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

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.

Comments:

I think it's safe to say that the many changes and improvements at the USPTO over the last few years reflect great leadership starting at the top and demonstrated at every level from that point "over" ("down" does not seem appropriate) to each and every employee most of us have the pleasure of dealing with on a day-to-day basis. You have built a great team over there, David. I am sure that all of your constituents share the sentiment of wishing everyone on your USPTO team that may be suffering from the events this week the comfort and safety expressed in your message.

Posted by Joanna Mendoza on November 01, 2012 at 08:23 PM EDT #

I'm impressed. Good work!

Posted by Jon on November 02, 2012 at 06:18 AM EDT #

I am glad that the USPTO fared well through hurricane Sandy and that the impact was minimized for the organization. However, some of the customers and clients of the USPTO, namely, the inventors and patent practitioners located along the path of Sandy in many cases did not fare so well - some still without electricity (or homes) even now, almost a full week after the storm. Will there be any relief for these practitioners who, without electricity to run their servers and computers or to provide internet connectivity with the USPTO, were unable to meet certain filing deadlines - such as filing continuing patent applications or responses to office actions where the deadline to file fell within this literal blackout period? It would be a shame if patent applications went abandoned or priority claims denied due to the inability to timely file papers during the state of emergency created by this tremendous storm. Thank you for your consideration and understanding of this problem.

Posted by Alan Taboada on November 05, 2012 at 03:09 PM EST #

It is great to hear the USPTO was able to able to sustain high productivity throughout hurricane Sandy. Undoubtedly due in part to your policies for vast technological improvements to the IT infrastructure. However, I ask you to please institute policy to waive fees for those businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy who were and are unable to be productive from 10/29-11/9. With massive power loss, gasoline shortages, and damage to the NJ/NY metropolitan area, many of us found it difficult to return to a state of normalcy in addition to complying with filing deadlines. Our office in particular just had power restored (which we may be intermittent), and it is the first time some people have had access to heat and electricity in over a week. Please use your discretion to the extent of USPTO policies to waive fees for those inventors and practitioners adversely affected by Sandy. It would be one less burden for those affected by Sandy so that we can better serve and retain clients while rebuilding our area and homes. If you are reading this and were adversely affected by Sandy, please also add your written support for temporary relief from fees incurred during the period of disruption.

Posted by Matthew on November 07, 2012 at 03:21 PM EST #

As a software engineer, I'm watching first hand how software patents are crippling the industry. The "new review procedure" of the America Invents Act (AIA) is just going to siphon even more money away to lawyers by adding a review step. I can barely build anything today without infringing on a multitude of patents. If I research beforehand, I get fined 3x for willful infringement. And when I get sued, IP litigation is too expensive to defend against. Only the big players can play. The current system is COMPLETELY broken. Thanks. -Colin Clark

Posted by Colin Clark on November 20, 2012 at 08:34 PM EST #

Dear Mr Kappos. Recently you made the statement: "Our patent system is the envy of the world," However, not a single country has implemented US-style software patents, and the many proposals to do so have been met wit significant resistance everywhere. How do you explain this? The miracle of American exceptionalism? It couldn't possibly be that the US is now a perfect cautionary tale of what not to do? Sincerely, a software developer who actually innovates.

Posted by Linda M on November 21, 2012 at 06:12 AM EST #

Glad to hear the Superstorm didn't take you out. In my neck of the woods, we were safe but really quite emotionally buffeted by the storm's path. I personally only know a handful of people directly affected by the storm, but the level of effect is staggering. A dear friend's business no longer even stands - I mean that literally: the brick and mortar physical building was washed away to foundation. It's awe-inspiring, and I'm sure more poetic personage will craft better prose about the experience. I'm rambling. Apologies. Just know that it's wonderful to see Dependability prevails at USPTO. -Robert Hughey

Posted by R W Hughey on November 29, 2012 at 04:14 PM EST #

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