uspto.gov
Skip over navigation
USPTO Seal

Navigation

Subscribe by email

You can receive the Director’s Forum blog and other publications from the USPTO by enrolling at our Subscription Center.

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

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.

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.

Monday Jul 08, 2013

Announcing the Global Patent Search Network - Chinese Patent Documentation

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

In an effort to expand our coverage of worldwide patent collections, I am pleased to announce the launch of the USPTO’s Global Patent Search Network. With this new search network, we hope to make patent research easier and more comprehensive by providing streamlined search capability to multiple international patent collections.

As a result of cooperative effort with the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese patent documentation is now available for search and retrieval in the inaugural release of this search network. Accessible from the USPTO website, the data available includes both full text Chinese patents and English machine translations enabling users to search Chinese patent documents in the English or Chinese language. Users can search documents including published applications, granted patents and utility models from 2008 to 2011 in this collection, which will periodically be updated with more current data.

This new search tool delivers to the public, as well as our patent examiners, an additional source of foreign patent collections. Furthermore, the immediate availability of English machine translations will effectively address the language barrier and allow for quick analysis of the relevancy of the prior art while reducing the need for costly human translations. Machine translation technology can sometimes generate awkward wording, but it provides an excellent way to determine the gist of the information in a foreign patent. As this is the initial launch of the search network, we value any suggestions you may have to help us identify future enhancements to the tool. Please send your ideas to GPSN@uspto.gov

We believe that the introduction of the Global Patent Search Network and the future inclusion of additional foreign patent collections will be a valuable tool for improving search quality and comprehensiveness in today’s global IP market.

Additionally, in support of the federal government’s responsibility to achieve cost, agility, and innovation benefits of cloud computing, the Global Patent Search Network is the first patent-related initiative to use cloud technology. Our cloud computing solution will provide public value by increasing our operational efficiency and allow us to respond faster to the needs of the public and our examiners.

I invite you to begin searching our Chinese patent collection as we continue working to expand our set of foreign patent collections via this new Global Patent Search Network.

Thursday Jun 20, 2013

USPTO Implementation of the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement

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

Today heralds the official release of the Obama Administration’s 2013 Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement. Since the inaugural release of the strategy in 2010, the Administration has made significant accomplishments in the area of intellectual property enforcement. This includes legislation that updates and strengthens laws and stepped up enforcement against those infringers who threaten the vitality of the U.S. economy and the health and safety of the American people.

As part of the strategic plan, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is seeking feedback on private sector efforts to reduce online infringement through the development and implementation of cooperative, voluntary initiatives. Today a request for public comments was published in the Federal Register seeking input from all interested parties on the processes, data metrics, and methodologies that could be used to assess the effectiveness of cooperative agreements and other voluntary initiatives to reduce infringement.

This year’s strategic plan sets out the Administration’s overall vision for intellectual property enforcement for the next three years and serves as a roadmap for agency-specific activities necessary to achieve that vision. The USPTO plays a key role in the effort by promoting effective IP protection for U.S. innovators and entrepreneurs worldwide, securing stronger IP provisions in free trade and other international agreements, fostering respect for IP, and encouraging the development of strong IP enforcement regimes by U.S. trading partners.
  
Since the 2010 Joint Strategic Plan, the USPTO has promoted stronger and more effective intellectual property protection domestically and around the world. Our achievements include technical assistance to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) during negotiations and implementation phases of the Intellectual Property Rights provisions contained in several free trade agreements, and launch of a website for federal, state and local prosecutors to request copies of trademark registration certificates to use in litigation. We’ve published several studies related to IP and enforcement, such as Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy, Specialized Intellectual Property Courts, and Counterfeit Hard Goods and the Public’s Health and Safety.

Additionally, through the USPTO’s IPR Attaché Program, our IP attachés actively work to improve the protection and enforcement of U.S. intellectual property rights overseas. Through our Global Intellectual Property Academy (GIPA), the USPTO offers capacity-building programs in the United States and around the world on intellectual property protection, enforcement, and capitalization. 

