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Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership

Friday Mar 14, 2014

Our Vision for 2014-2018

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

I’m pleased to announce today the publication of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. We appreciate the helpful feedback we received on the draft we released last year. The final product is stronger as a result.

My senior management team and I put a lot of care and thought into this plan, because we take seriously our role as a driver of creativity and economic growth in the 21st century innovation economy. For the last five years, we have worked diligently to achieve the goals of our 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, such as significantly reducing our unexamined patent application backlog and pendency; modernizing our information technology systems; implementing the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act; and securing sustainable funding. Our progress is significant and quantifiable.

Our new strategic plan raises the bar. We will continue to enhance our human resources, retaining and hiring more talented examiners while continuing to ensure that the USPTO remains one of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. That, in turn, will allow us to further improve the quality and transparency of our patent and trademark operations while continuing to reduce patent pendency.

Increased quality and transparency of our operations and output is necessarily coupled with continued and expanded engagement with our stakeholders and the public. We are seeing that now in our efforts to build a better patent system through our implementation of executive actions offering positive reforms. That engagement has and will come in many forms, from multiple public events to outreach through our satellite offices in Dallas, Denver, Detroit, and Silicon Valley.

We of course remain focused on ensuring a sustainable funding model to best serve our stakeholders. That means pursuing spending authority for all fee collections; establishing permanent fee-setting authority; and using private-sector business tools. This effort also will involve close engagement with all of our stakeholders.

Please take a moment to peruse the 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. We look forward to working with you to help meet—nay, surpass—the outlined goals.

Thursday Mar 13, 2014

USPTO Submits its Fiscal Year 2015 Congressional Budget Justification

Guest Blog by Chief Financial Officer Tony Scardino

I’m pleased to announce that the USPTO has published its fiscal year 2015 Congressional Budget Justification. The USPTO budget is formulated every year to gain access to our agency’s operational funds. Each year the USPTO submits a budget justification to Congress, through the Department of Commerce.

Our FY 2015 budget documents our requirements to aggressively 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 trademark application pendency; implementing the America Invents Act (AIA); providing domestic and global intellectual property leadership; and modernizing our information technology (IT).

In FY 2015, the USPTO expects to collect $3.4 billion in fee revenue, which is derived primarily from patent and trademark fee collections. These collections will cover our total spending requirements and allow us to grow our operating reserve.

Our FY 2015 projected spending of $3.2 billion will support 13,203 full-time-equivalent patent, trademark, and related support positions, including 9,013 patent examiners.

Here is what we will be able to do in FY 2015 under this budget:

  • With additional patent examiner hiring in FY 2014 and FY 2015, we will continue on our path of reducing patent application pendency to achieve our goals of first action pendency to 10.9 months and total pendency to 19.8 months in FY 2019—and aligning the backlog of unexamined applications with increased manpower by FY 2018. 
  • The budget also supports administrative efforts to address abusive patent litigation practices and repeats the president's call for Congress to enact legislation that promotes greater transparency in the U.S. patent system and prevents frivolous lawsuits that stifle innovation.
  • In Trademarks, the budget supports hiring additional trademark examining attorneys to maintain first action pendency at 2.5-3.5 months and total pendency at 12.0 months or less. 
  • The budget assumes continued substantial capital improvement investments in critically-needed IT modernization including Patent End-to-End and Trademark Next Generation systems, and related infrastructure.
  • This budget also supports USPTO domestic and global leadership to improve IP policy, protection, and enforcement.

The FY 2015 Congressional Budget Justification proposes how the USPTO wishes to expend its funds in the upcoming fiscal year. I hope you find value in the purpose of this document, and that it allows you to glean greater insights into the agency’s activities and achievements.

