Remarks by USPTO Deputy Director Derrick Brent at the Los Angeles Intellectual Property Lawyers Association

Remarks as prepared

Derrick Brent, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for  

Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO 

to the Los Angeles Intellectual Property Lawyers Association

March 29, 2023


Congratulations again to Ken Ohriner and Paul Menes for receiving pro bono awards recognizing their selfless service and dedication.

Thurgood Marshall said “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” Providing free services to those in need meets this standard, and is well deserving of tribute and recognition.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) supports a network of 20 independently operated pro bono clinics that provide services in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Established under the America Invents Act in 2011, the USPTO pro bono clinic program allows intellectual property (IP) practitioners to work with under-resourced inventors and small businesses in obtaining patent protection.

Since its inception, the Patent Pro Bono Program has facilitated 95,000 hours of free legal services, bringing folks into the innovation ecosystem. That assistance has resulted in more than 2,000 patent application filings.

That’s real work, producing real results.

The pro bono program has helped to expand our ecosystem. We have seen year-over-year increases in applicants from traditionally underrepresented groups who provided their demographic information to the clinics. In 2022:

  • 43% of pro bono applicants identified as women, which is more than three times the number of women identified as inventors in the general patent application pool;
  • 35% African American;
  • 14% Hispanic/Latino
  • 8% veteran

Again, these are real results. This is what happens when you provide resources and opportunity – you get robust inclusion. Our system, our country, becomes stronger when we open doors.

The IP community is impressive with its rich mix of practitioners – people from all kinds of backgrounds working on multiple types of inventions, brands or creative works, in practice areas ranging from licensing to litigation.

The rich diversity in backgrounds, education, and career experience is precisely what makes our community well poised to serve the rapidly changing needs of innovators, entrepreneurs and inventors.

Never forget that the core of our mission — the essence of our mission — is to serve those in need.

During my tenure, I have had the chance to talk to entrepreneurs of all kinds – small mom & pop businesses, change the world problem solvers, and everything in between. I have a particular fondness for the "teen-trepreneurs" – young teenagers bringing imagination, creativity, and analytical skills to turn dreams into reality, and build real businesses.

Entrepreneurs are folks who walk in with nothing in their pockets but an idea and hope. Folks who start out trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents. Folks who get knocked down, but keep getting up because “quit” is a four-letter word.

From these meetings, I bring you a simple message from entrepreneurs – they need IP practitioners now, more than ever. They need practitioners to be a bridge for them to the innovation ecosystem.

When I talk with entrepreneurs, I ask them a simple question, then listen closely to their answers. “What do you need? What do entrepreneurs need from practitioners?”

I want to share a bit of that feedback, in the hopes that it inspires you as it has inspired me.

  • Help them see the bigger picture beyond just a product or brand — help them see the marketplace;
  • They need an investment of time and support for their journey, not just a transaction;
  • They want a partner, not just a service provider;
  • Take time to learn their business, then show them how IP fits into their business as an asset, a value enhancement;
  • Be creative and flexible;
  • New entrepreneurs need IP education along with services – learning is part of their journey;

My meetings with entrepreneurs leave me inspired, energized, because I know how much the IP community – practitioners like you, here today – have to offer. IP practitioners are uniquely situated to bring a wide array of skills and experiences to give entrepreneurs comprehensive support.

Or in business language, we are a value-add.

In closing, let us take inspiration from our pro bono award winners today, Ken and Paul. Let us all find a way to reach out, share our time and experience to help bring more innovation to impact.

As my mom used to say, there’s always more to do, there’s always better to do. Let’s go do both, now. Thank you.