Building upon these accomplishments, the USPTO is committed to improving the effectiveness of our personnel stationed abroad and we are examining the feasibility of placing attachés in other key countries. We also continue to support U.S. small and medium-size enterprises in foreign markets through expanded outreach efforts, and we encourage voluntary initiatives to reduce online intellectual property infringement and illegal internet pharmacies.

The USPTO is pleased to participate in implementing action items listed in the 2013 Joint Strategic Plan and advancing policy initiatives necessary to strengthen IP enforcement.

Monday Jun 17, 2013

USPTO and the Obama Administration Taking Action to Improve Incentives for Future Innovation via High Tech Patents

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

This month, President Obama offered a series of sweeping actions that, alongside Congressional steps, will immediately improve the environment for future innovation. These bold initiatives are designed to reduce abusive patent litigation tactics and to ensure the highest-quality patents in our system. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) team is working hard, in consultation with stakeholders and the American public, to make this vision a reality.

The President set the stage for this new initiative February 14th when he said “our efforts at patent reform [via the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act] only went about halfway to where we need to go, and what we need to do is to pull together additional stakeholders and see if we can build some additional consensus on smarter patent laws.” On June 4th, the President announced five executive actions, four of which are specifically tasked to the USPTO. I’d like to take a moment to outline how the USPTO plans to begin implementing those actions.

The President’s first executive action instructed the USPTO to begin a rulemaking process to require patent applicants and owners to regularly update patent ownership information. The lack of availability of this information and the problems faced by innovators were highlighted in a study by the Council of Economic Advisers and the National Economic Council that was released with the President’s announcement. This study, entitled “Patent Assertion and U.S. Innovation,” documents the rise of litigation by so-called “patent assertion entities,” or PAEs (also described in the study as “patent trolls”). According to the study, a major challenge for companies and individuals targeted by PAEs is the difficulty in identifying the patent owner because PAEs often mask their identity by creating numerous shell entities. Better information on ownership will increase transparency, reduce abusive litigation, and enable more efficient licensing of patented technology. The rulemaking process will seek public comments on USPTO’s specific proposal on how to collect this new information and will also take into account stakeholder feedback received during earlier stages of consideration of this issue.

Turning to the second executive action announced in the President’s initiative, the USPTO will bolster training for patent examiners to improve their examination of functional claims and will also develop additional strategies to improve claim clarity. This action will build on our recent efforts to improve training programs for examiners to ensure the highest quality patent examination. Our next steps will be informed by the valuable stakeholder input received from the launch of our Software Partnership earlier this year, received both in public written comments and at two February engagement sessions in Silicon Valley and New York City.

The third executive action of the President’s initiative is focused on empowering citizens using patented technologies in consumer products. As the study “Patent Assertion and U.S. Innovation” documents, PAEs are no longer solely targeting large companies holding vast patent portfolios. Small businesses and enterprising individuals have also been on the receiving end of intimidating letters accusing them of patent infringement and threatening litigation. That is why we will create a valuable online portal that will provide answers to key questions and additional information resources for those individuals. The USPTO has long viewed public education as a core function of the agency; educational materials paired with ready access to public data on particular patents will create a powerful resource to support both users and developers of technology.

That leads me to our fourth executive action—expanding dedicated stakeholder outreach and bringing together the best of academic and government study of these issues. We will continue to actively support White House outreach efforts and help to initiate events across the country to help build a consensus on the next steps that policymakers should be taking in updating our policies and laws. We’re also excited to expand our Thomas Alva Edison Visiting Scholars program. Growing this initiative—which brings leaders in academia to the USPTO to develop empirical data and analysis on which to base agency efforts to promote innovation—will play an important role in helping policymakers, including the USPTO, Congress, and the federal courts.

In addition to our executive actions, the President’s initiative outlined a number of steps that Congress can take to reduce abusive PAE litigation while promoting a robust intellectual property system that drives innovation. We worked closely with bipartisan Congressional leaders during the development and passage of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), and we look forward to continue working with Congress to achieve the President’s goals.

