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

Friday Jul 19, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Jul 12, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Detroit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Feb 08, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Dec 18, 2012

Progress Continues at our Four Satellite Offices

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Dec 13, 2012

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

Guest blog by Chief Administrative Officer Frederick Steckler

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

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

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

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

Monday Dec 03, 2012

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

Guest Blog by Tony Scardino, Chief Financial Officer

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

Our PAR charts our progress toward meeting three goals in our 2010-2015 USPTO Strategic Plan: optimizing patent quality and timeliness; optimizing trademark quality and timeliness; and providing domestic and global leadership to improve intellectual property policy, protection, and enforcement worldwide. These goals govern the quality and quantity of our service to intellectual property stakeholders. I’m proud to say that the USPTO met all 11 of its strategic goal performance targets in FY 2012. 

The PAR also contains a wealth of data and historical information of interest to our stakeholders, including data on patent and trademark examining activities, application filings, and agency staffing levels. This information is conveniently presented in the Workload Tables section at the end of the PAR.

On the issue of financial performance, FY 2012 marks the 20th consecutive year that the USPTO’s financial statements have received an unqualified audit opinion. Our clean audit opinion gives the public independent assurance that the information presented in the agency’s financial statements is fairly presented and follows generally accepted accounting principles. In addition, the auditors reported no material weaknesses in the USPTO’s internal controls, and no instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations affecting the financial statements.

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

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

Thursday Nov 01, 2012

A Day Like Any Other...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Oct 18, 2012

USPTO Harmonizes Professional Conduct Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday Aug 27, 2012

Up and Running in Detroit

Guest blog by Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Aug 16, 2012

Got an Idea as Big as Texas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday May 14, 2012

Focusing on Funding Continuity

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

As USPTO continues to work toward improving effectiveness, a key to maintaining progress will be financial stability, predictability, and sustainability.

Towards this end, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) authorized a 15 percent surcharge on most patent fees, which went into effect on September 26, 2011.  The AIA also entrusted the USPTO with the responsibility to set fees through regulation— a new authority that the Office, in collaboration with our stakeholders, is working to put in place in the coming months.  Our target is to have a new fee schedule operational by the middle of FY 2013.

In addition to these in-process AIA fee adjustments, the USPTO recently published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes an increase to statutory fees based on inflation as of October 1, 2012, using the Consumer Price Index.  CPI adjustments have routinely been implemented in the past—generally on an annual basis—to help the Office adjust to the higher costs of doing business resulting from increases in the price of products and services. Given this mix, it is quite understandable that I am sometimes asked why we need the additional fee increase, given the 15 percent surcharge already in place and plans to implement a revised fee schedule by the first quarter of next year.

The answer is: leveling, cash flow, continuity -- much like with any large enterprise.   Think of the CPI adjustment as ensuring “bridge funds.”  This planned CPI adjustment will provide a small but needed increase in funding, allowing the USPTO to continue reducing the backlog and pendency until our new fee schedule--which will provide long-term financial resources--is in place.

An adequately funded USPTO will optimize the administration of the U.S. intellectual property system, moving your innovative ideas to the marketplace more quickly, while creating and sustaining U.S. jobs and enhancing the health and living standards of Americans and indeed people everywhere around the globe.

Wednesday May 09, 2012

USPTO Official Honored for Public Service

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

One of our stars here at the USPTO was honored this morning for her excellent work as a public servant. Senior Telework Advisor Danette Campbell is one of 33 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal finalists in the category of Management Excellence. Under Danette’s guidance, the USPTO has created a teleworking program that is a model not just for the federal government but for any employer. A full two-thirds of USPTO employees telework in some manner, which saves millions of dollars, increases productivity, and boosts employee job satisfaction and retention.

The “Sammies,” as the awards are known, is a project of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which honored the finalists at a breakfast today at the Ronald Reagan Building here in DC. Danette and her fellow finalists were profiled Monday in The Washington Post, and we’ve already been contacted by TV and radio outlets looking to hear Danette’s story. Of course, her story is really the story of the thousands of USPTO employees who have embraced teleworking to everyone’s benefit. We all will be pulling for Danette when they announce the winners on September 13th.

Monday Apr 16, 2012

We Mean Business About Diversity

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

April is Celebrate Diversity Month, and in the spirit of this month, I want to take this opportunity to provide you with updates on various diversity initiatives underway at the USPTO.
 
On Tuesday, April 17, the USPTO is hosting the first-ever White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAPPI) Federal Sector Conference. The WHIAPPI conference theme is “Empowering Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities through Federal Service.” We are expecting attendance of up to 400 government employees.
 
