Remarks by Director Iancu at Trademark Public Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting

Remarks delivered at the Trademark Public Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting

Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu

April 17, 2020

WebEx

As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Elisabeth, and good afternoon, everyone. I believe this is our first all-virtual TPAC public meeting and—although I would much rather see all of you in person—it’s great at least to see you online for the second TPAC meeting of the year.

First, I want to say I hope that you and your loved ones are in good health. I am heartened that during this unprecedented and challenging time, we all continue to press forward, doing our part—to support each other, to serve the public, and to promote U.S. commerce.

Indeed, the partnership between the USPTO and TPAC is more important now than maybe ever in our history. We’re in uncharted territory here, and I speak for the USPTO when I say that we are extremely appreciative of your service during these difficult times.

I’d also like to thank our incredible Trademarks employees, who continue to perform their jobs with the highest level of professionalism and energy. Despite all the difficulties, these employees have continued business as usual during these most unusual times. Our operations have seamlessly continued, uninterrupted, due to their dedicated service. It is inspiring, and I am proud to be part of this dedicated and compassionate team.

As always, we have important topics to discuss today and a lot of material to cover. I will make some introductory comments, and then turn it over to the Commissioner and the rest of the team to get into the details.

First and foremost, as I mentioned, the USPTO is open for business and fully operational. Although we closed our physical campus a few weeks ago, our employees are continuing their work from home. Even before the pandemic, about 55% of our workforce teleworked full time. Plus, an additional 30% teleworked at least one day a week.

And again, before the pandemic, our work had become mostly electronic. Indeed, on the Trademark side, we had recently moved to mandatory electronic filing. As a result, the USPTO was better prepared than most to move to full telework when it became necessary. So we are, for the most part, conducting business as usual—holding virtual meetings by phone and video, such as the one we are all on today.

Plus, and importantly, we are working hard to support our stakeholders during these difficult times. On March 27, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which included certain temporary authority for the USPTO Director. Within two business days, I exercised that authority and announced extensions to the time allowed to file certain patent and trademark-related documents and to pay certain fees. And, a few days after that, we posted answers to several FAQs on our website. If you have not done so, I encourage you to look at the guidance to see how you might use this relief as stakeholders and filers.

We want to support you as we all navigate these times, and also to support you as we come out of it. As I said when we announced the extensions, our goal is to ensure not only that our stakeholders can weather the storm, but that they can hit the ground running once it passes. And it will pass.

In the meantime, we want to hear from you, our stakeholders, on what else you think we can do to help you as you navigate these difficult times, and as we work together to ensure a healthy rebound. We know that we can always rely on TPAC for your thoughtful advice and counsel, and especially for your attention to—and stewardship of—the Trademarks budget, which in turn is helping to ensure that the USPTO’s Trademark Organization has stable funding to meet our stakeholders’ needs.

The last time TPAC met for a public session, there was discussion of a number of important initiatives we had been working on. We remain committed to those initiatives. And we have made impressive progress, as you will hear during the rest of this meeting.

As I mentioned, we completed our move to mandatory electronic filing. We recently also launched a dedicated page on our website on artificial intelligence. As I have been saying, the time is now for us to thoroughly and diligently explore AI and its implications on our constitutionally founded IP system, as well as the operations of the Office. Some months ago, we published a request for comments on many issues related to AI, and we have gleaned compelling insights from the feedback we received in response to our Request. Specifically, we received almost 200 unique comments from a wide range of stakeholders, including individuals, associations, foreign IP offices, and corporations. These are now posted on the dedicated page on our website.

Also, in support of our mission to improve the protection of IP rights, the USPTO is working to mitigate the global scourge of counterfeited and pirated goods. This is more important now than ever, as we have begun to see the harmful effects that counterfeit goods have on consumers’ health and safety. Just a couple of weeks ago, the FBI issued a press release warning health care professionals in particular of the increased potential for fraudulent activity around the sale of COVID-19-related medical equipment. The heroic men and women working in healthcare on the front lines of this global pandemic have enough to worry about. Whether their medical equipment and protective gear is authentic should not be one of them. So we are working on a number of initiatives, including a joint USPTO/National Crime Prime Prevention Council Anti-counterfeiting Campaign.

In all of this, and so much more–and especially as we manage our budget–the longstanding partnership between the USPTO and TPAC is extremely important. So I’d like to thank the TPAC for your hard work and dedication. Your insights and guidance on a number of issues continues to be invaluable. We’re looking forward to, and relying on, your sustained support and collaboration in the months ahead. Thank you for your service on the committee.

I will now turn the meeting over to our new Commissioner for Trademarks, David Gooder.

Dave’s first month on the job has seen so many unique challenges, none of which were in his job description. For whatever reason, we did not discuss a global pandemic during his interview. But David is more than prepared to lead the Trademark organization through this uncertain time.

David joins us with more than 30 years’ experience in IP law. As many of you may know, prior to joining the USPTO, David served as the Chief Trademark Counsel for Jack Daniel’s and its sister distilled spirits and wine brands. In that position, David directed the company’s global intellectual property work, including its large trademark portfolio, rights clearance, brand protection, licensing, and entertainment deals. His length and breadth of experience working in the IP field is impressive. 

Dave has also been an Officer and Director for the International Trademark Association (INTA). He also served as Chairman of the INTA Foundation, and he was a founding architect and Director of the International Federation of Spirits Producers (IFSP), the distilled spirits industry’s anti-counterfeiting alliance. He served on the Board of IFSP for 14 years and was its Chairman for 10 of those years.

And, not to be overlooked, David is an Eagle Scout. I understand this is a rare award, and that only about 2% of Boy Scouts throughout history have earned this status.

I am thrilled to have David on the team. The Trademark Office and the United States are better for his new leadership role. Until we can all be together in person, please join me in giving David a warm virtual welcome.

Thank you all for being with us, and have a great rest of the meeting.