Thursday Jan 23, 2014

Moving Forward in 2014

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

Over the last five years, working in concert with Congress and the Obama administration, the USPTO has built a firmer foundation to support a more effective IP system. The agency continues to optimize the quality and efficiency of our patent and trademark examinations, as well as strengthen our overall patent system through the implementation of the historic 2011 Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. The USPTO has enhanced the IP process for American businesses by launching a network of regional satellite offices and establishing bilateral and multilateral IP agreements with offices from other nations. I am particularly excited about the satellite offices (located in Dallas, Denver, Detroit and Silicon Valley), as they bring many of the services offered by the USPTO closer to more communities, provide excellent venues for stakeholder and public engagement, and offer enhanced opportunities for the agency to recruit and retain top talent. All of this enables the agency to issue better quality patents and trademarks, not to mention increased customer satisfaction for the users of our services. In short, the agency’s senior leadership has made good progress to ensure our country has a strong and robust patent and trademark system for the 21st century.

We aim to keep up that work and do even more in the coming years. Going forward, the USPTO will continue to actively engage with our stakeholders, members of Congress from both political parties, as well as with others in the administration, to further improve our patent and patent litigation systems. That includes supporting Congress’ current consideration of legislation to target abusive patent litigation tactics and speed resolution of disputes over IP rights. And the USPTO will work to further the U.S. Department of Commerce’s vital role in ensuring the effective protection of IP to encourage innovation and retain America’s global competitiveness in a rapidly evolving online marketplace. I am especially eager to work with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to ”foster a more innovative U.S. economy—one that is better at inventing, improving and commercializing products and technologies that lead to higher productivity and competitiveness,” one of the key strategic goals articulated in the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”

Most importantly, my team and I will continue to work with all our stakeholders and user communities to assess new challenges and identify new opportunities to build an agile system of IP protections that catalyzes innovation, incentivizes commercial research and development, and promotes good jobs that support our nation’s competitive edge.

Having been born and raised in Silicon Valley—one of the most innovative regions in our nation—and having built my 25-year career as an engineer and IP attorney there, I have spent most of my life focused on creating innovative technologies and/or supporting and enabling those who do. It is indeed an honor to be able to continue on this path at the USPTO in my new role as Deputy Director of the agency. I am committed to working together with all our stakeholders to advance our shared goal of fueling the unique American ingenuity that fuels our nation’s job growth and economy.

It is a tremendous honor to begin my new role this month as Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I have served the USPTO for the last few years, first as a member of the agency’s Patent Public Advisory Committee and most recently as the first Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO. Through those roles, I have seen the incredible accomplishments the agency has made toward advancing a balanced intellectual property (IP) system that promotes innovation, supports economic growth, and helps create American jobs. I am eager to help the agency carry forward the progress it has made over the last few years.

Friday Dec 20, 2013

Celebrating our #1 Ranking as a Best Place to Work in the Federal Government

Blog by Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino

This week, the non-profit Partnership for Public Service (PPS) released its annual Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings, and it is an incredible honor for all of us to see that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was ranked #1 out of 300 federal agency subcomponents for 2013.

This tremendous accomplishment represents the pinnacle of a dramatic climb in the PPS rankings for the USPTO, from 172nd place in 2007, to 105th place in 2009, to 56th place in 2010, to 19th place in 2011, to 5th place in 2012. The rankings are based on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) of more than 700,000 federal employees conducted by the Office of Personnel Management, in categories like employee satisfaction with: leadership, managers, and supervisors; agency work/life programs; and overall work experiences. In fact, our EVS results show positive improvement in all of the categories measured by the survey, as well as increased scores in all major indices used to measure employee engagement.

At the USPTO there is no such thing as “good enough for government work.” As evidenced by the EVS, our employees perceive the importance of their work in relationship to the agency’s goals and priorities. They take great pride in what they do and rise to every challenge, with a singular focus on providing high-quality intellectual property (IP) rights and protections in a timely and efficient manner so new technologies can get to the marketplace faster and create more jobs.