The U.S. patent system “has spurred progress that has driven economic growth and transformed the way we live, work, communicate, and stay healthy,” National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling wrote in a White House blog June 4th. Our patent system is “enshrined in our Constitution…to encourage innovation and invention.” This Administration has done much to improve our patent system for the betterment of our economy and our society, including through the USPTO’s implementation of AIA. With your help we can—and we will—do more.

Monday Jun 03, 2013

Strengthening Our Engagement with China

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

As part of our ongoing engagement with China, the USPTO recently hosted two Chinese delegations and two U.S. delegations. The first delegation included nearly two dozen Chinese IP officials participating in a two-day meeting April 16-17. This meeting of the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Working Group was held under the auspices of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), the principal vehicle for the United States and China to discuss trade-related IP issues.

The JCCT U.S. delegation is led by two U.S. Cabinet-level officials—the Commerce Secretary and the United States Trade Representative (USTR)—who meet once a year either in China or the U.S. The JCCT IPR Working Group is one of many interagency working groups within the JCCT, led at the under secretary level by the USPTO and the USTR. The USPTO hosted the first JCCT IPR Working Group meeting nearly 10 years ago, and we were pleased to host our Chinese colleagues once again, as well as members of the U.S. interagency delegation.

The IPR Working Group meeting covered patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret issues that are at the forefront of the U.S./China relationship. In addition, I met individually with Chinese Minister-Counselor for Commercial Affairs Zhang Shaogang, and the Chinese IP attaché in Washington, Chen Fuli. We discussed ongoing and future cooperative efforts, as well as some difficulties that many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are facing at the Chinese patent office.

On April 19, we hosted a delegation of Chinese officials involved in amending China’s copyright law. The seven-member delegation was led by Director General Wang Ziqiang of China’s National Copyright Administration, and included other officials from his office and senior representatives from the National People’s Congress, the State Council Legislative Affairs Office, and the Chinese Embassy.

Copyright and enforcement experts from the USPTO, the U.S. Copyright Office, and the U.S. Department of Justice participated in the all-day meeting, during which I delivered opening remarks. The session allowed U.S. officials to learn more about the latest draft of China’s copyright law amendments now pending at the State Council Legislative Affairs Office, and at the same time permitted the Chinese delegation to become better acquainted with U.S. law and practice.

China intends to amend all of its IP laws in the next few years, and we expect to have periodic technical discussions and expert exchanges with our counterpart agencies during this process. China’s legislature is now reviewing draft revisions to China’s trademark law. We expect that the draft copyright law amendments will be taken up within the next year or two by China’s legislature, and revisions to China’s patent law will likely follow soon after.

We also heard the news that the former minister in charge of China’s National Copyright Administration, Liu Binjie, is now with China’s National People’s Congress where he will continue to be engaged on legislative reform. We welcome continued cooperation with him.

Our engagement with China is indeed broader than a few visits to Washington, D.C. Most recently, I met with the American Chambers of Commerce for China and Shanghai and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to discuss USPTO’s activities in China and their concerns. In addition, I look forward to meeting with the head of China’s State Intellectual Property Office, Commissioner Tian Lipu, at a meeting of the five largest patent offices in the world (the “IP5”) in Silicon Valley this week. There we will discuss a range of issues of concern to our offices and stakeholders.

During the past year, we established a dedicated China team at the USPTO, led by our former IP attaché in Beijing, Mark Cohen. The team is staffed by nearly 20 people in both China and the United States. Our IPR attaché program has been expanded to the U.S. embassy in Beijing and to consulates in the cities of Shanghai and Guangzhou. During the summer, we will be sending Joel Blank to serve as our next IP attaché in Beijing, and Timothy Browning to serve in Guangzhou. They will join Dr. Jared Ragland, our current IP attaché in Shanghai.

The USPTO has a stellar team of IP experts, and we do our job best when we work closely with U.S. stakeholders on issues of common concern. Keep us posted on what challenges you are facing in China and globally in protecting your IP.

