Remarks by Director Kathi Vidal at the AI/ET Partnership Series #1: Kickoff – USPTO AI/ET activities and patent policy

Remarks as Delivered Kathi Vidal

Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and

Director of the USPTO

AI/ET Partnership Series #1: Kickoff – USPTO AI/ET activities and patent policy

Jun 29, 2022


Thank you, Jerry. And thanks to Charles Kim and the USPTO’s AI and emerging technologies working group. I appreciate you putting together today's meeting and for all the work that you've done. In terms of my background, I did design in an AI in the 1990s and boy have we come a long way since then! I'm very pleased to be here today to inaugurate this partnership. And as Jerry mentioned, this truly is a partnership. We've certainly set the agenda for this first meeting on issues that we believe are very important to that partnership, but we want to hear from you on the things that are important to you.

Today's event has sold out, I think we have over 1,000 signed up, which just shows how important this is. In terms of the USPTO, what we are focused on is bringing innovation to impact. We want to incentivize innovation, especially as Jerry mentioned, in key technology areas like AI and emerging technologies. And then we want to make sure that we have the infrastructure, we have the rules that not only allow that innovation to make impact, but that we're creating rules that do not create impasses. We need to promote the development and deployment of artificial intelligence and other transformative emerging technologies. As you all know, AI is already impacting most industries and many aspects of our society. It is being used to discover breakthroughs in health care. It is used to tackle climate change, and it's being used at the USPTO to help us grant robust and reliable patents in every category of technology.

AI and emerging technologies have the potential to dramatically improve our day to day lives. They will provide countless and unpredictable benefits to our social well-being, not just here in the United States, but around the world. But bottom line, we need to get this right and we need to partner with you on that. We need to make sure we're setting laws, policies and practices that benefit the U.S. and the world. For those of you who are not as familiar with the USPTO, we are one of the nation's oldest federal agencies. Our mission is written directly into the United States Constitution to make sure our system of IP protection incentivizes innovation in every area of science, technology, industry, and the arts. Our job is to ensure that new technologies have a maximum positive impact on our country's competitiveness, on our economic prosperity, including job creation, and honor national security. Also, on our country's ability to solve major global challenges that we're working on right now, with other countries.

With our 13,500 team members, the USPTO is on the front lines of the changes taking place in every category of technology known to exist. And what we've been observing is that there is an increasing importance in AI in invention and innovation in all areas. In our recent study we found that between the years of 2002 and 2020, annual AI patents increased by more than 150%, rising from 30,000 to almost 80,000 annually. We also found that there's been a broad diffusion of the use of AI across technologies, inventors, organizations and geography. While AI inventors tend to be concentrated, as most inventors are, in larger cities and well-established technology hubs, we found that AI technologies are diffusing widely across the entire country.

This is great news. For example, Maine and South Carolina are leaders in applying AI to digital data processing for businesses. Inventors in Oregon are developing AI into fitness training programs and equipment. In Montana, AI is being incorporated into inventions for analyzing the chemical and physical properties of materials. And Wisconsin leads to the development of AI and medical instruments and processes for diagnosis, surgery, and identification, followed by Ohio and Kansas. Although we still have a way to go to ensure that innovation is broadly based and fully inclusive in all quarters of our nation, we should be encouraged that technologies such as AI are being adopted by innovators from across the United States.

As I mentioned at the USPTO we are also aligning our AI efforts with colleagues from across the federal enterprise. Knowing how important intellectual property is to the development of technology, we are focused on advancing the mission of the National AI Initiative to ensure continued US leadership in AI research and development. We are actively addressing recommendations from the final National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence report to Congress that was published in March of last year. In addition, we're collaborating with other US agencies through interagency efforts, such as the National Science and Technology Council, and the machine learning and artificial intelligence subcommittee. We are also actively engaged internationally with the US/UK artificial intelligence R&D collaboration, as well as with other efforts. We look forward to working across government and with all of you.

As many of you know, the US often plays a lead when it comes to policies around intellectual property. And we need to, especially in this area, play a lead so we look to you for your ideas. I know I heard some today and in stakeholder meetings that we've shared with the group. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can play that lead, how we can help you as individual inventors, as corporations, as investors, how we can help you make sure that we're making the right decisions to advance AI in our society.

At the USPTO we've also been working to leverage these technologies to improve our own operational efficiency and to serve you better. We have put in place AI tools that all of our examiners can use to perform the highest quality of examination of patent and trademark applications. Just this year, we formally launched our AI system to conduct extensive searches for prior art. The result is higher quality patents that form the basis of new products, new companies and new industries. On the trademark side of our operations, we are developing an AI search and comparison tool for use by our examining attorneys. And for our customers, we have developed an AI based virtual assistant that will deploy on our website to help locate otherwise hard to find information quickly and easily.

We are completely committed to AI as a major new tool to improve all aspects of our operations, our interactions with our stakeholders, and the public. We will do this while fostering the public's trust through the responsible use of these technologies. A recent example of our engagement with the larger innovation community is the first of its kind AI research competition called the “U.S. Patent phrase to phrase matching.” We have enlisted the help and expertise of the global AI and data science communities. Since the start of the competition this past March 2, 325 competitors have participated, providing us with more than 42,000 code submissions. The competition results for finalists, finalized on June 20. And I'm pleased to announce that the winning solution delivered a top line accuracy score of 87.8%. The gold medalists hailed from the United States, as well as France, Japan, Germany, Australia, and many other countries. We have a number of AI and emerging technology initiatives also in the planning stages. We can't wait to unveil them in the coming months.

Today, we are fortunate to be joined by Dr. Lynne Parker, Director of the National Artificial Intelligence Initiative Office and Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States. We will have discussions on important policy issues associated with subject matter eligibility and AI’s increasing role in the creation of new inventions and the development of the USPTO’s AI patent dataset.

The intent of our session today is to advance our collective understanding of the policy issues and their impact on the advancement of AI and other emerging technologies. Today's meeting is just the beginning. It is a first in a wide-ranging series of upcoming engagements on AI and emerging technologies. Though we certainly have topics in the works again, we look forward to hearing your suggestions on the topics that are most important to you.

We will shortly announce the details of our next partnership meeting, scheduled for later this summer, that will be hosted in collaboration with the USPTO’s regional offices. In addition, the USPTO’s Eastern Regional Outreach Office is hosting a multi-part webinar series on blockchain with experts from across government, industry and academia. So, mark your calendars. The next event for the blockchain and IP series will be held on July 19.

Finally, we invite you to contribute to this important dialogue, both today and beyond. You can provide feedback and suggestions through the partnerships website. More importantly, we want to use this forum as a means for all to help us make connections. We must work together so that we can more rapidly advance our common agenda and accelerate the deployment of these critical technologies throughout industry and society. We play an important role in creating a hopeful future for people who currently believe that technology could be causing more harm than good. AI is the essential bridge for that more optimistic future. Thank you all for joining us and I hope we have a very productive meeting.