What I find especially gratifying about our #1 ranking is that the survey was conducted at a time of significant challenges for this agency, as sequestration was being applied to the agency (despite our fully user fee-funded status), and many people in the agency were also completing the critically important work to fully implement the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act—the most sweeping overhaul of our nation’s patent system in generations. Change and uncertainty are stressful, and yet USPTO employees remained focused and engaged in our important work.

I am also extremely proud that this #1 ranking is a clear and direct reflection of the collective opinion our employees hold of the USPTO as an employer. We have strong and talented leaders and managers, and a union-management relationship that is highly collaborative, collegial, and productive, with a palpable sense that we are all part of the same team in everything we do. We eagerly seek our employees’ input through town hall meetings, focus groups, blogs, and creativity challenges, which have generated some great ideas and suggestions on improving work processes and the work environment.  And we also benefited from the strong leadership of former Director David Kappos and former Deputy Directors Terry Rea and Sharon Barner.

I want to deeply thank each and every employee of the USPTO for the outstanding work and enthusiasm that made this year’s #1 ranking a reality, and I want to make this promise to our employees, our stakeholders, and user community: we will not rest on our laurels in 2014. We will continue to work tirelessly to further strengthen our agency and its operations, and we will continue to further advance the cause of American innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth.

Thursday Oct 31, 2013

Veterans Day 2013

Guest blog by Chief Administrative Officer Fred Steckler

Ninety-five years ago, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the “war to end all wars” came to an end. Originally proclaimed Armistice Day by President Woodrow Wilson, the annual holiday was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to honor the veterans of all of America’s wars.

Today, November 11 has an even broader purpose: to honor all men and women who have served or continue to serve our nation in uniform during peacetime and war. In 2011, there were roughly 21.5 million living veterans in the United States, including 3.5 million with service-connected disabilities—a sobering reminder that freedom is not free, that it requires selfless citizens willing to sacrifice their time, comfort, and, when necessary, their lives, in support of a cause greater than themselves.

At the United States Patent and Trademark Office, 2,194 of our employees are veterans—more than 19 percent of our workforce. They include men and women who served in the Cold War and Vietnam eras and those who have served more recently in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless other posts within the United States and abroad, in peacetime and war. Some of these employees still wear the uniform as members of the reserve forces, attending monthly drills, annual training, and deploying into harm’s way when needed.

In fiscal year 2013, over 12 percent of new patent examiner hires and over 19 percent of all other new hires were veterans or transitioning service members. Four student veterans started the Student Trainee Patent Examiner -Veteran Internship Program in June of this year, and that same month the agency was approved to participate in Operation Warfighter, a federal internship program developed by the Department of Defense for active-duty recovering service members who are seeking to transition back to the military or civilian workplace.

On behalf of a grateful agency, I want to thank each and every one of these veterans, the family members who support them, and all the others who make up our diverse and talented workforce. The wealth of experience and maturity they bring to their jobs is evident in the high quality of their work, and it makes a huge difference in helping accomplish our agency’s many ambitious goals on behalf of the American people.

Friday Jul 19, 2013

An Update on Our Dallas, Denver, and Silicon Valley Offices

Blog by Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea

Last year we began providing a series of blog updates on the progress of our satellite offices, in August, September, and December. This tradition continued with an update on our Elijah J. McCoy Satellite Office in Detroit, which just celebrated its first year of operation last week.

Today I want to update you on the progress of our satellite offices in Dallas, Denver, and Silicon Valley, locations we identified in July 2012 as part of an America Invents Act (AIA) mandate. Given current budget constraints under sequestration, our efforts to move into permanent spaces for those three locations will be delayed, but continuing to operate from the temporary spaces and striving to grow our presence in the satellite office locations remains a top agency priority.

All three locations currently have temporary offices staffed by Patent Trial and Appeal Board judges, who are helping reduce the board’s inventory of appeal cases and AIA trials, which in turn helps drive down cost-prohibitive court appearances and resolves disputes earlier and more efficiently.