Last December, I shared with you the good news about our efforts to improve the retention of patent examiners beyond their probationary period through the New Examiner Mentoring Program pilot, a voluntary, peer-based program. I am pleased to report that we will soon be kicking off an expanded pilot mentoring program through the support of the USPTO's associated affinity groups and the Patent and Trademark Office Society. The New Examiner Mentoring Program 2.0 will pair mentors with new patent examiners arriving in May. As I previously mentioned, when we look at the benefits associated with retaining examiners -- who are costly to recruit and on-board, we are quite optimistic about the pilot’s expansion.
 
In addition to our diversity and inclusion programs within USPTO, I want to take a moment to highlight our diversity efforts beyond the USPTO. For example, Chief Judge of the BPAI James Smith joined Deputy Director Rea at the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) Continuing Legal Education Expo in Chicago. Deputy Director Rea and Chief Judge Smith participated on discussion panels presenting to a diverse audience of IP professionals.
 
In addition to the MCCA, we are working on sending USPTO representatives to present at several important conferences as follows: The National Bar Association; the National Asian and Pacific American Bar Association; the National Black Chamber of Commerce; Blacks in Government National Training Conference; Out in Science, Technology & Math; the Society of Women Engineers; the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers; and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.
 
In response to fiscal year 2012 hiring goals, our Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (OEEOD) has launched an important diversity hiring initiative, now underway. In advance of USPTO recruiters reaching college campuses, a member of the OEEOD contacts university engineering organizations, such as the National Society of Black Engineers or the Society of Women Engineers, to provide them with a personalized invitation to meet with our recruiters, along with our recruitment schedule. We hope that this diversity outreach will get the word out about the USPTO through diverse networks on college campuses and, in turn, encourage more students from diverse backgrounds to apply for positions at USPTO.
 
We can all be proud of USPTO's inclusive culture in which diversity is welcomed, encouraged, and appreciated. Enjoy this month’s theme, and celebrate diversity!

Thursday Mar 22, 2012

Recruiting for Innovation

Guest Blog by USPTO Chief Administrative Officer Patricia Richter

USPTO is on the move. The enactment of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act has allowed the USPTO to launch several transformative initiatives that are not only making it easier for businesses to navigate the patenting and trademark processes—but also helping the U.S. usher groundbreaking innovations to the marketplace, faster. Inherent in the realization of this goal is our ability to attract and retain top talent.
 
The agency is actively seeking exceptional individuals for patent examiner positions. We’re looking for individuals who hold (or will within the next 12 months) engineering and science degrees in a variety of disciplines. We are also seeking candidates who have accredited state law degrees and experience with intellectual property law. As we all know, a career as a patent examiner at the USPTO is one where we can—quite literally—imagine the possibilities. We represent one of the world’s largest and most sought-after patent systems, conducting research and interacting with applicants who are working on inventive, modern breakthroughs. And we offer a benefits package that is highly competitive with strong salaries, promotion potential, and access to bonus programs, paid overtime, top notch healthcare and retirement plans. Furthermore, we frequently hear positive comments on the work/life balance we achieve here, with access to telework, alternative work schedules, world-class fitness centers and onsite childcare—elements that are hard to put a price on.

Meanwhile, the agency has a goal to hire 10 percent of its total recruits from our nation’s veteran and transitioning military servicemember population. Veterans who transition into the civilian workforce have a strong track record of success at USPTO, with robust training and instruction and access to a USPTO Military Association made up of individuals who can help mentor you as you grow.

Additionally, we’re excited to open our first satellite office in Detroit, Michigan in July of this year. This is a great opportunity for new patent examiners to be a pioneering presence in the heart of America’s manufacturing sector. (Don't forget our Open House event in Detroit this Saturday!) While the big recruitment push is focused primarily on patent examiners, there are other exciting opportunities for IT professionals, trademark attorneys, and administrative patent judges, just to name a few.

Just like in our daily, mission-related work, we’re looking for ways to be innovative in our recruitment efforts as well. If you have ideas on how we can more effectively target exceptional candidates, we’d love to know. Please share them in the comments section below. And you can learn more about a career with the USPTO and see our job vacancies at USPTOcareers.gov.

Monday Mar 12, 2012

National Export Initiative Second Anniversary

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

This week marks the second anniversary of the National Export Initiative (NEI), established by President Obama with the ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2014. The United States Patent and Trademark Office plays an important role in three of the initiative’s central efforts: removing barriers for American businesses and expanding their access to foreign markets, providing global education and training to better enforce trade rules, and promoting trade and exports.

