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

Friday Mar 28, 2014

USPTO’s Office of Policy and International Affairs Continues Building Support for U.S. Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Guest blog by Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs Shira Perlmutter

In the first quarter of fiscal year 2014, the Office of Policy and International Affairs (OPIA) conducted dozens of programs designed to provide intellectual property (IP) capacity-building and technical assistance to domestic and international audiences. These programs to boost IP awareness and understanding are managed through our Global Intellectual Property Academy (GIPA), and tracking them is one of the ways we measure our performance.

In the first quarter of FY14, we conducted three domestic programs that reached 360 participants. A particularly interesting program that I’d like to point out was designed to support veterans who have either started or want to start a business, and it was carried out in cooperation with the Small Business Administration and Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. This program, the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), has a curriculum tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities associated with being a veteran business owner. Attorneys from the GIPA also participated in EBV’s third annual National Training and Alumni Conference on October 25-27 in Dallas. The attorneys guided veterans through an interactive exercise that highlighted the role IP plays in building businesses, and provided one-on-one advice throughout the conference.

Internationally, we conducted 35 programs in 41 countries that reached 1,211 foreign officials. A good example of our international outreach includes a colloquium on IP rights for approximately 30 judges, prosecutors, and investigators in Morocco. The colloquium was held November 19-22 and covered topics such as the investigation of IP crimes, the importance of cooperation with law enforcement, and adjudication of criminal IP cases.

For more information on our FY 2014 Q1 activities and OPIA’s performance metrics, I invite you to visit our Policy and International Affairs dashboard.

Tuesday Mar 25, 2014

An Update on Our Satellite Offices

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

As we’ve done in the past, I’d like to take a moment to fill you in on the status of our satellite offices in Dallas, Denver, Detroit and Silicon Valley. Having spent the last year leading our team at the Silicon Valley office, keeping on top of all the developments related to our satellite offices is of particular interest to me. These offices are so important to inventors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses in the surrounding regions—and to our agency’s core mission of fostering American innovation and competitiveness.

Our Elijah J. McCoy Satellite Office in Detroit, which opened for business in July 2012, is meeting and exceeding the needs of the agency and the local innovation community. With approximately 100 patent examiners and eight administrative patent judges, the Detroit office continues to process patent applications, as well as manage appeal cases and America Invents Act (AIA) trials.

Having an office in Detroit has also enabled us to foster new partnerships with stakeholders, the local community and organizations such as the Henry Ford Museum and the Auto Harvest Foundation. Through these partnerships, Detroit office staff are participating in numerous outreach events, including IP conferences, IP bar association meetings, elementary school science fairs, and an initiative to help the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History start a program for children to understand the correlation between science, technology, engineering, math, art, and design and the creation and protection of intellectual property. The office has also been holding quarterly “Saturday Seminars” to train independent inventors and small businesses on the importance of IP protection (If you’re in the area, come to our next one on April 12).

In Silicon Valley, we’re moving forward with the city of San Jose to ensure our permanent office has the perfect space to suit our needs and the needs of local stakeholders. When it comes to community engagement, we’ll be doing a lot of what we do in our Detroit office, including local training programs and workshops while building partnerships with local innovators and others in the IP field. We’re aiming to start operations in San Jose City Hall in the spring of 2015. USPTO senior executive John Cabeca, who took over serving as Director of the Silicon Valley Office when I left, has been leading USPTO’s outreach in the region. A 25-year veteran of the agency, he is actively engaged with stakeholders across the Bay Area and doing a superb job.

Meanwhile, this Wednesday we’re hosting a Livestream recruitment event with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado as part of our search for top talent to hire for the Denver office. The event will feature a panel of USPTO supervisory and patent examiners who will talk about what their job entails, share their experiences working at the USPTO, and answer live questions. Concurrently, we’re reviewing candidates for the Denver office regional director and plan to make our selection in the coming months. We are also on track to move from the Denver Federal Center to occupy permanent space in the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building this July.

