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Remarks to Open Elijah J. McCoy USPTO Detroit Location

Under Secretary of Commerce for IP & Director of the USPTO David Kappos

July 13, 2012

Detroit Office Opening

Draft Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good morning everybody. Let me begin by extending my heartfelt thanks to Acting Secretary Blank, Senator Stabenow, Members of the Michigan Congressional Delegation, and [University of Michigan] President Coleman. Their collective efforts and leadership have made this historic occasion possible. Mayor Bing, on behalf of the entire United States Patent and Trademark Office staff, I want to thank you for welcoming us with open arms and laying the foundation for an enduring partnership between Detroit and the USPTO. There are also some tireless public servants who I’d like to acknowledge:

They aren’t on stage today, and they won’t get a chance to speak—but these are the unsung heroes who pore over patent and trademark applications every day; who work to protect American innovation in a hypercompetitive global economy; and who, from the halls of our home base in Alexandria, Virginia, have been critical in building an intellectual property system for the 21st century.

So let’s give the entire USPTO staff a round of applause for the work they do every day in protecting an America that’s built to last.

The “patent” right was written into the U.S. Constitution by our founding fathers, encouraging inventors through limited protection for their innovations. That grand bargain has created a dynamic system engaging thinkers, researchers, technologists, visionaries—and the rest of society. It’s a bargain providing incentives to innovate, in exchange for dedicating those innovations to the corpus of human knowledge—and to the benefit of all mankind in perpetuity. Not a bad deal for mankind.

And with Congress’ passage and President Obama’s signing of the America Invents Act, we at the USPTO have been hard at work, engaged in transformational change to modernize our nation’s patent laws.

Change that has allowed entrepreneurs and universities to bring their technologies to market, faster. Change that is giving under-resourced inventors the pro-bono legal assistance they need. Change that is reducing fees, and reducing barriers for small businesses looking to protect their IP. And change that is easing the possibility for American industries to compete on an international stage. 

With an eye toward securing our position at the forefront of global innovation, our patent reform law is both strengthening the currency of intellectual property rights, and writing the next chapter of manufacturing, export, and investment possibilities for this nation.

As one of many steps toward realizing those possibilities, the USPTO was tasked to create three new satellite offices within three years, in some of America’s most dynamic “innovation hubs.” As it turns out, three years was more than we were willing to wait.

So here we are, less than a year later, in the one city that has long embodied the strength of “American industry” as a source of unrelenting possibility. This history of our nation is built on the shoulders of giants—dreamers, inventors, and risk-takers, who are willing to push the limits of conventional wisdom, and roll the dice on a great idea.

And the people of Detroit have time and again been they very sort of pioneers who shape our country with innovative audacity. Near the end of the 19th century, an inventor named Elijah McCoy came to this city, drawn by its potential, and history was made—with more than 57 U.S. patents by the end of his remarkable life, Elijah’s vision transformed the railroad system, and with it our trade economy.

That’s the story of American possibility, realized through the power of the American patent—and I can think of no more fitting name to adorn the walls of this new office than the “Real McCoy” himself.

When a later visionary named Henry Ford revolutionized the world with the automobile, people immigrated here by the millions to work in his factories. And by the end of 1944—during the fiercest fighting of the Second World War—those same factories, powered by the tenacity and resolve of hard-working Detroiters, churned out B-24 bombers at a rate of 650 planes per month. The sleeping giant of America’s industrial might had been awakened, right here in the Motor City, to build an “Arsenal of Democracy,” rooted in cutting-edge innovation.  

That’s why the Department of Commerce and the USPTO are committed to bringing more resources to bear—through our satellite offices—to develop, protect, and distribute that innovation. By distributing work to our new offices, while operating as one fully integrated team, the USPTO will maximize human capital resources, reduce the backlog of patent applications, and expand our personal contact with entrepreneurs and innovators across the country—enabling them to innovate faster, smarter, and more profitably.

Detroit was selected to host the USPTO’s first-ever satellite office as much for that entrepreneurial spirit as for its location, economic impact, inventor community, and its pool of talented professionals and recruits for the USPTO. And the lessons learned in this new office, and the best practices developed here, will be applied to other offices soon to follow in Dallas, Denver, and Silicon Valley. Together, they will allow the USPTO to operate more cost-effectively and efficiently than ever before.

Our president is focused on grassroots change in America, and giving inventors local access to the USPTO at the Elijah J. McCoy satellite office will energize the spirit of innovation at the very roots of its foundation, empowering future Elijah McCoys and Henry Fords to continue transforming our nation and our world for the better.

Thank you again, Mayor Bing, for your hospitality, and Acting Secretary Blank, for your unfailing support to our agency in these historic efforts.

We are a nation of big ideas. Larger than life ideas. And today, more than two centuries after Thomas Jefferson examined that first patent, we’ve done something very big with our patent system—expanding to new frontiers and rousing the sleeping giant of American ingenuity and industrial might once more.

To the examiners, judges, and staff of our first-ever satellite office, let me just say, congratulations and good luck. You are part of an outstanding team, and an historic undertaking. I look forward to working with you all in helping this office realize its full potential on behalf of inventors in the Motor City and across our nation. Thank you.

United States Patent and Trademark Office
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Last Modified: 12/13/2012 3:35:47 PM