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Tuesday Jul 27, 2021

Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the national trademark system

Blog by Drew Hirshfeld, performing the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

75 years of the Lanham Act

Photo courtesy of the National Inventors Hall of Fame Lanham Documentary.

It was 75 years ago this month that President Harry S. Truman signed Rep. Fritz Lanham’s Trademark Act into law. This landmark legislation made possible today’s system of trademark registration and protection, but it took almost a decade of debate in Congress with countless hearings on the need to replace earlier, outdated statutes and the patchwork of trademark systems in each of the states. Today, the U.S. economy is the beneficiary of those efforts and this masterful law that has stood the test of time, transforming the U.S. economy through the growth of national and global brands. 

Portrait of Fritz Lanham

Fritz G. Lanham, Texas. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Today, when you read the Lanham Act, its simplicity, prescience, and thoroughness are striking. There are not many 75-year-old acts of Congress that have withstood the kinds of changes our nation and economy have experienced since 1946.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued almost 6.3 million trademark registrations since the Lanham Act became law. There are currently 2.8 million live trademark registrations and there are 55,000 trademark attorneys representing the owners of these active marks.

Trademarks and brands are an essential part of the global economy. And through all the economic growth and dramatic changes in industry, society, and technology, the Trademark Act of 1946 has remained virtually unchanged--and now, in its 75th year, we are on track to implement the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 by December of this year. The goal is to improve the integrity of the trademark register, provide trademark owners with better means to protect their trademarks, and implement systems and procedures aimed at reducing registrations that are not in use, fraud and abuse.

The Trademark Modernization Act could not have come at a better moment. The pandemic has vastly accelerated the shift to an all-digital economy, along with incredible growth in e-commerce. We currently expect to receive over 750,000 trademark applications this year, an increase of about 35% over 2020 and more than triple the number of trademark applications we received in 2001. Read more about the recent surge in trademark filings.

Trademark applications from U.S. filers have increased by 21% so far this fiscal year. The vast majority of our applications are either from first-time filers or small businesses.

As our trademark system evolves, we continue to benefit from the vision of U.S. history’s greatest champion of trademark protections, Fritz Lanham. We are proud to celebrate 75 years of our federal trademark structure and all it has provided to past, current, and future American entrepreneurs.

To learn more, watch the brief documentary “75 years of the Lanham Act” produced by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, in cooperation with the USPTO and the State Bar of Texas, or join us at our virtual celebration of the Lanham Act on July 27.

Wednesday Jul 07, 2021

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves praises USPTO for critical work in promoting American competitiveness, innovation, and ingenuity

A blog about the USPTO by the U.S. Department of Commerce

Drew Hirshfeld presents Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves with a copy of his ancestory's patentUSPTO’s Drew Hirshfeld presents Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves with a copy of his ancestor’s patent. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

On July 1, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves visited the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. During his visit, he toured the National Inventors Hall of Fame museum, experienced a “day in the life” of a patent examiner and a trademark examining attorney, and met with leadership about the USPTO’s role in advancing American competitiveness. He later received a surprise framed copy of his ancestor’s patent, who was one of the Nation’s first Black patent holders. 

The National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) museum, located at USPTO headquarters, tells the story of American innovation and showcases famous inventors including Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver. During his tour of the museum, Deputy Secretary Graves viewed the inspiring Gallery of Icons™ commemorating each of the more than 550 National NIHF Inductees, and saw first-hand the vast innovative advancements in automotive, photographic, and smartphone technologies via the museum’s Intellectual Property Power exhibit. Deputy Secretary Graves also learned about NIHF’s numerous invention education programs, focused on inspiring America’s youth to pursue careers in STEM.

USPTO's Linda Hosler gives a tour of the National Inventors Hall of Fame museum to Deputy Secretary Graves Linda Hosler, USPTO’s National Outreach Partnerships Manager, provided a tour of the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum to Deputy Secretary Graves. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Deputy Secretary Graves then participated in a tour where he visited five USPTO buildings, the Public Search Facility, the Global Intellectual Property Academy, the Clara Barton Auditorium and the Patent Trials and Appeals Board hearing room.