In Dallas, our staff has been operating out of the Santa Fe Federal Building since March 2013. The design-and-build phase of the permanent space in the Terminal Annex Federal Building will start early this spring with a planned occupancy in fall 2015. In the meantime, the USPTO and the Dallas Entrepreneur Center are collaborating on programs and exchanges designed to educate local entrepreneurs on the effectiveness of IP protection, similar to our Detroit “Saturday Seminars.”

For now, the temporary offices in Dallas, Denver, and Silicon Valley are staffed with Patent Trial and Appeal Board judges, whose main job is helping reduce the inventory of trial and appeal cases. We continue to hire judges as qualified candidates become available, and we will recruit patent examiners for each office as their permanent spaces near completion. All vacancy announcements for these offices are posted on usajobs.gov, so if you’re interested—or you know someone who might be—that’s where to look.

These satellite offices are critically important to the regional IP communities, and getting all of them operating at full strength is one of our major priorities as an agency. We are grateful to local government officials and regional stakeholders who have responded so enthusiastically to our satellite offices, and extend kudos to the hard-working USPTO personnel in each location. These offices would not exist without the hard work and support of many people inside and outside of our agency.

This year promises to be an exciting one for our satellite offices, and we will continue to keep you informed about major new developments.

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.

Calling on the Crowd to Help Increase Patent Quality

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

Protecting and promoting our ideas-driven economy is essential to economic growth. By issuing patents for novel and non-obvious inventions, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) plays a critical role in ensuring that America’s intellectual property system continues to be a catalyst for American companies and entrepreneurs to innovate.

The White House and the General Services Administration recently announced the next round of the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program. As part of this effort, USPTO is seeking a fellow to help in carrying out the agency’s goal of “Using the Crowd to Improve Patent Quality,” specifically by ensuring that patent examiners have the best prior art before them during examination.

To determine whether an invention is patentable, a patent examiner must evaluate it in light of the state-of-the-art. But innovation moves fast and important advances may be documented only in hard-to-access corporate records or any number of other far-flung repositories. Finding, among a sea of documents, the most relevant ones, especially in areas where terms are non-standardized, can be difficult. The PIF program, which pairs top innovators from the civil sector with top innovators in the government to collaborate during focused 6-13 month “tours of duty,” will help overcome these challenges.

Applications will be accepted through April 7, 2014, and can be found here. We encourage interested members of the public to apply.

The PIF project is just the latest chapter in the Obama administration’s long-standing partnership with the community on patent issues. For example, the USPTO’s Software Patent Partnership recently completed a roundtable on prior art issues for which public comments are being solicited. The agency is also planning a roundtable on crowdsourcing for April 10, 2014, in Alexandria, Virginia, at which it intends to solicit feedback about innovative ways to leverage crowdsourcing techniques to help acquire difficult-to-locate prior art. The roundtable will also explore the range of crowdsourcing resources available for examiners to use, as well as bring together subject matter experts to discuss ways for examiners to access this material, such as by building a database of hard-to-find prior art.

These efforts build on three new executive actions the administration announced on February 20th at the White House. In that announcement, the USPTO committed to refining the current third party submission process and exploring other ways that the public can provide potential prior art to the agency. The agency also committed to updating its guidance and training of examiners for using crowd-sourced prior art, particularly non-patent literature (NPL). The USPTO further committed to building upon its existing “Patent Examiner Technical Training Program” to make it easier for technologists and engineers from industry and academia to provide technical training and expertise to patent examiners, as well as appointing a full-time pro bono coordinator to ensure broad access to the patent system.

