Remarks by Director Iancu at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center's 14th Annual USPTO IP Attaché Roundtable

Remarks delivered at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce 

Global Innovation Policy Center's 14th Annual USPTO IP Attaché Roundtable

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

December 15, 2020


As prepared for delivery


Thank you, Ray (Kerins), for the wonderful introduction. Thank you also to David (Hirschmann), Patrick (Kilbride), Frank (Cullen), and the entire staff of the Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) for hosting this annual event, and for your steadfast support for strong intellectual property (IP) rights in the United States and around the globe. Thank you for inviting me to be part of this yearly discussion with our outstanding attachés. 

They are an extremely impressive group, as you will all witness in the next few minutes. They are an incredible fount of knowledge on the latest trends in IP around the globe. They are also an invaluable resource to our diplomats stationed overseas, Americans doing business overseas, and others who utilize their expertise and contacts.

We are extremely pleased with the work done this year by our attachés. They have overcome incredible obstacles, with shutdowns and travel restrictions, yet they have continued their successful work and have achieved many goals.

Most importantly, we are filled with pride on the elevation of four of our IP attachés to the “Counselor” rank at the embassies and missions where they serve. This designation confers both diplomatic recognition of their essential service and demonstrates the priority of intellectual property rights in U.S. foreign affairs. These four outstanding individuals are: Susan Wilson, in Brussels; Duncan Willson, in Beijing; John Cabeca, in New Delhi; and Cindy Henderson, in Mexico City. The elevation in diplomatic rank puts us at the dawn of a new era, where intellectual property has even higher standing in our global missions. 

We are indebted to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who took on the issue personally and ensured its ultimate resolution. We are also thankful to the senators whose determination finally helped shepherd this measure through the legislative process. We are especially thankful to the GIPC, which has advocated persistently over the years on the importance of having our attachés elevated in rank. You also corralled other stakeholder support and, together, made a huge difference.

Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we have had a remarkable year on the international IP front. We have entered many bilateral agreements on IP, including a long-coming memorandum of understanding with India, a parallel patent grant initiative with Mexico and a patent validation agreement with Cambodia. These last two, in particular, will dramatically increase the speed and ease of patent issuance in Mexico and Cambodia respectively for applicants that have a corresponding U.S. patent. They also will serve as a model for other similar agreements around the globe. Our attachés have been instrumental in shepherding all of these bilateral agreements to successful resolution. 

On the multilateral front, among other things, we created a broad coalition of countries at WIPO that supported the election of a strong leader who respects and champions IP rights. This could not have happened without our attachés working for years ahead of time to develop personal relationships with governments around the world.

When I called, all of my foreign counterparts had warm feelings towards the United States with respect to IP, in large part because of the groundwork laid over time by our attachés. I spoke with some 70 countries during the process, some multiple times. These types of relationships do not get forged overnight, and the work our attachés have done all along has proved the difference maker. 

Our corps of attachés has also been instrumental in advocating respect for IP rights during the pandemic, despite pressure to the contrary. Just yesterday, the first Americans were vaccinated against the coronavirus. The fact that we have multiple vaccines in the works, as well as other treatments, in less than one year is unprecedented. But it is not accidental. All of this has been made possible by the years of innovation that have preceded this international crisis. In turn, that innovation, which takes huge investments of time and resources, would not have happened without robust IP protection. 

All that innovation and corresponding IP rights have proven invaluable right now, as inventors and scientists around the world race to save mankind. If we do not respect their IP rights at this time, precisely when their inventions are needed, it is less likely that inventors and investors in the future will be equally willing to make the sacrifices necessary to invent the technology that will be needed to solve the next crisis.

In any event, before any drastic measures are taken with respect to IP rights, evidence should be brought to bear that such measures are actually needed. This has not yet happened. To the contrary, the evidence to date shows that there is an unprecedented level of cooperation in industry, and that IP has facilitated this collaboration. 

Our attachés have been hard at work around the world delivering these messages and advocating for the sanctity of IP rights. I know that GIPC has been doing the same, including a recent article by Patrick Kilbride. Together, we have been successful to date, but we must remain vigilant and fully engaged.

All in all, our attachés have provided direct assistance to more than 4,200 stakeholders this past year. They have held IP training programs with more than 2,400 foreign government officials. They have conducted public awareness programs that involved 6,700 participants. Moreover, this year, the USPTO’s Global IP Academy provided more than 130 IP protection and enforcement training programs to 10,675 people from around the world. This is an increase of more than 8% compared to 2019. Simply put, a remarkable performance in a most difficult year. Our attachés and the Office for International Affairs are consummate professionals, working tirelessly around the world to both promote and defend America’s most important asset: its intellectual property.

Thank you to the Chamber, to your members, and to everybody tuned in, for all you do for intellectual property, and for your steadfast support of the USPTO’s IP attaché program. I look forward to hearing from the attachés and the rest of the participants in today’s program.

Thank you again for inviting me to be with you.