Deputy Secretary Graves visits USPTO headquartersDeputy Secretary Graves visited the USPTO’s Global Intellectual Property Academy and Public Search Facility. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

He then participated in a “day in the life” of an examiner and heard from each business unit head at the USPTO to better understand their work and role at the USPTO. USPTO employs thousands of patent examiners and trademark examining attorneys that work regularly with inventors and entrepreneurs on intellectual property matters.  

“The work you do is rooted in the fabric of America,” Deputy Secretary Graves told them. “Your work and the work of all your examiners provides the incentives for inventors to create things we never thought possible. And those inventions are commercialized into globally competitive companies that create jobs right here in the U.S.”  

Deputy Secretary Graves later held a meeting with Drew Hirshfeld, performing the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and other USPTO leadership on the important role USPTO plays in American competitiveness. During that discussion, Deputy Secretary Graves praised them for reaching patent number 11 million as an important milestone in American innovation and ingenuity.

Secretary Graves met with USPTO's Drew Hirshfeld during his visit to USPTO headquartersDeputy Secretary Graves met with Drew Hirshfeld, performing the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

“Patents and trademarks are fuel for our economy by enabling the creation of new products, new businesses, and entirely new industries that have the potential to change the world,” he said. 

Before his visit concluded, Deputy Secretary Graves was presented with a copy of his ancestor’s patent. Deputy Secretary Graves comes from a long line of small business owners and has a rich family history connected to the Commerce Department. His four-times great grandparents built a successful horse and buggy taxi business in Washington that once stood at the site of the Commerce Department’s headquarters. Their son went on to own a premier hotel just blocks away and became one of our nation’s first Black patent-holders.  

“It was a wonderful surprise to receive a copy of my ancestor’s patent from the USPTO. Thinking back on my family’s roots, in this country, you can achieve anything you want — with a little help,” said Deputy Secretary Graves. Today, I still draw on the lessons of my family history for inspiration and today is a moment I will never forget.”

Wednesday Jun 23, 2021

What a huge surge in trademark filings means for applicants

Guest blog by David Gooder, Commissioner for Trademarks

Registered trademark symbol

Since last fall, trademark applications from U.S. and foreign applicants have surged to unprecedented levels. As of June 17, the increase is roughly 63% over last year, which translates to about 211,000 more applications. And in December 2020 alone, the USPTO received 92,608 trademark applications, an increase of 172% over December 2019. This surge has doubled the number of applications waiting to be examined and increased waiting times at various stages in our processes. As a result, applicants may have to wait longer for initial processing of their application, receiving an office action, processing of responses to office actions, and reviewing of post-registration filings. For updated information and current processing times, please visit the Trademarks Dashboard page of the USPTO website.

We are continuing to explore the reasons behind the surge, but we do know that the increase comes from both foreign and domestic filings and is caused in part by an increase in e-commerce during the pandemic. For our customers, the bottom line is that applications are coming in faster than we have historically been able to examine them, and the backlog is increasing. We are keenly aware of this challenge and have taken steps to increase productivity, while maintaining the high quality our applicants expect.

For example, we’re implementing information technology solutions and system enhancements to process applications even faster. In addition, we've hired more examining attorneys and staff, we're finding better ways to distribute the workload among our current attorneys and staff, and we’re looking at every step in the examination process to find ways to increase efficiency. Through these and other actions, we will eventually bring our processing times back to customary levels.

If you have questions about this issue, or suggestions for us to consider, we welcome your feedback at TMFeedback@uspto.gov.

Monday Jun 07, 2021

Global protection and local outreach: How the USPTO’s IP attachés are helping U.S. business interests abroad

Guest blog by Molly Kocialski, Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and Damian Porcari, Director of the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office  

IP attaches

The USPTO IP attachés posted to China, Belgium, Mexico, Switzerland, India, and Thailand shown here, along with their colleagues in seven other posts around the world, work to support the interests of U.S. IP rights holders.

During the past several months, we were pleased to welcome the USPTO’s intellectual property (IP) attachés to a series of virtual events in our respective regions covering the Midwest and the Rocky Mountain states.