Further, we are pleased to see a growing number of organizations from a wide range of industries who have already expressed a willingness to help advance the shared goals of these three new executive actions. While the list of public support is growing every day, some examples of those pledges to date include:

Cisco – which has committed to assembling its public product documentation, electronically publishing many invention submissions that are not internally approved to be patent filings, and continuing to provide examiners access to senior Cisco technical talent in the form of training;

The Clearing House – an industry association comprised of over 20 of the nation’s leading banks, which has committed to developing educational materials and hosting education sessions with patent examiners, as well as providing the USPTO with access to non-patent materials describing the national financial infrastructure;

IBM - which has committed to continue sharing prior art and providing technical training to patent examiners, as it has for decades;

Microsoft – which has committed to providing USPTO examiners a free, searchable database aimed at giving access to more than 10 million archived Microsoft technical corporate documents;

Rackspace – which has committed to sharing with the USPTO complete technical information about all of its prior products, including documents that were previously considered confidential, and to provide ongoing information to the USPTO detailing each product that it develops and releases;

SAS – which has committed to making 38 years of user documentation and technical papers available to the public and USPTO through publication at IP.com;

Verizon – which has committed to updating examiners on the state-of-the-art developments in communications technology, including on network architecture and media delivery;

Yahoo! – which has committed to sharing prior art relevant to their business and publishing technological developments it does not pursue as patents to aid examination and encourage innovation.

In addition to these, a growing number of organizations are offering their public support for these three new executive actions and pledging to engage with the administration to develop their own unique methods of leveraging the crowd to advance these efforts. Some of those include: the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA); Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO); BSA | The Software Alliance (BSA); Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform (21C); Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO); and Qualcomm.

We applaud the leaders in the private sector who are already answering the administration’s call with these efforts and we encourage others to join them, as we continue to explore the power of the crowd to further strengthen our patent system and foster American innovation.

Monday Feb 24, 2014

Progress Continues in our Transition to an Improved Patent Classification System

Blog by Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino

We remain hard at work implementing the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system launched in January 2013. CPC, let me remind you, is a joint patent classification system between the USPTO and the European Patent Office that enables patent examiners and patent system users worldwide to conduct more efficient prior-art searches. Compared with the current U.S. Patent Classification System, CPC offers more targeted searches with more focused results. We expect the CPC to lead to enhanced efficiency by reducing unnecessary duplication of work. One can now search patent documents using CPC classifications. 
 
In our last update we noted that implementing the CPC would require extensive patent examiner training leading up to full implementation in January 2015. The patent examining transition began in November 2013 and will run through the end of this year. Training focuses on enabling patent examiners to effectively search in CPC and place CPC symbols on published patent applications and granted patents. 

The transition to CPC is an investment in the future of IP. Through the implementation of CPC, applicants and the IP community will derive many benefits, including:

o Enhanced examination efficiency;
o Improved access to more documents from patent offices around the world;
o Improved navigation and understanding of a single classification system;
o Facilitated work sharing on patent applications filed in multiple IP offices;
o Improved consistency of classified search results across IP Offices; and,
o Adaptive and actively maintained classification schemes.

Patent Examiner CPC training includes approximately 20 hours of training that focuses on how to search and classify in CPC as well as technical subject training related to the nuances of a particular CPC field. In addition to this, on average examiners receive approximately 120 hours of CPC on-the-job training. This on-the-job training is used to complete parallel searches in CPC and the prior United States Patent Classification (USPC) system in 40 to 50 applications. Doing these parallel searches enables examiners to learn the best places to search in CPC for a particular technology and to master the details of their assigned portion of the CPC schedule.

As I am sure you can appreciate, transitioning about 8,000 patent examiners to a new classification system is no small feat. This investment of examiner training time is an important investment in quality, and it is having a temporary impact in our examination output. This impact, combined with continued increases in filings, is resulting in a temporary increase in our new application backlog. We expect the backlog to rise as high as 650,000 by May 2014 before resuming its decline again falling below 600,000 by the end of this fiscal year, which ends September 30th. During the next fiscal year we will continue to reduce our backlog, which remains a core mission as stated in our proposed 2014-2018 Strategic Plan.

We are excited to report continued progress on the build-out of a dynamic classification system coupled with the highest standards in patent examination.

