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

Monday May 23, 2011

Profile: The Office of Policy and External Affairs

Guest blog by Al Tramposch, OPEA Administrator

As the USPTO official responsible for leading our domestic and international policy efforts, I am delighted to be working with Dave Kappos and Terry Rea to advance their objectives for the Office. Although I’ve only been on the job for about three months, I have already been deeply immersed in the work of the Office of Policy and External Affairs (OPEA) and the excellent team of professionals that it comprises. 

"Policy and External Affairs” may be to some a mysterious title, and the office helps develop policy and oversees international and governmental affairs.  We work closely Director Kappos and Deputy Director Rea to further the USPTO’s leadership on international and national policy matters.  For example, as Chair of the USPTO Policy Council, I help develop the Agency’s positions on key issues that are often at the center of dynamic discussions on Federal Circuit and Supreme Court cases, legislative initiatives, international issues, and USPTO procedures and strategies. 

The majority of professionals within OPEA are members of expert subject matter policy teams specializing in everything from patents, trademarks and copyright, to trade and enforcement training, both here and abroad.  There is even a team dedicated exclusively to China.  Our policy teams work closely with the many U.S. government agencies that deal with IP matters.  These include our sister agencies within the Department of Commerce; the State Department; the Department of Justice; the Department of Homeland Security; and even the White House itself, in the form of the National Economic Council, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the U.S. Trade Representative and the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. 

In the international theater, our staff represents the U.S. government in a broad range of IP negotiations with foreign governments, such as in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Just last week, I served as chairman of the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents, which achieved a full consensus to move forward with discussions on five important topics of international patent law. With the assistance of personnel throughout the agency, we also maintain a cooperative dialogue with other IP offices around the world.  This is important work.  Our “Trilateral” partners, the European Patent Office and the Japan Patent Office, and the other “IP5” offices, China and Korea, together account for over 75 percent of the world’s patent filings and grants.  Over the years, we have established several work sharing arrangements with patent offices of other countries, such as the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) in which USPTO examiners utilize the search and examination results of other offices.  Most recently, Director Kappos has re-initiated discussions on substantive patent harmonization, talks which were begun over 25 years ago but which have languished over the past few years.

OPEA’s Office of Governmental Affairs is responsible for providing technical assistance to members of Congress and their staff on proposed legislation.  I am sure you are aware that Congress is working on legislation to amend the Patent Act, and that the economy has had a significant impact on the federal budget, including that of the USPTO.  You may not know that our Office of Government Affairs has been working with Congress to help draft effective patent reform legislation and to resolve difficult budgetary issues that the agency currently faces. 

Our internationally renowned Global Intellectual Property Academy provides training to members of foreign governments to help them establish and enforce effective intellectual property laws.  In FY 2010 alone, the academy held over 75 programs and trained more than 4,500 officials from 120 countries.
 
OPEA also is the home to the International IP Attaché program, which was created to provide expert personnel on the ground in countries in which the Administration hope to make significant improvements in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property.  Through that program the USPTO, working in conjunction with other agencies, deploys USPTO attorneys to U.S. Embassies and Consulates in a number of countries, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and Thailand, as well as at the international organizations in Geneva to help those governments improve their enforcement efforts. 

And last, but certainly not least, the Office of the Chief Economist has established an ambitious research agenda to support USPTO policy-making and improve our data infrastructure.  The Chief Economist works to provide the agency with the statistics and other information we need to help make informed smart decisions.

So, that’s Policy and External Affairs.  But, you might wonder, what’s in it for you?  In addition to our primary work of improving the effectiveness of the USPTO and the IP system at home and abroad, our Office can provide you with information and education through our website and GIPA Training Modules; hiring opportunities, primarily for those with law degrees; and cooperative projects with the Patent and Trademark units of the USPTO.

I invite you to find out more about us by visiting the IP Law and Policy web site.

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