Who are the IP attachés? They are U.S. diplomats with expertise in intellectual property. Their prior experience includes work in government, industry, major trade associations, and some of the best law firms in the country. They are currently assigned to 12 embassies, consulates or missions around the world, where they advocate U.S. positions on IP matters for the benefit of U.S. businesses. Three attachés cover China, two focus on multilateral issues in Geneva, and the others cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Eurasia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Aside from their diplomatic duties, the IP attachés also provide information to U.S. businesses entering foreign markets, including how to navigate foreign laws and protect their IP abroad. One way they do that is through the kinds of outreach efforts they conducted recently with stakeholders located in our two regions. These included a series of virtual meetings held with Utah stakeholders in October 2020 and another round of meetings held in April 2021 with stakeholders in Ohio and Kentucky.

The virtual visit with stakeholders in Utah included discussions with the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the World Trade Center Utah. These meetings consisted of a series of wide-ranging discussions on global IP protection and gave attendees—who represented established businesses, startup companies, government, academia, and IP law firms—answers to their questions about IP challenges abroad. Topics included counterfeit goods, patents, trademarks, and trade secret protection. Our other virtual meetings included conversations with a number of Utah based companies, as well as the IP Law Section of the Utah State Bar. Likewise, in Ohio and Kentucky, the IP attachés’ virtual visits led to engaging conversations about international developments in patent, trademark, and trade secret protection. In these sessions, we were joined by a diverse group of inventors, law school students from throughout the Midwest, attorneys, and more than 45 businesses located in the two states.

Both of these series of meetings made clear to us what a tremendous service the IP attachés provide to our country and to American businesses and inventors. Over the past 15 months alone, the IP attachés helped more than 8,000 U.S. stakeholders, held more than 2,500 meetings with foreign government officials, conducted more than 80 training programs (with more than 4,400 foreign government officials), and reported over 60 significant IP successes.

Examples of the IP attachés’ recent work on behalf of U.S interests include:

• Conducting training programs on patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets for officials from U.S. trading partners—including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, El Salvador, Ukraine, China, and Thailand—so that they can better protect and enforce IP in their countries.
• Organizing two international leadership programs for officials of the European Union who are responsible for IP enforcement.
• In China, in response to the pandemic, a focus by the three IP attachés on sourcing and shipping Chinese-made personal protective equipment and medical devices to the United States, while remaining vigilant against counterfeit or substandard medical products.
• Shutting down, in the Middle East and North Africa region, a major broadcasting operation that carried pirated satellite signals—a collaborative effort by the IP attaché for that region and local authorities.

“Successes like these show the important role our IP attachés play,” notes Dominic Keating, the director of the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program. “Each attaché brings an average of more than 15 years of IP experience to the table to help secure the highest of standards in international agreements and host country laws.”

These virtual visits drove home to us, and to the many participants in all three states, the importance of protecting IP globally. Our economy benefits greatly from strong IP protections here at home. It also depends on our international counterparts to take the same approach in protecting rights holders’ interests overseas. The IP attachés play an important role in making that a reality.

The next series of IP attaché outreach events will be taking place in early June 2021 in Kansas and Nebraska, with programs on June 8 and June 9. If you are a Kansas or Nebraska company that wants to learn more, please contact the Rocky Mountain U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. For further details on the work of the IP attachés, or to learn about upcoming visits to other states and regions, view the IP Attaché Program page of the USPTO website.

Tuesday Jun 01, 2021

Help us find the next National Medal of Technology and Innovation Laureates

Blog by Drew Hirshfeld, performing the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

National Medal of Technology and Innovation

The design for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation is the work of medalist and sculptor Mico Kaufman of North Tewksbury, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

From the personal computer to satellite technology, the last few decades of technological innovation have dramatically changed the way we live our lives. Those changes would not have been possible without the amazing inventors behind them – women and men who inspire us all with their spirit of ingenuity and perseverance. That’s why we are immensely proud to administer the National Medal of Technology and Innovation (NMTI), our nation’s highest honor in technological achievement, which recognizes these often unsung heroes.

Awarded by the President of the United States, the NMTI is given to individuals, teams, and companies that have made lasting contributions to America's competitiveness, standard of living, and quality of life through technological innovation. We are currently soliciting nominations from the public for this high honor, and we invite a wide range of submissions for recipients of the NMTI – called Laureates – that represent the diversity and ingenuity of our incredible innovation ecosystem from all corners of the United States.

If you know of a person or team who you feel has changed the technological landscape through their discoveries and achievements, we want to know! Submissions are being accepted on the NMTI page of the USPTO website through July 30.