Thursday Feb 20, 2014

Building a Better Patent System

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

Today I had the opportunity to update the public on the USPTO’s continuing efforts to support President Obama’s initiatives to build a better patent system through his executive actions. I want to share my remarks with you through this blog:

“Thank you. I’m pleased to be here at the White House today with Secretary Pritzker, Director Sperling, and Chief Technology Officer Park to discuss what we collectively are doing to advance our nation’s innovation economy. That task is at the core of our mission at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. We do so by issuing the highest quality patents possible; adding ever-more transparency to our patent system; and leveling the playing field for all players, big and small.

The USPTO is approaching its 225th anniversary next year, and throughout the agency’s history our focus hasn’t wavered. Our commitment was—is—and will be—to do everything we can to help foster an intellectual property system that provides American entrepreneurs:

  • the incentives they need to innovate;
  • the tools to help them produce and protect their creative output;
  • and the certainty they need to seek investments and balance risk while developing new technologies that benefit us all.

Even before the president’s call to do more on patent reform last year, the USPTO had efforts underway to:

  • Improve patent quality and metrics;
  • Enhance examiner training, including input from industry experts; and
  • Weed out troublesome patents through post-grant review proceedings.


Furthermore, ever since the administration’s announcement on June 4th, 2013—as my colleagues before me noted—the USPTO has been hard at work implementing four executive actions.

EXECUTIVE ACTION #1

The first executive action aims to bring greater transparency of patent ownership information to the public. To this end, the USPTO has begun a rulemaking process. Under our proposed new rule—which reflects significant public input—the USPTO would collect patent ownership information for a patent or application and make that information available to all via our website. The result would be increased transparency aimed at:

  • enhancing competition,
  • facilitating technology transfers,
  • helping to ensure the highest quality patents, and
  • leveling the playing field for innovators.


We are now collecting input from the public on the proposed rule and are pleased to announce today two public events: one at our Alexandria, Virginia, headquarters on March 13th, and another in San Francisco, California, on March 26th. We welcome your input.


EXECUTIVE ACTION #2

The second executive action called for new, targeted training for patent examiners to scrutinize certain types of patent claims that may be overly broad and to increase patent clarity. We have since implemented a multi-phased training program for all examiners to do just this. In addition, in the coming weeks we will launch a pilot program that uses glossaries to define terms in a patent with the goal of further promoting patent clarity.

We have also conducted numerous public engagements to share ideas, feedback, experiences and insights on further ways to improve patent quality, particularly for software-related patents, such as through our four, well-attended Software Partnership Roundtables held within this past year. We recognize that a patent with clearly defined boundaries provides notice to the public to help it avoid infringement, as well as costly and needless litigation down the road, when the patent is in litigation.

EXECUTIVE ACTION #3

I am very pleased to announce today the culmination of the third executive action calling for new education and outreach to assist those receiving a patent infringement letter. We have just this morning published a new online toolkit of such resources, which you can find at www.uspto.gov/patentlitigation. These resources will help level the playing field for smaller “Main Street” retailers and consumers—those who are not steeped in patent law or who cannot afford teams of patent attorneys—with a variety of complementary resources. These include ways to find information about the patent being asserted (such as assignment information or its past litigation history) to ways to determine if other businesses are being sued on the same patent.

We know of no other online resource, where a recipient of a patent infringement letter can go to get as much information as is available in this toolkit. And, importantly, the new online toolkit features a two-way communication stream so the public can assist us in identifying additional, and we hope even better, resources for all to use.


EXECUTIVE ACTION #4

Finally, our fourth executive action called for an expansion of our already extensive public outreach efforts, as well as more empirical research. I’ve already mentioned some of our outreach, which we’ve ramped up from an already high level. As for empirical research, we are proud to announce that we have expanded our Thomas Alva Edison Visiting Scholars program. That’s where we bring on board for a limited time talented scholars to examine intellectual property issues.

We’ve already recruited three distinguished scholars to research key issues related to patent litigation —Joshua Sarnoff of DePaul University, Jonas Anderson of American University, and Elizabeth Bailey of U.C. Berkeley. We’ll be announcing more scholars soon. By engaging legal and economic scholars with agency experts, we anticipate a wealth of new research and data. Empirical examination of the interaction of various aspects of our patent system will provide insights on how to further reduce unnecessary litigation and improve the quality of patents.

