Remarks by Deputy Director Derrick Brent at the 2024 AUTM annual meeting

Remarks as delivered 

Derrick Brent Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO 

AUTM's 2024 Annual Meeting

Tuesday, February 20, 2024


Thank you, Dr. Almesha Campbell, and the leadership of AUTM — Steve Susalka and IanMcLure — for having me. And let me extend a warm hello to all the members and guests of AUTM from the entire staff of 13,500 patent and trademark examiners and IP professionals at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The innovation ecosystem, and indeed the country, depend on the discoveries and inventions that are generated at your institutions.

Your researchers are the ones who dream things that never were, and ask, Why not? as RFK said. The breakthroughs and the technologies that your institutions are creating and patenting strengthen our economy and our country. But equally important, your work impacts lives by bringing these inventions to the people who want or need them. Each year, millions of people are impacted by your work, and the work of your institutions. We, the USPTO, are proud to stand alongside you in making such an impact, and we thank you for your hard work and dedication.

Our main topic today is building a robust, inclusive technology transfer ecosystem. How do we cast a wide net to find more researchers and more inventors?

Perhaps the first question is. . . Why? Why cast a wider net? We are a leader in the world in innovation. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” my grandpa and many others have said. The short answer is that we need to cast wider nets so we can remain a leader in a world where others are working hard also. To stay ahead, we cannot afford to leave any innovators and innovation on the shelf.

We must make sure that we are availing ourselves of every opportunity to unleash the ingenuity of the next Edison, the Miriam Croak, the next Chieko Asakawa, who invented a system to provide effective internet access for the blind and visually impaired.

At the USPTO, we see evidence that others are stepping up their work in innovation. Fifty-six percent of the 650,000 applications for new patents originate from outside of the United States. Our friends at the National Academy of Inventors just released their Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Patents for 2023. Almost 40% of the top 100 universities receiving USPTO-issued patents were based overseas.

We are in a relay race, where we have taken the baton from those who have gone before us, and now we must not only continue to lead, but also set a path for those who come after us to continue to lead.

Diversity, inclusion, is key to our success. 

McKinsey just completed its fourth assessment of diversity in the business sector. They surveyed 1,256 companies in 23 countries. They found that the most diverse companies have 39% higher profits than those with the least amount of diversity. That’s data. It’s quantitative information, and not just qualitative.

So that’s the “why.” Diversity is required to remain a world leader in innovation.

Then comes the next part: How? Allow me a few moments to tell you what the USPTO has done to address the “how” in casting a wider net. 

As America’s Innovation Agency, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has permanent programs, temporary programs, and pilot projects, aimed at involving far more Americans in the innovation economy. We are collecting data, engaging with our staff, our unions, our advisory committees, our partners like AUTM and our stakeholders like your universities in brainstorming new initiatives to drive more inclusive innovation.

Through our partners, we offer free legal counsel to entrepreneurs and inventors who are just starting on their innovation journey. We offer substantially reduced fees for those new to the patenting process. We provide expedited examination of patent applications for first-time filers.

We provide consulting and educational services describing the IP process and system, and the benefits of protecting an invention and creating companies.

The USPTO’s Council for Inclusive Innovation — CI-Squared — is currently in the final stages of crafting a National Strategy for Inclusive Innovation. USPTO works with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, and other schools to increase STEM participation, and also provide visibility of new opportunities in the innovation system – like technology transfer.

Our agency has launched a national program to educate women about entrepreneurship. We’ve extended our outreach to members of the military community through our Service to Success: Entrepreneurship Resources for the Military Community program. We are working with members of the military, veterans, and their spouses to show them how intellectual property protection is vital on their journey as future entrepreneurs.

The USPTO has a long-standing partnership with the National Inventors Hall of Fame. That partnership provided innovation camps and IP training to 376,000 kids last year alone. These are our future scientists and engineers, our future innovators who help us remain a leader in innovation. They are the future students in your universities. They will be the next generation of technology proponents, and our future leaders.

The USPTO also provided innovation and intellectual property training to 22,000 teachers this past year, so that they could go back home and inspire our next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs.

Beyond what we are doing at the USPTO, the federal government is implementing generational programs aimed at rebuilding the technology engine that is driving the global economy. An essential component of the many programs associated with the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Infrastructure Bill, is the commitment to vastly increase the talent pool needed for the innovation economy to prosper.

EDA’s $500-million Innovation Technology Hubs program is in full swing, with the recent selection of 31 new Tech Hubs.  

The National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship — NACIE — just recommended the creation of a National Innovation Accelerator Network that would champion innovation and entrepreneurship across the country, with a focus on providing intellectual property education and services for inventors. This National Innovation Accelerator Network would involve universities, venture capitalists, state and local economic development offices, federal agencies, laboratories, and technology companies.  Its goal is to provide every region of the country with the ability to stimulate their economies through innovation — and the transfer of technologies from labs to the market.

The Commerce Department just announced $5 billion in funding for the National Semiconductor Technology Center.

And the National Science Foundation just announced awards totaling $1.6 billion for its National Regional Innovation Engines program.

These are all major, nation-wide initiatives aimed at developing and transferring new technologies into commercial enterprises that generate wealth, employ Americans, and solve major global challenges. 

This is an exciting time to engage with the USPTO, and with the federal government. These programs will provide opportunities for your institutions to engage in a historic effort to advance innovation and technology for our country.

And this brings us back to the why and the how. These historic opportunities will provide your institutions with the chance to cast a wide net to find and involve more bright minds, researchers, faculty, students, and commercialization specialists.

Inclusion will make your programs stronger, ready to handle a variety of complex challenges that will attend these unprecedented opportunities. Inclusion and building those broad teams will make your programs successful now and in the future.

I will close by thanking you for the opportunity to share some time and thoughts with this wonderful group. It is truly a privilege to be able to engage with so many bright and dedicated individuals. One of my favorite quotes is from Jackie Robinson: “A measure of a life is in the impact it has on others.”

Research, commercialization, and inclusion are your ways to impact those to whom you can offer an opportunity to participate, and to impact our country as you bring breakthrough innovation and technology to impact through your work.

Thank you, and all the best.