James E. Rogan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), has announced that he intends to leave his post on January 9, 2004. Under Rogan's direction, the USPTO has improved in every aspect of its operations. Early in his tenure, Rogan, who has headed the agency since December 2001, launched a five-year 21st Century Strategic Plan that is revolutionizing the U.S. patent and trademark systems. The House Commerce, State, Justice and Judiciary Appropriations Subcommittee report for USPTO's 2004 budget notes that "this plan calls for some of the most sweeping changes to the patent review process in 200 years and the committee supports these recommendations."
During his two short years at the helm of the USPTO, Rogan changed the culture of the agency by making quality, not the time it takes to get a patent, the hallmark of its work. The USPTO now has an extensive program of quality-based initiatives, including new programs certifying that current and prospective patent examiners and managers, as well patent attorneys and agents, have the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to produce top quality examination results. Rogan also established a comprehensive quality assurance program for patents and trademarks that mandates quality reviews throughout the examination process.
Under Rogan's leadership, the USPTO is well on its way to eliminating paper. Today, over 60 percent of trademark applications are filed electronically, and trademark customers can electronically determine the status of pending trademarks, do a preliminary pre-filing search, access general information and obtain weekly information on published marks. The Image File Wrapper (IFW), USPTO's electronic patent file system, has moved from prototype to production. By year's end, 300,000 applications, over 40 percent of active patent applications, will be in the system and 1,800 examiners will be trained and using IFW applications exclusively. This world class e-government system has supplanted the cumbersome, error-prone paper-based system and the electronic file now constitutes USPTO's official record. Since June of this year an electronic file has been created for all new patent applications. Today, more than 34 million pages have been scanned into the electronic system, making it one of the world's largest image file databases.
Rogan also proposed a bold funding structure to support the strategic plan, aligning fees with the complexity and amount of work required by the applications. Approval of the fee proposal is expected early next year.
Rogan has made the USPTO a major force in the global economy, receiving broad support of the international IP community for the strategic plan, and negotiating valuable work-sharing agreements that eliminate costly duplication of effort and lay additional groundwork for more harmonized, quality-based patent and trademark systems worldwide.
Just last week, Under Secretary Rogan cut the ribbon on USPTO's 2,000,000 square foot state-of-the-art campus in Alexandria, Virginia, facilitating strategic goals that include the transition to e-government, attracting and retaining a highly-skilled workforce, and saving the government over $200,000,000 over a 20-year period.
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