements are made.

We regret that any interruption occurred, and we strive to provide service equal to the best in government and industry. The USPTO continues to invest in improving our IT systems and many of these improvements allowed the agency to bounce back more quickly. I am proud to say that the USPTO teams returned operation to many systems as early as the next day, successfully restored data from our backup systems, and made all the necessary hardware repairs to return to nearly 100 percent operations by December 28th. Thanks to the tireless dedication of so many people, the USPTO is again operating on an uninterrupted power supply.

Tuesday Dec 15, 2015

USPTO Releases its FY 2015 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR)

Guest Blog by Tony Scardino, Chief Financial Officer

I’m pleased to announce that the USPTO has published its Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for fiscal year (FY) 2015.  The PAR serves as the USPTO’s annual report, similar to what private sector companies prepare for their shareholders.  Each year the USPTO publishes this report to update the public on our performance and financial health.

Our PAR charts the agency’s progress toward meeting goals outlined in our 2014-2018 USPTO Strategic Plan: optimizing patent quality and timeliness; optimizing trademark quality and timeliness; and providing domestic and global leadership to improve intellectual property policy, protection, and enforcement worldwide.  These goals govern the quality and quantity of our service to intellectual property stakeholders.  In addition, the PAR provides information on the USPTO’s progress towards a broader management goal:  achieving organizational excellence.

Here at the USPTO, we take pride in producing a PAR that meets the highest standards of transparency, quality, and accountability.  The PAR contains a wealth of data and historical information of interest to our stakeholders, including data on patent and trademark examining activities, application filings, and agency staffing levels.  This information is conveniently presented in the Workload Tables section at the end of the PAR.

On the issue of financial performance, FY 2015 marks the 23nd consecutive year that the USPTO’s financial statements have received an unmodified audit opinion.  Our clean audit opinion gives the public independent assurance that the information presented in the agency’s financial statements is fairly presented and follows generally accepted accounting principles.  In addition, the auditors reported no material weaknesses in the USPTO’s internal controls, and no instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations affecting the financial statements.

While the PAR is a record of our achievements, it is also an honest discussion of the challenges we face as an agency moving forward in FY 2016.  Among our numerous challenges and opportunities, we will continue efforts in:  managing the transition to a steady-state operation as the patent business comes closer to achieving its pendency and inventory targets; establishing an Office of the Deputy Commissioner to ensure that the growing Trademark organization has the resources and knowledge it needs to continue to modernize; attaining and maintaining full sustainable funding in an era of increased budgetary pressures; and providing IT support for a nationwide workforce with a “24/7/365” operational capability.

The PAR is a faithful snapshot of the USPTO’s FY 2015 performance.  I hope you find value in this document, and that it allows you to glean greater insights into the agency’s activities and achievements.

Tuesday Dec 08, 2015

A Historic Moment for the USPTO and Innovators Everywhere

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

It’s been a momentous time for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in recent weeks, as we officially opened our West Coast Regional Office in Silicon Valley on October 15 and our Texas Regional Office in Dallas on Nov 9.  And today we are announcing the hire of the first Director of our Texas Regional Office, stellar engineer and intellectual property attorney Hope Shimabuku. Her hire comes at a time of historic achievement, as we have completed the establishment of four USPTO regional offices, a commitment dating to September 16, 2011, when President Obama signed the America Invents Act into law. The regional offices embody the Administration’s commitment to promoting innovation and entrepreneurship across the United States. Of course, we at the USPTO know our work has only just begun. We can now, more than ever, engage directly and meaningfully with our nation’s inventors, entrepreneurs, IP practitioners, academics, and policymakers. And we plan to take full advantage of that opportunity.

Hope is a critical player in that mission. She brings to the Texas Regional Office nearly two decades of professional experience, with the added bonus of being a native Texan. Most recently, Hope was part of the Office of General Counsel at Xerox Corporation serving as Vice-President and Corporate Counsel responsible for all intellectual property matters for Xerox Business Services, LLC. She also worked for Blackberry, advising on U.S. and Chinese standards setting, cybersecurity, technology transfer, and IP laws and legislation. She was also an engineer for Procter & Gamble and Dell Computer Corporation, and holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and a cum laude J.D. from the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law.

As a veteran of the innovation ecosystem in Texas, she is well aware of the dynamic variety of economic giants as well as up-and-comers across the broader region, in industries ranging from semiconductors to bioengineering. She knows the emerging economic opportunities in that region, and is committed to advancing the mission of the USPTO as America’s Innovation Agency by assisting entrepreneurs to unleash game-changing innovations while creating high-paying jobs and fueling economic growth.