These judges have been at work in the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood since January, the Santa Fe Federal Building in Dallas since March, and the Menlo Park Science Center in Silicon Valley since April. We will continue to monitor our fee collections and hire more judges for the satellite offices whenever resources are available.

In addition to the work of our judges, Silicon Valley Office Director Michelle Lee continues to actively engage with the public and our stakeholders across the West, just as our Detroit office has done so effectively in the Midwest with independent inventor conferences and partnerships with local inventor associations. The Silicon Valley Office’s activities will continue to include:

• Participating in our newly formed Software Partnership, which collected comments in February that will contribute to our advancement of President Obama’s White House initiative to curtail abusive patent litigation;
• Hosting local training programs on AIA topics such as the new first-inventor-to-file rules and PTAB proceedings;
• Planning additional STEM workshops to train K-12 teachers in the local school districts on innovation, entrepreneurship, and intellectual property; and
• Building relationships with local innovators, officials, industries, intellectual property bar associations, incubators, venture capitalists, and universities.

Permanent locations for the satellite offices have been identified at the Terminal Annex Federal Building in Dallas and the Byron G. Rogers Federal Office Building in Denver, public facilities already operated by the General Services Administration (GSA). No similar space was available in the delineated area for Silicon Valley. Our relocation to permanent office spaces in Dallas and Denver has been delayed, and the GSA, which owns and operates public facilities, has suspended its solicitation process for permanent space in Silicon Valley. We will continue monitoring our fee collections to determine when we can move forward on permanent office spaces in these locations.

In the face of current budget constraints, we remain committed to serving the public with permanent locations in all four continental U.S. time zones, ensuring that the full promise of the AIA is realized. Expanding the level of public access to the USPTO, its resources, and processes remains one of my top priorities, and I look forward to keeping you updated on our progress in the months ahead.

Friday Jul 12, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Detroit

Blog by Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea

The USPTO will reach a milestone anniversary tomorrow. July 13 marks one full year of operation of the Elijah J. McCoy Satellite Office in Detroit. As the agency’s very first satellite office, it represents a historic achievement for the USPTO. And just as we had planned, our Detroit team—which was led through the first year by Regional Manager Robin Evans—is meeting and exceeding the needs of the agency and the innovative community in and around Detroit.

The Detroit satellite office has expanded our capacity and productivity, despite tough budgetary constraints. And through increased outreach efforts with entrepreneurs and innovators throughout the Midwest, we’re creating a stronger and more efficient patent system locally—one that’s attuned to the needs of the area’s unique ecosystem of creativity and enterprise.

The Detroit office has helped us pursue our goal of cutting into the backlog of unexamined patent applications. We were able to tap into local talent to hire 78 new patent examiners. With the help of these examiners, USPTO decreased the backlog of unexamined patent applications this past year, even though the number of filings continued to increase.  Since opening, the Detroit office has already issued several thousand first office actions.

The Detroit office also has expanded the Patent Trial and Appeal Board through the hiring of 10 new judges from the region, with plans to add more. This increase in staff will help the agency reduce its inventory of appeal cases and AIA trials, which in turn will help drive down cost-prohibitive court appearances and resolve disputes earlier and more efficiently. It also allows practitioners to more readily access and navigate the patent appeals process.

The presence of the office in this important American hub of innovation and growth has increased our agency’s ability to support innovators, and provides the Midwest intellectual property community direct and central access to resources that enable inventors to better understand, obtain, maintain, and commercialize their IP rights.

The office offers workshops and seminars that provide local businesses and inventors with tools to develop, license, and distribute technologies and services. We’ve participated in 30 different outreach events in the area and have held several “Saturday Seminars” for local inventors and entrepreneurs to visit the office and learn more about patents and trademarks. In the coming year, we hope to see even more inventors and stakeholders come through our doors.

The Detroit office has offered us opportunities to foster new partnerships with organizations such as the Henry Ford Museum and the Auto Harvest Foundation to host IP awareness and education events. The office also partners with regional inventor associations to highlight and build a consortium of key tools and resources that empower businesses of all sizes to grow and protect their products and services in a global economy.