So that is a quick overview of our work to date on these executive actions, all designed to strengthen our patent system for our country now and in the long run. I’m also pleased by the administration’s announcement today that we will be renewing our USPTO Patents for Humanity program. You can learn more at www.uspto.gov/patentsforhumanity.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama said “The nation that goes all-in on innovation today willown the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender.” At the USPTO, we are dedicated to a strong intellectual property system that empowers American businesses to succeed by keeping pace with the ever-growing rate of technological breakthroughs. We are working hand in hand with our colleagues throughout the administration, and with our stakeholders, to advance that goal.

Our work also includes actively engaging with the House and Senate as the legislative process moves forward. The patent system is the engine that powers our 21st century innovation economy. Even the most high-performance engine occasionally needs some fine-tuning. But I am confident our collaborative reform efforts will result in a patent system that performs at an unprecedented level of quality and economic output, benefiting us all.  Thank you.”

 

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.

Tuesday Nov 26, 2013

USPTO Revises MPEP Publication Process

Guest blog by USPTO Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino

The USPTO continues to use ever-more efficient electronic publication tools. The latest example of this is its revised process to update the Manual of Patent Examination Procedure (MPEP). We will now be able to more quickly incorporate changes in the law and patenting procedures. 
 
The USPTO will soon begin to re-publish the entire MPEP with each updated section identified with the date of publication.  Sections that are not updated will retain their most recent revision date.   All updates will be published as clean text with no revision markings. 

Before releasing a new revision, the USPTO follows several critical steps.  First, the MPEP staff and USPTO subject matter experts update the relevant MPEP sections.  The updated sections are then sent for internal agency review and clearance before being further reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  Based upon the feedback received through the clearance processes, the MPEP staff makes final modifications before publishing the new edition.  The MPEP publication process is depicted in this graphic:

General Publication Progress

 
The USPTO will release three MPEP editions during FY 2014. Each revision will correspond to the enactment and/or adoption of new patent law.  The first new edition will incorporate provisions of the America Invents Act (AIA), enacted in September 2011.  The second updated edition will provide guidance on the Patent Law Treaty implementation.  The third update will provide guidance on the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs.
 
With each new MPEP revision, the agency will release a plain-language summary highlighting changes and additions.  The agency also plans to develop a computer-based training (CBT) module to further explain the changes and additions. The USPTO also plans to post newly published MPEP chapters on IdeaScale, an online tool that enables users to provide feedback and suggestions. We are very excited to take this next step in serving our stakeholders and the public.

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 Oct 04, 2013

When, Where, and How You Can Provide Input on Copyright and Innovation

Guest blog by Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs Shira Perlmutter

***UPDATE October 11, 2013: The public meeting has been rescheduled to December 12, 2013 and there have been further clarifications issued regarding public comment deadlines. Read more in the USPTO press release.***

We are moving forward on our promise to solicit your input on copyright policy and innovation as outlined in the recent U.S. Department of Commerce Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) green paper titled Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy and on this blog. You may have learned from a USPTO press release or a Federal Register Notice from the USPTO and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of an IPTF public meeting that—barring a need to reschedule due to the current government shutdown—we’re holding on October 30th. We’d very much like to see you there.

As explained in the Federal Register Notice, we are particularly seeking comments on five specific topics raised in the green paper: (1) establishing a multistakeholder dialogue on improving the operation of the notice and takedown system for removing infringing content from the Internet under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA); (2) the legal framework for the creation of remixes; (3) the relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital environment; (4) the application of statutory damages in the contexts of individual file sharers and of secondary liability for large-scale infringement; and (5) the appropriate role for the government, if any, to help improve the online licensing environment, including access to comprehensive databases of rights information.