By highlighting the importance and achievements of NMTI Laureates, the Medal is also meant to inspire future generations of Americans to prepare for and pursue technical careers. Since the Medal’s inception in 1980, only 220 people have been awarded this prestigious recognition. Here are just a few of their stories.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak receive the NMTI from President Reagan

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak receive the National Medal of Technology from President Ronald Reagan. (Photo courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library)

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were among the first class of Laureates in 1985. Their development of the personal computer revolutionized the world, bringing the power of computing technology into people’s homes. Relying on Jobs’ marketing and design skills and Wozniak’s engineering insights, the pair co-founded Apple Computers in 1976. Today, Apple remains an international, multibillion-dollar company.

Helen Edwards receives the NMTI from President George H.W. Bush

Helen Edwards receives the National Medal of Technology from President George H.W. Bush. (Photo courtesy of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Museum and Library)

Helen Edwards was the first woman to receive the NMTI. She was awarded the Medal in 1989 for overseeing the design, construction, and operation of the TEVATRON particle accelerator. This amazing piece of equipment explored the fundamental properties of matter. It allowed experiments that could previously only be theorized, by accelerating beams of protons and antiprotons to approximately the speed of light around a four-mile circumference. It was the most powerful particle accelerator in the world for 25 years.

Irwin Jacobs receives NMTI from President Clinton

Irwin Jacobs received the NMTI from President William J. Clinton. (Photo courtesy of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum)

Irwin Jacobs, co-founder of Qualcomm, received the NMTI in 1994 for taking a military technology called Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and transforming it into 3G cellular and wireless networks. 3G allows multiple conversations to share the same frequencies simultaneously. This, in turn, allowed for more customers and fewer cellphone towers—and made wireless technology more affordable.

image alternate text

James West receives the NMTI from President George W. Bush. (Photo courtesy of the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation)

James West received the NMTI in 2006 for co-inventing the foil electret microphone, which is used in phones, computers, hearing aids, and many other devices. Over two billion electret microphones are currently produced every year. After working at Bell Labs for 40 years, West is still inventing as a faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. He is also a lifelong advocate for increasing diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

Yvonne Brill receives NMTI from President Barack Obama

Yvonne Brill receives the NMTI from President Barack Obama. (Photo by Arva Adams/USPTO)

Yvonne Brill received the NMTI in 2010 for inventing a rocket propulsion system to keep communications satellites in their orbits—a remarkable achievement for a woman who was not allowed to major in engineering in college and chose to major in chemistry and mathematics instead. Brill is believed to be the only woman in the United States who was working in rocket science in the mid-1940s. She advocated for women in engineering and science throughout her career.

We are honored to celebrate the best minds in American innovation whose creations have improved our world and kept the United States at the forefront of global technology and economic leadership. For more information on the NMTI and the award process, attend the webinar on June 2, sign up for the USPTO Awards newsletter, or contact us at nmti@uspto.gov.

Tuesday May 25, 2021

Modernizing patent filing with DOCX

Guest blog by Acting Commissioner for Patents Andrew Faile and Chief Information Officer Jamie Holcombe

DOCX promtional image

At the USPTO, we are continuously working to modernize and streamline our patent application systems. As part of that ongoing effort, you can now file patent application-related documents in DOCX format through EFS-Web, Private PAIR, and Patent Center. To improve application quality and efficiency, the USPTO will be transitioning to DOCX for all filers on January 1, 2022. Keep reading to learn more about DOCX, its benefits, and opportunities to provide feedback on implementation.

DOCX is a word-processing file format supported by many popular applications, such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and LibreOffice. As an open standard format, DOCX offers a safe and stable basis for authoring and processing intellectual property documents.

Filing in DOCX provides you with many benefits in the application process, including:

  • Increased efficiencies: eliminates the need to convert structured text into a PDF for filing.
  • Higher data quality: reduces conversion errors that can occur when converting to a PDF file.
  • Smarter interface: detects common errors, such as formatting errors, and provides instant feedback to prevent unnecessary delays in processing your application.
  • Privacy: provides automatic metadata detection (e.g. track changes and comments) and removal features to support the submission of only substantive information in the DOCX file.
  • Improved application quality: provides content-based validations pre-submission, identifying issues up front and allowing for them to be addressed before examination begins.
  • Ease of use: provides automated document indexing.
  • Compatibility: eliminates the non-embedded font error, the most common obstacle in uploading a PDF, by uploading your file with supported fonts.

