Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Deputy Director Michelle K. Lee
Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade Intellectual Property Rights
September 10, 2014
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Assistant Minister of Commerce Tong Daochi and members of the Chinese delegation: Good morning. I am Michelle Lee, the Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. I am very pleased to welcome you and your colleagues to our facilities, and to this year's staff-level meeting of the IPR Working Group of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, which the USPTO co-chairs with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
We also are especially pleased to welcome our friends and colleagues from many different agencies in the Chinese and U.S. governments. Minister Tong, I understand that this is your first time attending the JCCT IPR Working Group, as it is mine. We especially appreciate your making the trip across the Potomac River, to the town that George Washington called home. We hope that you can use this opportunity, as your predecessors did, to observe how our office functions.
We recognize that your visit reflects the Chinese proverb of "riding a horse to appreciate the flowers." At the USPTO, we are especially proud of our history totaling over 200 years, celebrating the traditions of innovation of the United States, and our efforts always to be forward-leaning and collaborative.
We are especially proud to be recognized as the best place to work in the United States government, as well as having the most diverse work force - of which 28% of our employees are of Asian-Pacific American descent. In fact, you will find many people here not only who speak Mandarin Chinese, but also Cantonese and many of the other dialects from China.
I also wish to welcome Director General Li Chenggang of the Ministry of Commerce. I want to thank you for the many courtesies that you extended to my predecessor, former USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea, when she visited Qingdao in September 2013. My appreciation to you and your staff for making her visit and seminar so successful.
The USPTO can trace its roots to the passage of the first Patent Act in 1790. In 1802, it became a separate agency within the Department of Commerce. The protection of intellectual property is enshrined in Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution, and reflects how important this asset is to the United States.
The USPTO is our nation's leader on intellectual property matters, the only subject matter on which we focus. We work closely with all of the other U.S. government agencies that handle intellectual property as a part of their other duties. We provide advice to the president on a wide range of intellectual property matters, not only limited to patents and trademarks, but also on copyrights, plant varieties, trade secrets, and enforcement matters.
The USPTO has over 12,000 employees, of which 8,500 are patent examiners and 500 are trademark examining attorneys. To expand our presence nationwide, we now have offices in Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Detroit, Michigan; and San Jose, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. In this respect, we lag a bit behind China's State Intellectual Property Office, or SIPO, which had launched satellite offices in Suzhou and Guangzhou before we did so in the U.S.
Besides serving as the nation's register of patents and trademarks, the USPTO has an Office of Policy and International Affairs, which is integrally involved in developing domestic and international intellectual-property policy. We are engaged at the World Intellectual Property Organization as well as through specialized multi-lateral bodies such as the IP5 and TM5, consisting of the world's five largest patent and trademark offices. In addition to individual bilateral contact, these venues allow us to work collaboratively in addressing problems common to the five offices.
As you may know, the USPTO was instrumental in expanding the scope of the original "Patent Trilateral," consisting of just the U.S., the E.U., and Japan, to the current IP-5, now including China and South Korea. This was done simply with the USPTO placing the original telephone call back in 2007 to now-former SIPO Commissioner Tian Lipu, inviting him to participate in that new forum.
Internationally, we have IPR Attachés in seven countries. Only in China do we have three officers and several support staff including Chinese attorneys, who are specifically assigned to Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, demonstrating your country's importance to us on a broad range of issues.
Here at the USPTO headquarters we have a dedicated group of China Team attorneys. In fact, it was our Beijing-based IP Attaché team that led to the U.S. government's request to China to establish a similar office in the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. to facilitate IP discussions and exchange.
We are grateful for the support and leadership from your current IPR Attaché, Dr. Chen Fuli, and his predecessor, Dr. Yang Guohua.
Minister Tong, this year, we celebrate 35 years of collaboration between China and the USPTO on IP issues. Back in 1979, we hosted our first Chinese delegation, which desired to learn about the U.S. patent system. At that time, China was busy formulating its first laws governing intellectual property, while the United States was contemplating passage of patent legislation that eventually would become known as the Bayh-Dole Act, and would establish our specialized IP court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Like the PTO itself, our relationship with you rests on a firm foundation that allows us to continue planning and expanding for the future. For example, the USPTO has Memoranda of Understanding with each of your intellectual property agencies, including the State Intellectual Property Office, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, and the National Copyright Administration. We work closely with each, exchanging ideas and jointly presenting programs. We also enjoy strong bilateral relationships with your courts, the State Council Legislative Affairs Office, the General Administration of Customs, and the Ministry of Public Security.
China recently established specialized IP courts in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai, as part of its plans to become an innovative economy. U.S. companies increasingly are engaging in a collaborative fashion with Chinese high-tech companies, with an increasingly important flow of technology and exchange of intangible goods and services between our countries.
We are proud of our Global Intellectual Property Academy or GIPA. This facility serves as the U.S. government's preeminent facility for enabling exchange of thoughts and ideas concerning intellectual property.
In addition to today's delegation, we will have four separate delegations visiting from China in the next two weeks. From September 15 to 26, approximately fifteen to twenty senior-level officials from various Chinese Government ministries and IP offices will participate in a two-week legislative-affairs study tour. This study tour is part of our commitment to China under the Cooperative Framework Agreement, or CFA, in which we have pledged to support outreach and capacity-building on intellectual property matters.
On September 23, a delegation from Jiangsu Province will be here to discuss patent enforcement.
From September 23 to 26, we will be hosting a twelve-person delegation from the sub-offices of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, namely, the China Trademark Office and the Trademark Review and Adjudication Board. Discussions will focus on trademark examination and appellate issues.
On September 24 and 25, the USPTO is receiving officials from the State Intellectual Property Office to confer on enhancing patent-examination quality.
Finally, I would like to note that from October 13 to 17, a team from my office will be traveling to China. From October 15 to 17, I will be joining them in my capacity as USPTO deputy director. I am looking forward to engaging with you in greater detail at that time.
As you can see, we engage with China on many levels, both here in the United States and in your country. More importantly than engagement, we believe that our discussions bring concrete results for our companies.
As Confucius said in his analects, you are "a friend who has traveled a great distance" to enjoy our company. We look forward to a productive and collaborative set of meetings today and tomorrow.
Following your opening remarks, it will be my great pleasure to take you on a short tour of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
I also wish to extend to you and your colleagues best wishes for a very Happy Mid-Autumn Festival.
Again, I warmly welcome you, and thank you for coming.
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