Some questions have been raised about the relationship of the two separate dates for comment submission provided in our Federal Register Notice. We invited early comments to be filed by October 15, 2013, in order to allow them to be read prior to the October 30th public meeting and to inform the discussion there. But this was not a deadline either for submissions or for enabling participation in the meeting. Anyone can still participate in the meeting even if they don’t submit comments by October 15th. The actual deadline for comment submission is two weeks after the meeting, on November 13th.

I also want to assure you that there will be ample opportunity for public participation and comment beyond those dates. We plan to engage in a robust conversation about these important digital copyright issues, and we recognize that many interested parties will have a lot to say. The October 30th meeting is intended as an initial exploration of the issues, and will be structured around moderated panel discussions on each of the five topics identified in the Federal Register Notice. We are currently developing an agenda and inviting speakers who will represent a wide range of views.

Our hope is that the October 30th meeting will provide a meaningful and informative discussion on these topics and serve as a launching pad for the next phase of our public engagement. We anticipate there will be further roundtables and other opportunities for input on each of the individual topics going forward.

Pre-registration for the conference is available online. More information about the green paper is available at http://www.uspto.gov/ip/global/copyrights/index.jsp.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have further questions. You can contact Hollis Robinson or Ben Golant in the Office of Policy and International Affairs at (571) 272-9300, or hollis.robinson@uspto.gov or benjamin.golant@uspto.gov. For further information regarding the public comments, please contact Garrett Levin or Ben Golant at (571) 272-9300, or garrett.levin@uspto.gov or benjamin.golant@uspto.gov.

We look forward to receiving your comments and seeing you at the conference on October 30th.

Wednesday Sep 11, 2013

USPTO’s Global Intellectual Property Academy Expands its Assistance to U.S. Companies and Training of Foreign Officials

Guest blog by Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs Shira Perlmutter

The Global Intellectual Property Academy (Academy) of the USPTO’s Office of Policy and External Affairs (OPEA) has now posted online its metrics from the third quarter of FY 2013, demonstrating its leadership in promoting awareness of and respect for intellectual property. The Academy continues to provide top-notch educational and technical assistance on a variety of IP issues to audiences in the U.S. and abroad.

This year, the Academy expanded its work for U.S. small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), conducting 27 programs with a total of 1,714 U.S. SMEs. During the third quarter, Academy outreach efforts included a workshop for more than 100 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program grantees organized by the National Cancer Institute, an IP Boot Camp at the Second Annual International Music Products Association meeting, and presentations on intellectual property to small businesses at locations around the country. Webinars for scientists, inventors, and companies throughout the United States were conducted on topics such as patent commercialization and trade secret protection.

During the third quarter the Academy also fulfilled its role in promoting effective and balanced intellectual property rights on a global scale, increasing the number of foreign government officials trained this fiscal year in all aspects of IP protection and enforcement to 5,118, up from 1,937 at the end of the second quarter. In programs held overseas or at our Academy in Alexandria, Va., officials from China, Southeast Asia, India, Russia, Estonia, Georgia, Mexico, and elsewhere across Latin America covered subjects on all aspects of IP protection and enforcement, including online copyright issues, geographical indications, and trademark information technology.

The Academy also hosted a meeting with a regional group of Latin American countries (PROSUR) and the Canadian IP Office to discuss work sharing initiatives, and helped facilitate the annual meeting of the Heads of the IP5, the five largest IP offices in the world, in Cupertino, Calif.

For more information on our activities across the last four quarters, I invite you to see all of our performance metrics, which are available on our Policy and External Affairs dashboard.

Thursday Aug 22, 2013

Update on Trademark Performance From our Third Quarter Dashboard

Guest blog by Commissioner for Trademarks Deborah Cohn

This month marks another record performance by our Trademarks team. Our goal to issue a first action between 2.5 and 3.5 months from filing has been met every month for six consecutive years now. This record is the result of a number of factors including greater use of the systems, tools, and resources necessary to manage new application filings electronically and the increased participation by applicants in filing and communicating electronically throughout the process. You can see this data on the Trademark dashboard, which has been updated with third quarter performance metrics. The following are some of the highlights we’ve identified.