We believe that meaningful improvements to our application processes can only happen through collaboration with our users. To that end, we received helpful feedback last year after the publication of our federal register notice that prompted us to make a few changes as we transition to the DOCX format.

First, we delayed the effective date for the non-DOCX surcharge fee to January 1, 2022, to provide more time for applicants to transition to this new process, and for the USPTO to continue our outreach efforts and address customer concerns. We’ve also made office actions available in DOCX and XML formats and further enhanced DOCX features, including accepting DOCX for drawings in addition to the specification, claims, and abstract for certain applications.

Additionally, based on what we’ve heard from our customers, we are adopting the submitted DOCX files as the authoritative document, otherwise referred to as the source or evidentiary copy (read the federal register notice). This will simplify the filing process, allowing the applicant to only review the DOCX files before submission rather than reviewing the USPTO-generated PDF version.

We look forward to continuing our engagement with the public on the DOCX transition so we can better serve America’s innovation community. We will be hosting DOCX training sessions on a regular basis to provide more information, demonstrate how to file and retrieve DOCX files in Patent Center, EFS-Web, and PAIR, and answer any questions. Applicants can also file test submissions through Patent Center training mode to practice filing in DOCX. In addition, we will offer a listening session this fall to gather feedback and suggestions to further improve DOCX features.

For more information and to view frequently asked questions, visit the DOCX page of the USPTO website. If you need assistance, please contact the Patent Electronic Business Center at ebc@uspto.gov or 866-217-9197.

Thursday May 20, 2021

Spotlight on Commerce: Hannah Wang, Primary Patent Examiner

Guest blog post by Hannah Wang, Primary Patent Examiner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)


Hannah Wang portrait

Hannah Wang, Primary Patent Examiner, USPTO

As a primary patent examiner at the Commerce Department's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I handle patent applications in the area of computer networking. In addition, I have the privilege of currently serving as president of the Asian Pacific American Network (APANET), one of the largest affinity groups across the federal government. I also recently became a co-host of our workgroup’s Quality Enhancement Meetings (QEM). These QEMs provide patent examiners with the opportunity to learn about various topics and bring up any questions related to patent examining.

During my undergraduate studies in China, I pursued a major in Electrical Engineering, focusing on circuits and signal processing. In 2007, I moved to the United States to pursue my master’s degree at George Washington University, focusing on communication networks. Afterward, I attended Cornell University and earned a master’s degree in engineering management. At the time, I wanted to prepare myself for a career in consulting. However, life always has a way of surprising you. I happened to take a job as a patent analyst at a patent firm. That job opened my eyes to the patent field and changed my career path. I discovered my passion for a field that perfectly integrated my engineering expertise with innovation and law. When the opportunity arose, I decided to join the USPTO in 2016 to further pursue this passion. Today I am proud to be part of an amazing agency that serves as the backbone of American innovation.  

Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month is a perfect time to reflect on how far the AANHPI community has come and to celebrate the AANHPI community’s integral role in our Nation’s accomplishments and developments. During this month, we are not only reminded of the sacrifices and hardships experienced by past generations, but also to cherish the valuable equality and opportunities we have today. These reflections motivate us to continue working diligently and to provide an even better foundation for future generations. As a first-generation immigrant, it is very special to have my culture recognized, shared, and celebrated with so many people across the Commerce Department and the country. During this Covid-19 pandemic, it is especially important to raise awareness, promote diversity, and offer support to our AANHPI community.

The strength of the USPTO’s AANHPI community is reflected in the growth of APANET throughout the years. I am extremely proud that APANET has grown from 10 members when it was created to more than 800 members today. APANET hosts annual events every year for our members and USPTO employees. Events include our Lunar New Year celebration, AANHPI Heritage Month celebration, dragon boat races, and Diwali celebration, to name a few. Serving as the president of APANET provides me with many opportunities to collaborate with colleagues and coordinate events outside of patent examining. I am truly grateful that I can grow with APANET, provide help and services to others, and learn how to become an effective leader.

