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

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.

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