Removing Barriers and Expanding Access

The USPTO has worked hard to reduce the amount of time it takes to get a new product or technology from the lab to the market, where it can spawn new industries, generate sales, and create new jobs. An important part of that process takes place at the USPTO, where examiners study the novelty of patent applications to ensure that a proposed intellectual property (IP) is suitably unique and therefore demands the legal protection of a U.S. patent. Since the establishment of the NEI, our agency has implemented several major initiatives to make that examination process faster and more efficient: 

1) Following passage of the America Invents Act, the USPTO began an accelerated examination program known as Track One that allows businesses of all sizes to bring their technologies to the marketplace faster and more efficiently than ever before—offering decisions on patent applications in under 12 months, and 50% discounts for small enterprises using the option. Since its inception we’ve received 2,311 patent applications and more than 713 entrepreneurs have taken advantage of those discounts. During that time we completed 1,196 first office actions in an average of 35.8 days and issued a total of 14 completed patents.

2) The First Action Interview program encourages applicants to meet with examiners earlier on to work through potential issues and bring greater certainty to a product’s IP rights. To date about 2,900 innovators have benefitted from this kind of direct communication with the USPTO. The “first action allowance rate” (the average rate of applications initially determined to be patentable) for those who use the program is 24.9%, a significant improvement over the 11% chance for applicants not using the program and a strong boost to getting new ideas and innovations into development and the marketplace.

3) Under our Green Tech pilot program, nearly 3,500 patent applications addressing 21st-century energy and environmental challenges were fast-tracked and reviewed in about 10 months. With about 890 U.S. patents issued to date, the program is an important step forward in expanding our “green-collar” economy—one of President Obama’s signature goals—and making the United States a responsible world citizen and exporter of renewable energy technologies.

4) Additionally, a series of international work-sharing agreements called the Patent Prosecution Highway has helped more than 9,300 patent applications receive IP protections in 22 different countries—faster and at a lower cost. This kind of international collaboration is especially important in breaking down the legal barriers that exist for smaller companies trying to export their products into a global economy.

Education and Training on Enforcement of Trade Rules

The USPTO places a high priority on the effective enforcement of IP rights throughout the world and is working to enforce global trade rules on a number of fronts. Through our IP Attaché Program we have placed seven IP attachés in U.S. embassies throughout the world—two in Geneva, one in Thailand, one in Brazil, one in India and two in China—to improve regional IP enforcement efforts for American businesses competing abroad. The Attachés have worked to introduce legislation in countries to strengthen criminal IP laws and have ensured that governments maintain patent protection for certain inventions in U.S.-heavy export areas. The ongoing implementation of country-specific action plans by our IP Attachés is a key step towards the NEI’s goal of enforcing trade rules.

The USPTO also initiated the Strategy for Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP). In addition to targeting the criminal enterprises responsible for counterfeiting and piracy, STOP assists U.S. businesses in recognizing, protecting, and enforcing their IP rights abroad through a one-stop hotline and resource center, and through numerous outreach and education events.

We are also working with counterpart offices in Europe and Japan on the Trilateral Identification Project, a harmonized system that simplifies the process for obtaining trademark registrations in multiple jurisdictions and makes it easier for businesses to protect their brands worldwide. To date there are about 13,000 entries, with approximately 50 to 100 new entries added per month. The Russian Federation, South Korea, Mexico, the Philippines, Canada, and Singapore have all recently signed on to the project. By creating greater consistency in trademark registration practices, this USPTO-led effort is helping promote a set of international “best-practices” for regulating trademark law and reduces the threat of “copycat brands” that imitate American products.

In addition, we are establishing an Enforcement Working Group to increase inter-departmental collaboration in effectively enforcing trade rules abroad. And by partnering with the International Trade Administration (ITA), we’re helping build a set of metrics that tracks how effectively trade rules are being followed abroad, and collaborating to implement programs that protect IP for American businesses while facilitating their expansion into foreign markets.

Promoting Trade

To promote trade, the USPTO operates a number of training programs to bring awareness and tools to businesses seeking to engage overseas markets. Through the Trademark Assistance Center we provide general information about the U.S. trademark registration process and respond to inquiries about the status of trademark applications and registrations abroad. And in 2012, our agency is instituting an initiative to educate Minority Business Development Agency Centers through 15 outreach events that train businesses on how to navigate the IP terrain in China—with the goal of helping minority American businesses get their products into the fastest-growing consumer market in the world.

What does this litany of programs mean to American citizens and taxpayers who are not inventors or entrepreneurs? It means that the USPTO—one of only two fee-funded agencies in the U.S. government�����is delivering real and measurable results in our economic recovery. Exporting the fruits of American innovation from the lab to the global marketplace faster, more efficiently and with greater clarity means more new products, more profits for entrepreneurs, and more employees they can afford to hire. At the same time, stronger protection for their brands and products overseas multiplies the effect—more profits, more jobs, and more economic growth.

The NEI is an ambitious and epic undertaking worthy of our nation’s greatness, and the men and women of the USPTO are working hard on behalf of U.S. citizens to make sure it succeeds—and succeed it will.

United States Patent and Trademark Office
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