One year ago, an esteemed group of Michigan’s leaders joined us to officially open this office, including Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Representatives John Dingell, John Conyers, Jr., and Gary Peters, and former U.S. Representative Hansen Clarke. We have been proud to work alongside these leaders, as well as many local businesses and entrepreneurs, all of whom are committed to rev up the engines of the area’s innovation economy and ensure Detroit remains open for business. And now, one year later, there’s still reason to celebrate. We look forward to continuing our efforts to help American entrepreneurs and businesses.

If you have a success story you’d like to share about our Detroit office, I hope you’ll consider posting it in our comments section.

Friday Feb 08, 2013

The USPTO Thomas Alva Edison Visiting Scholars Program Celebrates its First Year

Blog by Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea

I’m happy to report that the first year of our Thomas Alva Edison Visiting Scholars Program has been a great success. The program brings leaders in academia to the USPTO to pursue research projects, drawing on our extensive resources and specialized expertise, with the aim of furthering their intellectual pursuits as well as contributing to the USPTO mission. Since its debut on January 18, 2012, we’ve had the privilege of working closely with three distinguished academics, and the benefit of obtaining their input on a number of issues of key importance to USPTO functions.

Our first Edison Scholar was Professor Jay Thomas of the Georgetown University law faculty. While at the USPTO, Thomas studied and made proposals for new administrative practices that would modernize and improve the patent disclosure system. He also reviewed existing quantitative indicators of agency performance and patent quality, identifying potential points of improvement. Finally, Thomas has been developing new ways for the USPTO to make it easier for applicants to comply with disclosure duties, attempting to minimize concerns regarding inequitable conduct while increasing the quality of information provided to the agency.

Professor Peter Menell of Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law joined the USPTO as an Edison Scholar in June 2012. Menell identified best practices for improving patent claim clarity, which will facilitate patent prosecution, improve overall patent quality, provide better public notification of the scope of a protected invention, and reduce litigation disputes over claim construction. He has also worked on IT tools that can potentially help create an unambiguous prosecution history and searchable database of claim "topography." In addition, Menell lent his expertise to discussions of patentable subject matter as it relates to computer software, contributed to developing a mechanism to enable district judges to easily determine the status of reexamination proceedings, and provided input to a policy paper on digital copyright issues.

Our third Edison Scholar, Professor Jay P. Kesan of the University of Illinois, focused primarily on research related to international patent harmonization. Specifically, Kesan studied how the grace period available under 35 USC § 102 relates to the disclosure of useful information, and the pace and impact of cumulative innovation. Kesan also contributed empirical research related to patent law changes, as well as issues related to innovation, technology transfer, and the IP transactional environment. An additional focus of Kesan’s work was investigating how to develop a standardized set of metrics associated with patent office quality, and identifying circumstances in which such a set of metrics may improve prospects for international work-sharing.

The Edison Scholars devote six months or more to the USPTO on either a full or part-time basis. On behalf of the USPTO, I thank our three inaugural scholars for their outstanding contributions over the last year.

Tuesday Dec 18, 2012

Progress Continues at our Four Satellite Offices

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos

We’re making steady progress in our efforts to get all of our satellite offices up and running as quickly as possible. We recently announced that our Dallas-Fort Worth regional satellite office will be in the Terminal Annex Federal Building in Dallas. It’s a great location that’s well-suited to serve as a home for our employees, and to support the innovation community in Texas and across the southern U.S. We are already underway identifying leadership who know the unique contours of the business landscape to staff Dallas-Fort Worth, as well as our other new satellite offices.

In Silicon Valley, for example, our new director Michelle Lee is already working as our liaison with West Coast innovators, utilizing her vast experience advising highly innovative companies on legal, technological, and business issues to help ensure the success of this new office. Meanwhile, we’re taking a closer look at the communities within Silicon Valley to identify and secure the best location for a permanent office, and for near term temporary space.