As a career civil servant at the USPTO, my job helps foster an environment that creates economic growth and opportunity. I can’t think of anything more impactful than protecting and expanding innovation in the U.S. through intellectual property. It helps create new jobs for Americans and advance our nation. My advice for those interested in a federal career is to not be afraid of exploring new things and changing original plans. As we explore, we discover new interests and develop new skills. Although this can mean deviating from our original plan, it can also lead to an even more suitable career path. The federal government offers a variety of opportunities that are a good fit for talented and hard-working individuals. Being willing to explore these opportunities will help you find your passions, talents, and a successful career path.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Thursday Apr 22, 2021

The Trademark Modernization Act: What brand owners need to know

Guest blog by David Gooder, Commissioner for Trademarks at the USPTO

Trademark modernization

Sustaining and promoting a healthy, vibrant trademark system is at the core of what we strive to do at the USPTO. That is why we welcomed the passage and signing of the Trademark Modernization Act (TMA) this past December. The TMA includes key provisions that will give the USPTO and trademark owners additional tools to better protect and strengthen the integrity of the federal trademark register.

To help drive U.S. innovation, in 1946, Congress passed the United States Trademark Act, widely known as the Lanham Act. This federal statute sets out procedures for the registration of trademarks. Trademark owners may apply for a U.S. registration if they are either using the mark at the time of filing or have intent to use the mark in commerce. However, actual use of the trademark in commerce is required to obtain and maintain a U.S. registration.

In recent years, the USPTO has received an increasing number of trademark filings with dubious and sometimes bogus claims of use. This raises concerns about invalid registrations that clutter the register and interfere with the adoption of new marks. It is in this arena that the TMA will provide brand owners and the USPTO with the following powerful new tools:

  • The TMA codifies the Letter of Protest procedure, which allows third parties to submit evidence during the examination of trademark applications, including evidence that claims of use in an application are inaccurate. 
  • The TMA gives the USPTO the authority to shorten response deadlines in order to move applications more quickly through the system, thereby allowing us to swiftly dispose of applications where fraud or other deceptive or deceitful behavior is evident. 
  • The TMA provides new registration cancellation mechanisms so that third parties or the USPTO Director may challenge registrations that are not in use without having to engage in more expensive proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

Efforts to implement these and other provisions of the TMA are well underway, with the deadline for implementation set for December 27, 2021. Public feedback has been and will continue to be essential to USPTO’s rulemaking process. Brand owners and stakeholders can learn more by visiting the Trademark Modernization Act page of the USPTO website, emailing TMFeedback@uspto.gov with any feedback, or by viewing the recording of our public roundtable on the implementation of the TMA held on March 1, 2021. Further, there will be the opportunity to submit formal comments on the Federal Register website next month when a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is published.

Our trademark ecosystem will benefit greatly from these important new provisions which will remove clutter and provide greater access to new marks, thus benefiting businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the United States.

Thursday Apr 01, 2021

USPTO concludes successful Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium

A blog about the USPTO from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

WES logo


The USPTO hosted the final installment of the 2021 Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium (WES) on March 31, where participants heard from a diverse panel of successful women innovators who shared their stories of entrepreneurship and the challenges they faced along the way.

WES, an annual event launched in 2011, has proven to be one of the USPTO’s most popular programs to date. Over 6,000 attendees tuned in this year to hear lessons learned, helpful tips, and resources for women entrepreneurs to protect the various forms of intellectual property (IP) which might be present in their businesses - namely patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. 

The speakers at the March 31 session described how they got to where they are, and what they recommend for all the aspiring young women in our country. They also addressed the vital role of IP protection, how to identify a market segment for growth, and discussed best practices and successful habits in today’s changing business climate.

Panelists included Janeya Griffin, Founder and CEO, The Commercializer; Rea Huntley, Founder and CEO, Lavii INC; and Sarah Gibson Tuttle, Founder and CEO, Oliver and June. Dr. Lisa Cook, Professor at Michigan State University, and Edison Research Fellow at the USPTO, moderated the panel.

Throughout the month of March, WES offered engaging, expert panels featuring successful women entrepreneurs, notable inventors, and subject matter experts from the USPTO, the International Trade Administration and the Small Business Administration.

In addition, the discussions focused on important topics such as expanding opportunities for women and underrepresented groups in innovation, increasing educational opportunities for girls and women in invention and STEM, and highlighting the role women entrepreneurs play in innovation and economic growth.

