Remarks by USPTO Director Kathi Vidal at the International Copyright Institute

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

International Copyright Institute (ICI)

September 27, 2022


Thank you, Shira, for that kind introduction. A big thank you to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the U.S. Copyright office for hosting the International Copyright Institute. Thank you to each of our international guests who traveled far and wide to participate. It is good to see many of the countries from my recent SE Asia trip represented. And so many more countries I look forward to visiting and collaborating with.

Director Perlmutter and I have worked together closely even before I was confirmed as the Under Secretary. We are aligned in our efforts. We both recognize that we must work together, and closely, to support the innovation ecosystem—the benefits provided to our society by the work protected by copyrights, patents, design protection and trademarks.

The issues we all face are international issues. The opportunities are international opportunities. We must view our stakeholders holistically and work to help them leverage IP in order to bring their creations, ideas and brands to impact. To create jobs and economic prosperity and to support the safe (IP protected) dissemination of the fruits of our people’s labor for the benefit of all our people. We are with you on that journey.

From our many meetings with our countries, and with our close work with WIPO, we know that our objectives are your objectives and your objectives are our objectives. We are all working to support broader participation in IP-intensive industries including from SME’s and from traditionally underrepresented and under-resourced creators, innovators and brands. We are grappling with new technologies, with the metaverse, with NFTs, with new business models scaled with digital content. We are all grappling with those issues from the nine-year old boy at camp invention who asked me how he could protect his merch on the internet to the college student who asked me how we were protecting creativity and brands in the metaverse.

As we work on these issues alongside each other, the USPTO relies on our strong IP Attaché program. IP attachés are U.S. diplomats with IP expertise assigned to U.S. embassies, consulates, and missions throughout the world.  They are responsible for working on a range of IP activities in coordination with other federal agencies, U.S. industry, and foreign counterparts. Currently, there are 13 attachés in the program, supported by IP specialists and staff.

The IP attachés are heavily involved in copyright issues.  In the current fiscal year, copyright issues have represented approximately 18% of the total IP issues handled by the IP attaché posts. Our attachés work with local foreign government officials and relevant USG agencies to help address IP issues, promote U.S. government IP policy internationally and encourage effective IP protection and enforcement by U.S. trading partners for the benefit of U.S. stakeholders.

We also work through our Global Intellectual Property Academy (or GIPA), which provides IP awareness and educational training. GIPA is part of our Office of Policy and International Affairs (or OPIA). In Fiscal year 2021, GIPA conducted 250 in-person and virtual training programs that served over 17,500 individuals.

Approximately 43% of these individuals were domestic IP rights owners and users, and approximately 57% were foreign government officials and policymakers from 132 countries and intergovernmental organizations. GIPA provides copyright training programs, including in collaboration with the Copyright office, for a wide range of domestic and foreign audiences, including entrepreneurs, rights holders, students, government officials, and the general public. The OPIA Copyright Team and GIPA staff have previously organized a program focused on copyright training for foreign copyright officials similar to this week’s International Copyright Institute.  We call our program the USPTO Copyright Seminar and hope to offer it next year, collaborating with Director Perlmutter and the Copyright office.

OPIA’s Copyright and Enforcement Team members regularly provide advice to IP officials and legislators in foreign countries on proposed IP legislation, particularly with respect to compliance with applicable treaties and other agreements. The OPIA Copyright Team also leads the U.S. delegation in meetings of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyrights and Related Rights (or SCCR).

In the area of international trade, OPIA attorneys work with the U.S. Trade Representative (or USTR) in negotiating the copyright and enforcement provisions of international trade agreements and advising on their implementation. We also advise USTR as part of the Special 301 process, which aims to encourage effective IP protection and enforcement globally.

In working on these issues, the OPIA Copyright and Enforcement Team members will often work closely with U.S. Copyright Office attorneys and experts.  These are important and valuable collaborations that help to improve the effectiveness of IP protection domestically and throughout the world.

We are collaborating with the Copyright Office in examining issues posed by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and non-fungible tokens (or NFTs). For example, at the request of Senate Judiciary IP Subcommittee leadership, we are collaborating with the Copyright Office to prepare a joint study on IP issues related to non-fungible tokens (or NFTs). And last fall, we partnered with the Copyright Office to host a public conference that explored existing copyright laws and policies as they apply to machine learning for AI. Finally, OPIA copyright attorneys will be participating later this week on ICI panels that discuss intergovernmental coordination and collective management organizations.

We are doing much work but there is much to do! I am excited for the work you will explore tomorrow related to enforcement mechanisms. IP rights cannot play the role they are meant to play in our societies without proper enforcement mechanisms. I look forward to hearing the read out from the legislative panel tomorrow related to copyright in the digital environment . . . as well as from the Thursday panels on Online Intermediary Liability and on voluntary measures (which are so critical), Collective Management Organizations (CMO) and licensing Born-Digital Works. Let’s all work together to collaborate and partner to promote IP protection and enforcement across the globe.

Shira, thank you again for inviting me to speak and for your leadership on these critical issues.