In Denver, the General Services Administration is renovating our future office space. In the meantime, we have found temporary space in Lakewood, Colorado to house our Board judges and senior leadership. When we’ve made personnel choices there I will let you know.

Last but surely not least is our Detroit office, which continues to exceed our expectations. We opened only this past July, but we already have 51 patent examiners and 10 administrative judges on board. This puts us ahead of pace to meet our goal of 100 examiners and 20 judges before the end of our first year of operation. And while most of the focus of our Detroit office has been on patents, our satellite offices also serve the trademark community. In fact, Commissioner of Trademarks Debbie Cohn recently met with stakeholders at our Detroit office for a meet-and-greet prior to a USPTO-INTA Roundtable. She reports there was a great deal of interest in Trademark operations and our public outreach.

Our entire team is committed to ensuring our satellite offices are more than just an extension of the USPTO, but are also a valuable force in the economic and innovative environment in their regions. With a physical presence in every time zone, we are now closer than ever to our stakeholders across the country. This progress report highlights how far we’ve come and how we’re advancing.

Thursday Dec 13, 2012

USPTO Named One of Federal Government’s Best Places to Work

Guest blog by Chief Administrative Officer Frederick Steckler

Today our agency had the great honor to be named one of the U.S. Federal Government’s Best Places to Work today by the non-profit Partnership for Public Service (PPS), which ranked the USPTO # 5 out of 292 federal agency subcomponents based on a survey of more than 700,000 civil servants conducted earlier this year by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The USPTO has climbed the rankings in recent years, from 105th in 2009, to 56th in 2010, to 19th in 2011—a remarkable achievement that speaks volumes about the dedication to excellence of every employee in our agency.

One large component of this success is our hugely successful telework program, which PPS recognized earlier this year with a nomination for its annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America (Sammies) awards. This improved flexibility in work location for more than 64 percent of our workforce has reduced examiner turnover to historically low levels, increased examiner productivity, and saved the agency millions each year in overhead costs. Building collaborative team-based approaches to projects and increasing technical and leadership training opportunities have also paid huge dividends in improving the morale and effectiveness of our highly talented and creative employees. And of course thanks to the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act signed into law last year, the agency has been able to accelerate our hiring of patent examiners from just over 6,000 five years ago to nearly 8,000 patent examiners today. At the same time, our backlog of unexamined patent applications has dropped from 760,000 at the start of 2009 to 605,000 today—despite an increase in patent applications during that same period.

Last week, OPM released the results of the 2012 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS). The USPTO had a 76 percent participation rate, and its scores had increased across all of the categories measured by the survey—including areas like Effective Leadership and Strategic Management—with the agency ranked in or near the top 10 percent in each category. This, too, is a tribute to the tireless dedication of our employees and agency leaders. Agency leadership is currently examining each of the categories in greater depth so we can improve or sustain those things that we are doing well and fix any problems that may have been identified in the survey responses. The business units will be preparing an overview of the results in their individual areas to share with employees.

If you conduct business with the USPTO and have the opportunity to interact with agency staff, you should know how truly fortunate we all are to have some of the most knowledgeable and hard-working employees anywhere in the federal government or the private sector. I join with Director Kappos in being very proud of the great work our managers, examiners, and other professionals have done these past few years, during a period of historic change for our nation’s intellectual property laws and our agency itself. As Director Kappos has said many times over the past few years, the three words you won’t hear around the USPTO is, “Business as usual.” The results of the EVS and PPS rankings prove that beyond any shadow of a doubt.

Monday Dec 03, 2012

USPTO Releases its FY 2012 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR)

Guest Blog by Tony Scardino, Chief Financial Officer

The USPTO has published its Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for fiscal year (FY) 2012. Think of the PAR as our annual report, similar to what private sector companies prepare for their shareholders. Each year, the USPTO publishes this report to inform the public on the agency’s performance and financial health. Here at the USPTO, we take pride in producing a PAR that meets the highest standards of quality and accountability.