When Hope comes on board in January, she will actively engage with innovation communities in many states across the broader region, promoting USPTO services and initiatives that match the exact needs of those audiences. She will educate but she will also listen, the USPTO’s model of 21st Century governance. And she’ll supervise a stellar team of hard-working employees. The Texas Regional Office already boasts many Patent Trial and Appeal Board judges, with the first patent examiner class onboarding January 11, 2016. Once fully staffed, the Texas Regional Office will have more than 100 examiners, judges, and outreach and administrative staff.

The West Coast Regional Office, when fully staffed, will have approximately 125 employees, comprised of 80 patent examiners, over 25 Patent Trial and Appeal Board Judges, and outreach and administrative staff.  The office has already been active in outreach efforts with organizations across Silicon Valley, the state of California, as well as across the other states in its region.

Despite having only been officially open in our permanent location for a month, the West Coast Regional Office has already provided assistance to over 100 walk-in visitors, trained new patent examiners, provided tours for local elected officials, and hosted patent and trademark learning events. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker recently visited the office and spent time meeting with employees, and the office also hosted dignitaries in a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) roundtable. Prior to the official opening of the permanent space, the office was already hard at work engaging with startups and incubators, providing technology focused and industry specific workshops and presentations specific to Silicon Valley and the region. 

The Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Denver has also been busy, most recently hosting a Patent Quality roundtable on October 21, in conjunction with the IP Committee of the Colorado Chapter of the Association for Corporate Counsel (ACC) and the IP Section of the Colorado Bar Association. Members of the bar, local patent community and public-at-large are invited to come together with USPTO officials and share ideas, experiences and insights on patent quality. The Rocky Mountain, Midwest, and West Coast regional offices are now staffed with outreach officers who are dedicated to building relationships with innovators and partners in their regions.

The Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit, staffed with 154 employees, continues to hold frequent events and actively engage with the innovation community. In 2015, since Director Christal Sheppard came on board, the office has engaged with over 10,000 stakeholders and held over 120 outreach events for audiences of senior citizen entrepreneurs to K-12 future innovators and everyone in between. The office’s Saturday seminars, free and open to the public, are a very popular event. One important focus of the Midwest Regional Office has been on K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) outreach. The office is working with local school districts and after-school programs to encourage innovation with K-12 education, particularly focusing on children and teens that, currently and historically, are underrepresented in STEM and the innovation economy. Since 2012, the office has reached over 700 K-12 students in underserved communities.

In each of the offices, we continue to look for talented and dedicated employees to join our team.  If you are interested in working for the USPTO in one of these regional offices, please refer to www.usajobs.gov for openings.

We are very excited about the important role the USPTO regional offices will play in supporting the overall mission of the Agency including ensuring easier access by innovators and entrepreneurs to resources and intellectual property protections they need to compete in today’s global economy. Look for me to provide a new update on regional office activities in the spring, as the USPTO embarks on our next phase of community engagement with four permanent regional offices up and running.

Friday Nov 06, 2015

Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative: Moving Forward

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

Patent quality is central to fulfilling a core mission of the USPTO, which as stated in the Constitution, is to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” It is critically important that the USPTO issue patents that are both correct and clear. Historically, our primary focus has been on correctness, but the evolving patent landscape has challenged us to increase our focus on clarity.

Patents of the highest quality can help to stimulate and promote efficient licensing, research and development, and future innovation without resorting to needless high-cost court proceedings. Through correctness and clarity, such patents better enable potential users of patented technologies to make informed decisions on how to avoid infringement, whether to seek a license, and/or when to settle or litigate a patent dispute. Patent owners also benefit from having clear notice on the boundaries of their patent rights. After successfully reducing the backlog of unexamined patent applications, our agency is redoubling its focus on quality. 

We asked for your help on how we can best improve quality—and you responded. Since announcing the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative earlier this year, we received over 1,200 comments and extensive feedback during our first-ever Patent Quality Summit and roadshows, as well as invaluable direct feedback from our examining corps. This feedback has been tremendously helpful in shaping the direction of our efforts. And with this background, I’m pleased to highlight some of our initial programs under the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative. 

First, we are preparing to launch a Clarity of the Record Pilot, under which examiners will include as part of the prosecution record important claim constructions and more detailed reasons for the allowance and rejection of claims. Based on the information we learn from this pilot, we plan to develop best examiner and applicant practices for enhancing the clarity of the record.

