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Visionary Innovators

Under Secretary of Commerce & Director of the USPTO David Kappos

April 26, 2012

World IP Day – Dirksen Senate Office Building

Draft remarks as prepared for delivery

Good afternoon everybody and thank you for joining us as we celebrate World Intellectual Property (IP) Day here on Capitol Hill. I want to thank Senator Patrick Leahy, a true champion for strengthening our nation’s IP system—as well as James Pooley, the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization—Cam Kerry, General Counsel for the Department of Commerce—and Todd Dickinson, the Executive Director of the American Intellectual Property Law Association, for all taking the time to join today’s conversation, and for zeroing-in on a very important point:

Intellectual property is no longer just an arcane concept reserved for highly technical or specialized scientists. From songs in your iPod, to spring allergy medicines, to the chips in the smartphones you’re probably emailing from right now—IP permeates all fields of interest, all layers of society and all parts of our day. More fundamentally though, intellectual property drives our innovation economy. It equips everyone from independent inventors to graphic designers, with the tools they need to protect their technologies, raise funds for research and development, and distribute cutting-edge tools to communities across society. This in turn creates new jobs and promotes new markets. The same Department of Commerce report, which Cam mentioned, also highlights that IP-intensive industries helped spur 40 million U.S. jobs in 2010, and accounted for nearly 35% of our gross domestic product.

So as the entire global economy remains committed to putting more people back to work, it is clear that intellectual property will remain our strongest asset in that pursuit. And as President Obama outlined in his January State of the Union, in order to remain competitive in the global marketplace, we must continue to reduce barriers to business growth and establish policies that empower entrepreneurs to thrive.

That’s why the United States Patent and Trademark Office is proud to play a key role at every step of the innovation lifecycle. We recognize that visionary researchers and technologists are most effective at breaking norms when a robust ecosystem of resources is available to them. So we’re starting right at the source where innovators of all stripes get their start—the classroom—and arming schools with the IP education needed to cultivate the best and brightest minds of tomorrow. And as those students—and their visionary ideas—continue to grow, we’re making sure they have a wide range of tools at their disposal to navigate each stage of developing, protecting, and commercializing innovation.

We undoubtedly live in a world of unparalleled potential—and whether we’re tinkering with equipment in a garage, or writing new lines of code in a dorm room, invention has always helped us confront the social challenges of our time. But sustaining the leadership of tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today—especially in those fields that hold the promise of producing future innovators. Accordingly, the USPTO has established a number of educational programs and partnerships to advance the mission of promoting IP in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—or STEM—fields.

We’re working with the National Science Foundation and the National Conference for Science Teachers to produce a video series and curriculum that focuses on how IP fuels progress in STEM fields—and we’re hosting concurrent conferences to propose ways in which intellectual property can be brought into focus in classrooms nationally. 

And through joint project agreements with agencies like NASA, the International Science and Engineering Fair, and the Girl Scouts of America—the USPTO is further promoting IP in classrooms by offering students the opportunity to participate in a variety of technology challenges and competitions throughout the year. Ultimately, these steps make systemic changes to the first critical phase of the innovation lifecycle: education. By raising the bar on how our teachers and schools engage our youth in science and engineering we can unleash transformative programs that not only make “IP” a textbook fundamental, but also help build the next great generation of do’ers and makers—who push boundaries and think outside the box.  

Of course, fertilizing such ideas, giving them value, and moving them from the chalkboard in a classroom to a technology in a lab to a product in the marketplace—all requires a strong and balanced patent system. And the USPTO is proud to play a critical role in simplifying that process for businesses and entrepreneurs to acquire that value. Since the enactment of the America Invents Act just seven months ago, we’re enabling small and independent inventors to move their ideas to the marketplace faster, while reducing the need for cost-prohibitive litigation that all too often ties up ideas and stifles innovation.

By building out a 21st century U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, we’re bringing online the resources necessary to establish:

  • pro-bono programs—like one we kicked off yesterday in Colorado—which offer legal advice to under-resourced businesses;
  • accelerated patent examination options with big discounts for small businesses;
  • IP Assessment tools to help entrepreneurs realize the most effective patent strategies available to them;
  • Small Business Innovation Research grants;
  • and a more dynamic IT infrastructure to streamline the user-experience when interacting with the Office.                              

So not only is the AIA helping reduce barriers to business growth by accelerating the process by which patents and trademarks are acquired, but it also helps put resources in the hands of those visionaries who may have the next generation-changing idea—but don’t necessarily know where to go from there. By constantly engaging innovators throughout the world about the tools available to them, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is empowering enterprises of all sizes and every step of the way. Ultimately, this helps catalyze the breakthroughs that provide the social and economic lift necessary to fuel 21st century growth.

Moreover, in a globalized world, comprehensive patent reform is also boosting productivity by enabling greater cross-border work-sharing between the USPTO and other patent offices. In the spirit of World IP Day, this is critical because the backlog of patent application clogging the pipelines in one country’s IP office, stresses the offices of other countries as well—resulting in billions of dollars lost in “foregone innovation,” globally.

Now, as we seek to better address a globalized world through efforts like patent reform, we must also work to bridge the gap between the intellectual property systems of developed and developing countries. And that’s why we’ve been engaged in spirited dialogues over the past several months to better harmonize our patent systems, and ease the burden of global filing, so that innovators have the opportunity to accelerate the development of their visions.

We’re a nation of big ideas, and a world full of limitless reach. So I look forward to working with all of you to continue building a 21st century IP system that helps us all design for the future, realize the visions of our world’s greatest creator, and unlock tomorrow’s solutions. Thank you.

United States Patent and Trademark Office
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Last Modified: 5/4/2012 2:13:25 PM