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Since his nomination by President Bill Clinton, and his subsequent unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate in 1999 as Under Secretary and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Q. Todd Dickinson has led one of the largest agencies in the federal government through some of its most progressive and exciting changes in over half a century. His tenure was marked by the sweeping reform initiated by 1999's American Inventors Protection Act (AIPA), legislation that changed a patent system virtually untouched since the 1950s.
Some of Under Secretary Dickinson's most notable achievements were in the area of "E-Government." Examples of these "information age" initiatives include:
- USPTO's move to ELECTRONIC FILING
- Patent and trademark applications, previously restricted to paper filing, can now be filed electronically. Applicants can now file and check the status of their patent and trademark on the Internet, paying by credit card.
- Expansion of WEB DATABASE
The USPTO now offers an expanded Web database that includes every U.S. patent ever issued, a total of more than 6.5 million patents dating from 1790.
- OUTREACH on the Internet
In order to best respond to both employees and customers, Under Secretary Dickinson instituted monthly on-line discussions with the public, an online magazine, and an email response messaging service.
Under Secretary Dickinson also worked directly with the IP community and USPTO employees:
- The Patent Public Advisory Committee and the Trademark Public Advisory Committee, AIPA-sponsored initiatives, bring experts in from the intellectual property community to advise USPTO on issues critical to the agency. This type of exchange was instrumental in bringing new insight to USPTO program management, administration, and policy development.
- ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS were also sponsored. Particularly significant was the public roundtable held in response to concerns surrounding software-related business method patents. The roundtable grew out of Under Secretary Dickinson's successful Business Method Action Plan.
Under Secretary Dickinson also worked hard to help independent inventors.
- Under his management, the USPTO established the Office of Independent Inventor Programs, the accompanying Independent Inventors web site, the creation of special radio and television spots warning independent inventors about invention promotion "scams," and the practice of publishing complaints about such promoters.
Some important quality initiatives include:
- The Revised Utility Examination Guidelines now provide patent examiners and applicants alike with a better understanding of the requirements for patents generated by emerging technologies such as biotechnology.
- The Quality Council and Patent Business Goals (streamlining the patent application process). Also implemented was the Baldrige assessment , allowing the USPTO to examine its successes and its flaws in order better serve customers. A regular review of sections was also implemented, and balanced scorecard initiatives were also introduced.
- FEE RETENTION is also an important goal related to USPTO quality. To that end, Q. Todd Dickinson worked with OPM on a proposal that would allow the agency eventually to retain all its fees.
Important improvements in labor/management relations were achieved as well, including:
- Implementing Day One/Day Two initiatives, improving the work environment for all USPTO employees, and new basic agreements with unions.
Under Secretary Dickinson's directorship of the United States Patent and Trademark Office came at a time when our nation was experiencing unprecedented growth, and a surge in the production of creative and useful arts. At no other time in history has intellectual property played such an essential role in one nation's development; we're glad that these important achievements allowed the USPTO to answer the challenges of the information age.
USPTO, a user fee-funded agency of the United States, within the Department of Commerce, administers laws relevant to granting patents and registering trademarks. The Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office advises the Secretary of Commerce and other Federal departments and agencies on intellectual property policy matters. Over six million patents have been issued since the first patent in 1790 and more than 2.3 million trademarks have been registered since the first in 1870. Last year USPTO issued 182,223 patents and registered 127,794 trademarks.
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