Trademark application filings continue to set new record highs in terms of volume and usage of the Trademarks Electronic Application System (TEAS). More than 99 percent of new applications are filed electronically and filings are on track to exceed the highest level set last year.

The office has made great progress towards achieving and maintaining high quality standards. The specialized training, online tools, and enhanced communication efforts we’ve deployed over recent years are bearing fruit. Exceptional office action continues to exceed our expectations and first action quality is trending above our target level. Actual results were 33.5 percent better than the target of 23 percent. Final action compliance is showing positive improvement. Our final numbers for the fiscal year should reflect expectations.

Despite inherent uncertainty and variability of filings, the office proudly met or exceeded its pendency targets, including the ones for statements of use (SOU) and Post Registration renewals. First action pendency is at the mid-point of the target at three months. Pendency targets are managed through overtime and production incentives, in addition to continued use of electronic filing and processing.

We want to thank all our stakeholders for their positive engagement and their constructive comments and suggestions. We look forward to hearing from you. Share your thoughts with me at TMFeedback@uspto.gov.

Friday Aug 09, 2013

We Want to Hear from You on Copyright Policies in the Digital Economy

Guest blog by Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs Shira Perlmutter

The Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) last week issued a green paper on copyright, and I’d like to take a moment to highlight the paper’s core content and goals. The paper, titled Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy (Green Paper), represents the most thorough and comprehensive analysis of digital copyright policy issued by any administration since 1995. Along with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the USPTO played a key role in its production, from gathering public comments starting in 2010 through the paper’s drafting and release.

The Green Paper calls for new public input on critical policy issues that are central to our nation’s economic growth, cultural development and job creation. It is intended to serve as a reference for stakeholders, a blueprint for further action, and a contribution to global copyright debates. As promised in the paper, we will soon be reaching out to the public for views on a variety of topics. Please stay tuned for announcements about how to share your thoughts, insights, and recommendations.

In recent years, the debates over copyright have become increasingly contentious. Too often copyright and technology policies are seen as pitted against each other, as if a meaningful copyright system is antithetical to the innovative power of the Internet, or an open Internet will result in the end of copyright. We do not believe such a dichotomy is necessary or appropriate. The goals espoused in the paper— ensuring a meaningful and effective copyright system that continues to provide the necessary incentives for creative expression, preserving the technological innovation and free flow of information made possible by the Internet, and delivering creative content in the broadest possible fashion to consumers—are ones that we think can, and must, be accomplished in tandem.

By intention, the Green Paper does not set out substantive policy recommendations, except where the administration is already on record with a stated position. Rather, it seeks to provide a thorough and objective review of the lay of the land—describing changes that have already occurred, identifying areas where more work should be done, and setting out paths to move that work forward. The paper expresses support for efforts underway to address some of the open issues in other forums—notably Congressional attention to music licensing, the Copyright Office’s work on orphan works and mass digitization, and the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator’s facilitation of cooperative efforts by stakeholders to curb online enforcement.

We appreciate the encouraging words we’ve heard from many stakeholders on all sides. In the coming weeks, we will begin to move forward on the specific items outlined in the paper for IPTF action:

  • Establishing a multistakeholder dialogue on improving the operation of the notice and takedown system for removing infringing content from the Internet under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
  • Soliciting public comment and convening roundtables on:
    • The legal framework for the creation of remixes—user-generated content that uses portions of copyrighted works in creative ways.
    • The relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital age.
    • The appropriate calibration of statutory damages in the context of (1) individual file sharers and (2) secondary liability for large-scale infringement.
    • Whether and how the government can facilitate the further development of a robust online licensing environment, including access to comprehensive public and private databases of rights information.

We hope that the full range of stakeholders continue to engage energetically and productively. To develop the best possible copyright policy for the Internet, we need to hear from all affected interests, including those who create works, those who distribute them, and those who enjoy them.

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