Our PAR charts our progress toward meeting three goals in our 2010-2015 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. I’m proud to say that the USPTO met all 11 of its strategic goal performance targets in FY 2012. 

The PAR also 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 2012 marks the 20th consecutive year that the USPTO’s financial statements have received an unqualified 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.

The PAR is a record of our achievements, but it is also an honest discussion of the challenges we face as an agency moving forward in FY 2013. We will be proceeding with our fee setting efforts, implementing new training requirements in our patent examining corps, and encountering other challenges as we continue implementing the America Invents Act.

We hope you find value in the PAR as a faithful snapshot of our FY 2012 performance, and gain greater insight into our activities and accomplishments.

Thursday Nov 01, 2012

A Day Like Any Other...

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos

“It is probably safe to say this week did not turn out like anyone had originally planned.” I first used those words in this blog more than two-and-a-half years ago when the “Snowmageddon” snowstorm crippled the Washington, D.C. area. And like February 2010, this week’s “Frankenstorm” of Hurricane Sandy brought much of the East Coast to a standstill.

Despite the emergency circumstances and federal government closures, the USPTO and its employees shifted gears and performed admirably, demonstrating our leadership in telework for government agencies. During a natural disaster that closes our offices, USPTO employees must first care for their homes and families. And yet once everything was in order this week, they still showed an extraordinary ability to carry on business as usual in the face of extreme challenges.

Despite the emergency government shut down on Monday and Tuesday, our patents and trademarks teams nonetheless averaged more than 70% productivity. A remarkable achievement, considering many of our examiners couldn’t participate because of widespread power outages. Our Trademark Assistance Center—the call center for trademark owners and attorneys to contact with general questions about the trademark process—was fully operational during the Hurricane Sandy closure, with 100% participation from the work-at-home employees.

This level of performance does not come easily and it does not come overnight. Under the guidance of our telework coordinator Danette Campbell, we created and implemented the systems and processes necessary for a premier telework program. Events like this week’s hurricane remind us how far we’ve come in service to the public and to our employees. And I thank our employees for the tremendous job they’ve done to make our telework program world class.

All of us at the USPTO are thinking of our families, friends, colleagues, and fellow Americans who are suffering hardships because of this natural disaster. We wish them comfort, safety, and a return to “normal” as soon as possible.

Thursday Oct 18, 2012

USPTO Harmonizes Professional Conduct Rules

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos

Today I’d like to take up a topic that affects many of us, and one that is getting significant focus these days at the USPTO—our professional conduct rules. We are proposing to modernize our Code of Professional Responsibility for attorneys and agents. Admittedly, this move is overdue. The last substantial update was based on the ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility. Since that time, decades ago, almost the entire country has moved to update their local bar rules to conform to the newer ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

In keeping with the mandates of the Leahy Smith America Invents Act of 2011, USPTO recognizes the concurrent need to follow nationally applicable standards of ethical and professional conduct. Additionally, our current proposal eliminates the annual practitioner maintenance fee.

Under our proposal, most ABA Model Rules provisions have been adopted wholesale or with minor revisions. By updating, streamlining, and conforming USPTO rules, the proposal harmonizes most practitioners’ professional responsibility obligations by aligning them with state bar requirements.

As an important consequence of adopting rules consistent with practitioners’ state bars, the USPTO will provide practitioners with uniform ethical obligations when practicing before the Office. Practitioners would no longer have to go back and forth between the old Model Code and the new Model Rules. Practitioners would also have the benefits of comments, annotations, case law and other resources to guide compliance. Moreover, the proposed rules, like the existing rules, largely serve to codify obligations that already apply to the practice of law under professional and fiduciary duties owed to clients.
 
A comparison chart of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the proposed USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct, along with information regarding future outreach, is located on the USPTO website.