Thursday May 30, 2013

Advancing the Role of Trademarks

Guest blog by Commissioner for Trademarks Deborah S. Cohn

For the last two years the USPTO’s Trademarks team has actively engaged the private sector in developing pro bono and educational outreach programs. The primary goal of these programs is to offer the best possible intellectual property (IP) guidance and training to all of our stakeholders. These efforts follow the USPTO publication in April 2011 of a congressionally-mandated report outlining the extent to which trademark litigation harms small businesses. That report outlined steps the USPTO could take to better educate the public and stakeholders with resources enabling small businesses to further their understanding of trademark basics, enforcement measures, and available tools for protecting and enforcing trademark rights.

We have contacted bar associations in all fifty states to encourage the development of pro bono programs. The USPTO also launched a new trademark educational outreach program geared to general audiences that normally would not have easy access to such information, including non-trademark attorneys, the small business community, the entrepreneurial community, and students. In addition to these trademark-specific programs, the USPTO also conducts other programs designed to educate the public more broadly about intellectual property rights.

For several years, the USPTO has partnered with law schools across the country in an effort to provide pro bono services to trademark and patent applicants through student clinic programs under the supervision of licensed attorneys. In 2012, we dramatically increased the number of participating schools and therefore our reach into the community with these programs. We recently had the pleasure of welcoming to our headquarters more than 55 law students and faculty participating in our innovative Law School Clinic Certification Pilot Program. Visitors heard presentations from a wide range of USPTO personnel, including Acting Director Teresa Stanek Rea, attorneys from the Office of the Solicitor, and administrative trademark judges from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB).

The USPTO has also hosted a Trademark Expo for a number of years. These well-attended events combined seminars and exhibits to engage the public on trademarks and their importance. We have also published a significantly improved Basic Facts Booklet and produced a series of educational videos, all of which are easily accessible at www.uspto.gov.

We remain committed to advancing the registration of trademarks and understanding their role. As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions on how we can improve our trademark educational outreach efforts. Simply email a comment to our dedicated mailbox, TMFeedback@uspto.gov. We look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday May 21, 2013

Hack for Change

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

Government has vast amounts of information that can be used to improve our lives, and the Obama Administration has challenged federal agencies to make this data easily accessible to and usable by the public. Agencies across the government are using the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 1 and 2, to address that challenge.

Its name may trigger negative connotations, but civic hacking is a positive form of citizen engagement and volunteerism that uses technology to tackle social challenges. Civic hackers are community members—engineers, software developers, designers, entrepreneurs, activists, and concerned citizens—who collaborate with others, including government, to invent ways to improve quality of life in their communities.

The USPTO is using the government-wide focus on civic hacking as a great opportunity to crowdsource innovative ideas from our extensive trademark data. A trademark is a brand name, slogan, or logo that sellers use to identify and distinguish their products and services. Consumers rely on trademarks to distinguish among competing sellers and ensure the purchase of a quality product. Individuals and companies register their trademarks with the USPTO to enhance intellectual property protection for their brands.

The USPTO currently provides high-quality databases and tools for searching for information about pending and registered marks. However, these resources are used mostly by the trademark community and the USPTO for issues related to the federal trademark registration process.

In February, the USPTO released a comprehensive dataset of information on registered U.S. trademarks in the hope of spurring a flood of new inquiries into such areas as marketing, advertising, brand use, innovation, and new product and service introduction.1 We challenge National Day of Civic Hacking participants to use the trademark dataset and other open data sources to develop a tool that identifies federally registered trademarks that comprise an entity’s portfolio or brand, or are used on specific products, in designated industries, or in geographical areas. Such a solution could provide useful information on how entities develop and employ their brands; whether entities expand into new products, sectors, or regions; and the potential value of trademark portfolios to these entities. The solution may also yield industry-specific information that could inform consumer decisions and aid startups and other firms seeking to develop new product lines.

I urge all those looking for a unique way to volunteer in your community through technology to consider participating in the National Day of Civic Hacking. You can learn more at hackforchange.org.

 


 

 1For a thorough description of these data, see Graham, S., Hancock, G., Marco, A., & Myers, A., “The USPTO Trademark Case Files Dataset: Descriptions, Lessons, and Insights,” SSRN working paper (2013) (“Case Files”).

 

 

United States Patent and Trademark Office
This page is owned by Office of the Chief Communications Officer.