Remarks by Director Michelle K. Lee at Patent Public Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting

USPTO Director Michelle K. Lee

February 4, 2016, 9 a.m.

Patent Public Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Esther. Good morning everyone, and welcome to the USPTO! It’s always a pleasure to welcome a new member to the committee, and I’m delighted that Jennifer Camacho is joining us for her first meeting. Like all committee members, Jennifer brings a wealth of experience to her position. In addition to her work as chief legal officer for Gen9, she’s represented multiple clients in the life sciences industry, including biotechnology and synthetic biology companies, pharmaceutical and medtech companies, investment banks, venture capital firms, and other industry stakeholders. We look forward to working with her. Welcome, Jennifer! I also want to thank outgoing member Paul Jacobs for his service on the committee. He’s done a tremendous job. Thank you, Paul.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, it’s been anything but a quiet few months here! Just last week we experienced a blizzard that forced federal agencies in the area to close for several days. Fortunately, thanks to our telework program, 77% of all USPTO employees were teleworking at peak times in spite of the snow closures. And of course on December 22, we suffered another unexpected challenge when a major power outage here resulted in damaged equipment that required the shutdown of many of our USPTO online and information technology systems--including the filing, searching and payment systems used by our customers and examiners across the country. John Owens will provide more details about the outage and its impact during his presentation, and can answer any questions you may have. But I do want to acknowledge our stakeholders and employees for their patience and support during the outage – and thank the hundreds of employees, contractors, and service providers who literally worked through the holidays to restore our systems. It was truly a stellar team effort all around. Thank you.

I should also mention that for the first time in our agency’s history, we not only have four permanent regional offices up and running, but four regional office directors as well. In addition to Christal Sheppard in Detroit and John Cabeca in San Jose, we now have Hope Shimabuku leading our Dallas office and Molly Kocialski leading our Denver office. Both are highly qualified and welcome additions to our USPTO leadership team. In the months ahead they’ll play a key role in developing and delivering the full potential of these new offices, to the benefit of innovators and entrepreneurs across the nation.

Now before I turn things over to our various program experts for their updates, I’d like to briefly touch on a few other issues of potential interest to the committee and our broader Patents community. Early last month I gave a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. I’m told I was the first USPTO director to speak there in its nearly 50-year history. The miles—literally miles—of exhibitors and their latest cutting-edge innovations spoke directly to the American spirit of discovery and innovation President Obama mentioned in his final State of the Union address. And also for the first time, we had a talented USPTO team on site, housed in an area called Eureka Park, where start-ups were located. They were able to engage with innovators at all entrepreneurial levels from solo startups to mature and growing companies. We listened to their stories of how intellectual property is helping them compete in our global economy, and we educated many more on the expanding array of resources our agency offers to help them succeed.

Of course public engagement has been a critical component of one of my top priorities—our Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative. Valencia Martin-Wallace, the Deputy Commissioner of Patent Quality, and her team will provide details about our exciting progress momentarily. Among other things you’ll hear about the strides we’re making in improving performance and tracking progress. And you can keep up with their progress in real time by tuning in to monthly Patent Quality Chats, on the second Tuesday of the month, or archived on our website for later viewing.  Each month features a deep dive into a specific initiative with an opportunity for listeners to submit questions. I’m looking forward to more great work on the Patent Quality front in the months ahead, and we look forward to your continued input.

You’ll also hear about our Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB)—which ultimately is providing a faster, lower-cost alternative to the district courts to challenge the validity of issued patents.

And not to steal any of Shira’s or Mark’s thunder, but I’m particularly excited about the work we’re doing, through their offices, to streamline our patent examination process internationally. The centerpiece of these efforts is the Patent Prosecution Highway, or PPH, which provides for fast-track examination in participating patent offices. Our stakeholders report that PPH provides significant savings for U.S. applicants—as much as $10,000 or more in certain applications. At the end of the day, what we are striving for in 2016—and beyond—is an international patent system that operates in an efficient, balanced, and easy-to-engage manner.

One recent development I’m particularly pleased about is the Global Dossier. In its initial phase, it provides all stakeholders – examiners and the public – access to the dossier information of the IP5 Offices through a single portal. This not only saves applicants time and money by having files in a single place, but also improves patent quality by giving examiners better access to more relevant prior art earlier in the examination practice. And of course there is much more on the agenda—including updates on operations, our budget, and patent reform legislation.

So I’ll just conclude by thanking all of our PPAC members for your continuing wise counsel and invaluable contributions to our operations. I hope you find today’s program informative and helpful.

Thank you, as always, and belated best wishes for the New Year!

#  #  #