|Performance and Accountability Report Fiscal Year 2009
Management's Discussion and Analysis
Mission and Organization of the USPTO
The USPTO’s mission is to foster innovation and competitiveness by:
Intellectual property (IP) includes inventions or creations embodied in the form of a patent, trademark, trade secret, or copyright. Creativity and innovation are the wellspring of the nation’s economic growth. As far back as the founding of the nation, the Constitution’s framers recognized that to promote innovation the nation requires a robust intellectual property system. With the economy now struggling, the American spirit of innovation is as essential as ever to creating jobs and fueling our economic growth. Innovations in science and technology, in particular, are crucial not just to stimulate growth, but also to maintain global competitiveness over the long haul. The United States Patent and Trademark Office is pivotal to the success of our innovators. In fulfilling the mandate of Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution, “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries,” the USPTO is on the cutting edge of our nation’s technological progress and achievement.
The USPTO is an agency of the United States within the Department of Commerce (DOC). The Agency is led by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO who consults with the Patent Public Advisory Committee and the Trademark Public Advisory Committee. The USPTO has two major business lines: Patents and Trademarks, as shown in the organization chart below. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the USPTO also has two storage facilities located in Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The USPTO has evolved into a unique government agency. In 1991 – under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1990 – the USPTO became fully supported by user fees to fund its operations. In 1999, the American Inventors Protection Act established the USPTO as an agency with performance-based attributes; for example, a clear mission statement, measurable services and a performance measurement system, and known sources of funding.
The Patent organization examines inventors’ patent applications. Patent examiners compare the scope of claimed subject matter in an application to a large body of technological information to determine whether the claimed invention is new, useful, and non-obvious. Patent examiners also provide answers on applications appealed to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI), prepare initial memoranda for interference proceedings to determine priority of invention, and prepare search reports and international preliminary examination reports for international applications filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The patent process also includes performing an administrative review of newly filed applications, publishing pending applications, issuing patents to successful applicants, and disseminating issued patents to the public.
As the clearinghouse for U.S. patent rights, the USPTO is an important catalyst for U.S. economic growth. Through the prompt granting of patents, the USPTO promotes the economic vitality of American business, paving the way for investment, research, scientific development, and the commercialization of new inventions. The USPTO also promotes economic vitality by ensuring that only valid patent applications are approved for granting, thus providing certainty that enhances competition in the marketplace.
The Trademark organization registers marks (trademarks, service marks, certification marks, and collective membership marks) that meet the requirements of the Trademark Act of 1946, as amended, and provides notice to the public and businesses of the trademark rights claimed in the pending applications and existing registrations of others. The core process of the Trademark organization is the examination of applications for trademark registration. As part of that process, examining attorneys make determinations of registrability under the provisions of the Trademark Act, which includes searching the electronic databases for any pending or registered marks that are confusingly similar to the mark in a subject application, preparing letters informing applicants of the attorney’s findings, approving applications to be published for opposition, and examining statements of use in applications filed under the Intent-to-Use provisions of the Trademark Act.
In registering trademarks, the USPTO assists businesses in protecting their investments, promotes quality goods and services, and safeguards consumers against confusion and deception in the marketplace. With notice readily available at www.uspto.gov, a business can make an informed decision when it wishes to adopt a new mark or expand the goods or services marketed under an existing mark. Federal registration provides enhanced protection for the owner’s investment in the mark and in the goods and services sold under the registered mark.
Domestically, the USPTO provides technical advice and information to executive branch agencies on IP matters and trade-related aspects of IP rights. Internationally, the USPTO works with foreign governments to establish regulatory and enforcement mechanisms that meet international obligations relating to the protection of IP.
At the end of FY 2009, the USPTO work force was composed of 9,716 federal employees (including 6,243 patent examiners, and 388 trademark examining attorneys).
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