Remarks by USPTO Director Kathi Vidal at the TPAC quarterly meeting

Remarks as delivered

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

Trademark Public Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting 

July 29, 2022 


Thank you, Susan. Thank you for your leadership. David, thank you for your leadership. And thank you to all the TPAC team members. I'm delighted to be here today. I'm delighted the unions can join us as well.

We had an executive session a couple of days ago and the energy in the room, and the great ideas for moving our country forward, were formidable. Thank you for all you do. I'm looking forward to working with you very closely as we move forward.  

I'll just say a few remarks on what we are focused on right now at the USPTO from a broader perspective and then as it relates to trademarks. We are focused on incentivizing more innovation, including when it comes to brands and starting companies and bringing that innovation to impact through protecting intellectual property. The protection of intellectual property is the bridge between ideas and the marketplace.  

I see it as three concentric circles, the first circle includes incentivizing and brands, etc.; the middle circle encompasses IP protection; and the last circle is the impact. I'll focus first on the middle circle, protecting IP, which I know the TPAC and the Trademarks [organization] are keenly focused on.  

First and foremost, we want to reduce trademark pendency. We want to make sure that when people have great ideas and they're starting companies, they can secure their trademarks so they can start investing in their company and brand. We discussed a number of different ideas this morning on how we might get there.

As to the first and second circles, we want to provide more access and support. We are focused on providing more access and support across the country. We want everybody with a good idea to know that they can start a company, that they can create a brand, that they can secure investment, and that we're here to support them.  

One of the things we've done recently is launch an inclusive innovation webpage. Anybody can go to that webpage. They can get access to training tools around trademarks, understand what they are, and understand how to use them, how to register them. They can learn not just about trademarks, but patents and copyrights. We want to make sure we're fully supporting all Americans when it comes to intellectual property.  

We also want to make sure that everything that we do supports the Biden Administration's objectives when it comes to COVID-19, green tech, Cancer Moonshot, etc. We are working to figure out how we can do that even more on the trademark side. Part of that I can't reveal yet because it's very early stage, but we're going to be working very closely on that. I can announce that we plan on starting an awards program for recipients of trademark registrations and for companies focused on helping the country, helping humanity. We are working on a "trademarks for humanity" award. The details will follow. We are thinking about every creative way that we can incentivize people within the country to start companies, to invest in their brands, and to use them in a way that helps others, the country, and the world.  

We are not only focused on how to incentivize positive innovation, but also how to address abuses. I know the trademark system is susceptible to abuse. I know Amy and Dave have been working on this issue day and night. Obviously, some of the abuse relates to the trademark registry. The sanction orders that have issued and will issue are really making a dent. But, we are looking at how we can do more, how we can scale our efforts.

We also want to take counterfeiting head on, as I mentioned at INTA [International Trademark Association 2022 Annual Meeting]. We need to work across industry, across borders, to change the narrative and behavior when it comes to counterfeit goods. I'm looking forward to working with the TPAC and industry on that.  

I've already held and attended numerous industry meetings. I've worked with those who can help us can launch campaigns. And, we are about to start another "Go for Real" campaign. We want to incentivize and encourage everybody to think about buying real, staying real.  

The other thing I plan to do is to talk to all of our K-12 programming staff about IP respect. We do a lot right now with K-12 to incentivize innovation, to teach young kids about the value of trademarks, about the value of patents and copyrights, and about the value of coming up with ideas and protecting them. But one thing we haven't fully worked into that programming is the respect for intellectual property. We need to start young. We need to let kids know that buying real means something and has an impact on their fellow students and our country.  

The last thing I want to hit on is DEIA [diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility]. I know that the TPAC is focused on DEIA, as are we as an agency. I will say on that for those in the room and online who are at the USPTO, you know that we have one of the greatest workforces in the world. We do not have an issue with our pipeline. People who come into the USPTO, they are diverse. They have diverse views, diverse backgrounds. What we need to do is reshape our system, reshape our hiring practices, reshape our promotion practices, to make sure that we're as inclusive as possible. 

We've already looked at job descriptions and promotion criteria, because we want to be an agency of opportunity. We want to make sure that not only do we hire inclusively but that we promote inclusively. We want everyone to know there are many opportunities to get into higher levels within the USPTO. We're also thinking about the way people make decisions and we know that there's an ask bias. When one person asks for an opportunity, we will think about everybody who's similarly situated to make sure we're providing opportunities for all. We're also going to be rolling out unconscious bias training, to make sure that we're all aware of the fact that if you have a brain, you have bias. We are rolling the training out to everybody within the organization, because we interface not only with each other, but with stakeholders. 

We are also standing up the Council for Inclusive Innovation, where we're going to be working on a national strategy to make sure that everybody can be involved in the innovation ecosystem.

And it's not just about diversity. It's about everyone—people from underrepresented communities, people who are under-resourced. We want to support everyone.   

I couldn't be more excited about everything that we're doing together. I'm delighted to be here today. I hope you stick around for the whole session. I know I plan to stick around, and I look forward to all the energy and sharing great ideas like we did the other day. Thank you!