We also will be launching a new wave of Clarity of the Record Training in the coming months emphasizing the benefits and importance of making the record clear and how to achieve greater clarity. Recently, we provided examiners with training on functional claiming and putting statements in the record when the examiner invokes 35 U.S.C. 112(f), which interprets claims under the broadest reasonable interpretation standard and secures a complete and enabled disclosure for a claimed invention. Training for the upcoming year includes an assessment of a fully described invention under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) and best practices for explaining indefiniteness rejections under 35 U.S.C. 112(b).

Second, we are Transforming Our Review Data Capture Process to ensure that reviews of an examiner’s work product by someone in the USPTO will follow the same process and access the same facets of examination. Historically, we have had many different types of quality reviews including supervisory patent examiner reviews of junior examiners and quality assurance team reviews of randomly selected examiner work product. Sometimes the factors reviewed by each differed, and the degree to which the review results were recorded. With only a portion of these review results recorded and different criteria captured in those recordings, the data gathered was not as complete, useful, or voluminous as it could have been. As a result, the USPTO has been able to identify statistically significant trends only on a corps-wide basis, but not at the technology center, art unit, or examiner levels. We are working to unify the review process for all reviewers and systematically record the same review results through an online form, called the “master review form,” which we intend to share with the public. 

What are the implications of this new process and new form? This new process will give us the ability to collect and analyze a much greater volume of data from reviews that we were already doing, but that were not previously captured in a centralized, unified way. As we roll out this new review process the amount of data we collect will significantly increase anywhere from three to five times. This will allow us to use big data analytic techniques to identify more detailed trends across the agency based upon statistically significant data including at the technology center, art unit, and even examiner levels. Also, this new process will give us better insight into not just whether the law was applied correctly, but whether the reasons for an examiner’s actions were spelled out in the record clearly and whether there is an omission of a certain type of rejection. For example, for an obvious rejection we are considering not only whether a proper obvious rejection was made, but whether the elements identified in the prior art were mapped onto the claims, whether there are statements in the record explaining the rejection, and whether those statements are clear.

The end results will be the (1) ability to provide more targeted and relevant training to our examiners with much greater precision, (2) increased consistency in work product across the entire examination corps, and (3) greater transparency in how the USPTO evaluates examiners’ work product. You can read more about these and our many other initiatives, such as our Automated Pre-examination Search pilot and Post Grant Outcomes, which incorporates insight from our Patent Trial and Appeal Board and other proceedings back into the examination process on our new Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative page on our website.

Finally, let me close by emphasizing that our Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative is not a “one-and-done” effort. Coming from the private sector, I know that any company that produces a truly top quality product has focused on quality for years, if not decades. The USPTO is committed to no less. The programs presented here are just a start. My goal in establishing a brand new department within the USPTO was to focus exclusively on patent quality and the newly created executive level position of Deputy Commissioner for Patent Quality will ensure enhanced quality now, and into the future. With your input we intend to identify additional ways we can enhance patent quality as defined by our patent quality pillars of excellence in work products, excellence in measuring patent quality, and excellence in customer service.

To that end, we will continue our stakeholder outreach and feedback collection efforts in various ways, such as our monthly Patent Quality Chat webinars. The next Patent Quality Chat webinar on November 10 will focus on the programs presented in this blog and our other quality initiatives. I encourage you to join in regularly to our Patent Quality Chats and visit the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative page on our website for more information.  The website provides recordings of previous Quality Chats as well as upcoming topics for discussion. We are eager to hear from you about our Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, so please continue to provide your feedback to WorldClassPatentQuality@uspto.gov.  Thank you for collaborating with us on this exciting and important initiative!

Wednesday Mar 18, 2015

USPTO Satellite Offices Bring Resources to Innovators

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

Three years ago, we started expanding USPTO operations across the country to Dallas, Denver, Detroit, and Silicon Valley, bringing resources to the doorsteps of innovators. These satellite offices support our core mission of fostering American innovation and competitiveness by offering services to entrepreneurs, inventors, and small businesses, while effectively engaging communities and local industries.

Our satellite offices allow the USPTO to recruit a diverse range of talented technical experts and build the workforce necessary to reduce the current patent backlog, ensure pending applications are examined in a timely manner, and speed up the overall examination process. These operational improvements in turn allow businesses to move their groundbreaking innovations to market faster, provide incentive for investment in new technologies, and directly contribute to the creation of new jobs that grow and sustain our economy.

Since my last blog update regarding our satellite offices, there have been significant developments. I am excited to welcome Dr. Christal Sheppard to our USPTO team as the new regional director for the Elijah J. McCoy satellite office in Detroit. Christal previously served as chief counsel on patents and trademarks for the House Judiciary Committee, and since leaving Capitol Hill, she has been an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska College of Law and a member of the USPTO Patent Public Advisory Committee. She will use her expertise to build on the partnerships the office has already established with stakeholders, the local community, and organizations in the Detroit area.