We are eager to know what you think of the proposal. There is a 60-day comment period which closes on December 17, 2012. Comments should be sent by email to: ethicsrules.comments@uspto.gov. And while they won’t be entered into that record, you are also welcome to leave comments here on the blog.

Monday Aug 27, 2012

Up and Running in Detroit

Guest blog by Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea

Our first-ever USPTO satellite office is off and running. I saw evidence of that first-hand after a recent, post-opening visit to the Elijah J. McCoy satellite office in Detroit. The examiners and their colleagues on the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) are our first “western pioneers,” so I was curious about their experiences so far and it prompted my return to Detroit.

It was only mid-July when I participated in the opening of the office, and on my subsequent visit in August, patent examiners had recently finished their month-long training program in the lab and moved to their new offices. We are committed to ensuring that all our examiners, whether they are located in Alexandria or in our satellite offices have the tools they need to do the best job they can. And, indeed, they’re doing that job. In fact, when I visited in August they had already completed their first in-person examiner interview.

When I was there, I spent some time with our senior staff, including our Regional Manager Robin Evans and Resource SPE Boyer Ashley, who told me of the interview. It turns out that the examiner doing the interview works from home full time and lives in the Detroit region. The attorneys flew from Denver and Silicon Valley—coincidentally the location of two of our future satellite offices—for the interview, and the primary examiner participated via a video conference from his home office in Pennsylvania. At the conclusion of the interview, the attorneys were excited that they were the first interview held in the Detroit satellite office, and they were of course also pleased with the indication of possible allowable subject matter. This is a great example of how the Detroit USPTO and the future satellite offices will serve the needs of our entire country, engaging attorneys and applicants throughout the country and allowing our employees to telework or work in the satellite offices.

I also met with our BPAI (soon to be Patent Trial and Appeal Board) Detroit judges. I am a member of the Board, and I shared with them some of my experiences working on cases. We talked about the challenges they face using new software and procedures and familiarizing themselves with the BPAI’s procedures and systems. The Detroit judges are excited to be a part of our USPTO team and are looking forward to working with their Alexandria counterparts. They are especially looking forward to conducting oral hearings and conferencing cases using some of our collaborative software tools.

It was such a pleasure to me, a native of the Detroit area, to go home and see the great work that our folks are doing on the ground in Michigan. At the one-month mark, the USPTO Detroit satellite office is up and running and serving the needs of patent applicants. I couldn’t be prouder of the work they are doing.

Thursday Aug 16, 2012

Got an Idea as Big as Texas?

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos

The USPTO’s mission is empowering U.S. innovators to protect great ideas with patents and trademarks. The small business and independent inventor community is responsible for many of those great ideas, and we know the challenges they face in filing and earning IP protection. That’s why, for the last 17 years, we’ve been reaching out to independent inventors and small business owners with regional conferences designed to educate entrepreneurs working to turn innovative ideas into marketable goods and services.

This time we’re bringing our program to beautiful Austin, Texas. Our Texas Regional Independent Inventors Conference will take place September 14–15. If you’re an entrepreneur—or even an aspiring entrepreneur—please consider attending.

At the conference you will have the opportunity to hear presentations from a variety of experts on intellectual property. Sessions are designed to appeal both to the first-time filer as well as those who have gone through the process before. You’ll be able to choose from a range of subjects, including basics of patents and trademarks, advanced patent prosecution, as well as discussion of local resources available to Texas innovators.

Attendees will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with the presenters. Visit www.uspto.gov/Austin2012 to learn more, and please share the notice with others who may be interested.

Our job at USPTO is to help steward innovation so that it can reach the marketplace as effectively as possible. We do this by protecting intellectual property and by encouraging the smart folks who create it. The Texas Regional Independent Inventors Conference exemplifies the USPTO’s commitment to ensuring that the next wave of American inventors is well-equipped to continue leading the world in turning great ideas into positive marketplace outcomes.

United States Patent and Trademark Office
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