Our Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Denver continues to reach out to independent inventors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses with events like its Saturday Seminar series that provide valuable information on intellectual property protection and the process for obtaining patents and registering trademarks.

Denver Regional Office Director Russ Slifer says, “The reception and excitement for the USPTO in Colorado has greatly exceeded my expectations. The Rocky Mountain region has a strong innovation community including universities, small and large businesses, and independent inventors. We are passionate about building collaborative relationships to provide the education and resources needed to help the innovators in the region continue to be competitive.”

Our West Coast Regional Office in Silicon Valley is engaging the community and providing services to one of the most active patent filing communities in the world. After holding our first Cybersecurity Partnership Meeting last fall in Silicon Valley, we continue to gather stakeholders’ thoughts, ideas, and insights in the cybersecurity field as well as other industry sectors across the region. We are extremely pleased that the San Jose City Council unanimously approved our final schedule and lease terms and that construction of the West Coast Regional Office is underway.

Silicon Valley Regional Office Director John Cabeca says, "There continues to be an outpouring of support across the innovation ecosystem for the USPTO to establish a permanent west coast office in the Silicon Valley and we are eager to see our permanent facility open in San Jose City Hall. The community is very engaged and I look forward to working with stakeholders, at all levels, to bring educational programs tailored to the specific needs of the region."

For the regional director of our Texas Regional Office, we recently posted and closed a job announcement, and I look forward to updating you once a candidate has been selected. As part of our targeted outreach campaign to the unique entrepreneurial community in Texas, we are reaching out to small businesses and startups across the state. This month, I shared some our 21st century initiatives at the annual SXSW Festival in Austin, where Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and I spoke about how the government is adapting to the rate and pace of technology–and fueling innovation–by retooling our patent system. I look forward to opening the permanent space for our offices in Dallas in the Terminal Annex Federal Building later this year after renovations and infrastructure updates are completed.

To date, we have hired more than 300 employees at our satellite offices, and we will continue to hire patent examiners and administrative patent judges for them. Open positions will be posted on http://www.usajobs.gov/, keyword: USPTO.

I strongly believe in the strategic importance of our satellite offices serving their regional innovation and intellectual property communities. Working with local communities, our offices put tools into the hands of individuals who need assistance at every step of the business lifecycle. I am proud of the progress we have made over the last three years, and can’t wait to open our permanent spaces in Dallas and Silicon Valley as we continue our efforts to serve entrepreneurs from coast to coast.

Friday Jan 30, 2015

User Feedback Plays Key Role in New USPTO Website

Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

I’m excited to let you know about our newly redesigned website that improves the experience of doing business with the USPTO, and is a key part of our rollout of next generation technologies. Chief Information Officer John Owens and his team of IT specialists are dedicated to modernizing the USPTO’s IT infrastructure in 2015 and beyond.

This redesign is the first phase of upgrading users’ USPTO online experience that focuses on updating the (1) navigation to allow users to access needed information more easily and quickly and (2) to make the presentation of information on our web pages clearer and more streamlined. Following the completion of the first phase, the USPTO team is now working on ways to improve our “transactional sites,” which are the online tools and systems where users transact business with the USPTO such as filing for trademark registrations or paying the fees for patents that we look forward to sharing with you soon.

The official launch date for the website is February 5, 2015, when you will see the results of our phase one redesign.  When users visit www.uspto.gov they will be taken directly to the redesigned site and if you haven’t already visited the site, I encourage you to take a tour of the beta.

In developing the new site, we met with hundreds of users—both frequent users and new visitors to the site—to learn what information they look for, study and how they attempt to find it. We also conducted an in-depth analysis of the site’s navigation including extensive user experience testing of the new design and wide-ranging best practices comparisons. The new navigation makes it easier to access information about our services and learn how to accomplish tasks. It’s also friendlier for those of you using mobile devices. I invite you to watch a one-minute video that highlights some of the site’s new features.

Thousands of USPTO web pages were redesigned and there are many ways we can continue to make the site better, but we can’t do that without your help. When we launched the beta in December, we asked users to take a look at the new site, and more than 15,000 people have so far. We also set up an Ideascale site, a place where you can submit your thoughts and comments about the beta, and vote up or down, or comment on ideas submitted by others. We received some great input and we’re looking forward to continued interaction with you on additional ways to fine tune the new site. We’ll continue to provide improvements even after it becomes the official agency site.

We value your feedback, whether it is about our new website or any of our other initiatives. With your input, we can work together to better meet your needs.

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