View the playlist of all WES sessions on the USPTO’s YouTube page and browse all upcoming USPTO events.

Monday Mar 22, 2021

Spotlight on Commerce: Valencia Martin-Wallace, Deputy Commissioner for Patents, USPTO

Guest blog post by Valencia Martin-Wallace, Deputy Commissioner for Patents, USPTO

Photo of Valencia Martin-Wallace

Valencia Martin-Wallace, Deputy Commissioner for Patents, USPTO (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

As the Deputy Commissioner for Patents at the USPTO, I am responsible for leading the organization’s international patent cooperation programs and initiatives. I also have oversight of the technology centers responsible for examining patent applications in the fields of telecommunications, mechanical technologies, and design.

I graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering from Howard University, where I learned alongside a wonderful group of students from diverse backgrounds. After flexing my engineering muscle for three years, I decided to pursue intellectual property (IP) law at George Washington University School of Law. At about the same time, I began my career at the USPTO as a patent examiner. After graduating from law school, I realized public service at the USPTO was the right career choice for me. Nearly 29 years later, I’m still a member of the USPTO community. I would not be where I am today, in an exciting career in IP, without the support and guidance of very progressive parents, teachers, and mentors, and the examples set before me by talented women scientists, engineers, and attorneys.

I also have the unique pleasure and responsibility of being the executive lead, assisting the Director of the USPTO, with establishing the National Council for Expanding American Innovation (NCEAI) and the development of the national strategy for expanding American innovation.

The NCEAI consists of leaders from every corner of the innovation ecosystem; it was established to help guide the USPTO in developing a comprehensive national strategy to build a more diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem by encouraging participation of women and other underrepresented groups. This strategy will be organized by a broad conceptual framework that considers the entire pathway along which interest and expertise in intellectual property and innovation is cultivated and nurtured in an individual.

I am honored to be a part of the Department of Commerce USPTO family during this groundbreaking period in the history of intellectual property. I feel privileged to be a part of this movement to increase participation in our innovation ecosystem by inspiring, empowering, and supporting all future inventors and entrepreneurs. These efforts will advance innovation and help our Nation’s economy grow.

Whenever I have the opportunity to talk to young women about intellectual property, I encourage them to challenge their minds through the fields of sciences, technology, engineering, and math. I know they would find the same fulfillment in these fields that I have always found. I also urge them to work hard, take pride in a job well done, never limit themselves, and reach back to help those who come behind them.

During Women’s History Month, I celebrate the accomplishments of the women engineers and scientists who have paved the way for me and many women just like me. I revel in the contributions of the women who have played a vital role in advancing our great country. Women like Beulah Louise Henry, a prolific inventor with 49 U.S. patents and over 100 inventions credited to her name; Marian Croak, a pioneer in the advancement of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) who holds over 200 patents; and Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic-American woman in space and co-inventor on three patents. These and so many other women inventors are an inspiration and I look forward to seeing how future women innovators and entrepreneurs will shape our world.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Women’s History Month.

Thursday Mar 18, 2021

Artificial intelligence tools at the USPTO

Blog by Drew Hirshfeld, performing the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

Artificial intelligence image

Among the most important technological developments has been the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), a transformative technology that promises tremendous societal and economic benefits. USPTO operations can be one of its beneficiaries. The integration of AI technologies into next generation tools offers an exciting opportunity to enhance the quality and efficiency of patent and trademark examination.

To incorporate AI into our examination tools and processes at the USPTO, we’ve undertaken a comprehensive development strategy including extensive market research and rigorous testing of a wide range of proof-of-concepts to identify the best solutions. Our objective is not just to deploy smarter technology, but to build a smarter organization by coupling the strengths of our workforce with the strengths of AI. This is the beginning of a whole new trajectory in how we leverage technology to transform patent and trademark operations for the better.

We are incorporating AI tools into two critical areas of patent examination: search and classification.

Performing a complete prior art search is a critically important component of the patent examination process and the USPTO’s mission to issue reliable patent rights. However, the exponential growth of prior art and tremendous pace of technological innovation make it increasingly more difficult to quickly discover the most relevant prior art. To meet this challenge, we have developed an AI-based prototype search system that helps to identify relevant documents and provides suggestions for additional areas to search. In addition to providing world-class patent AI models, the system is designed to learn from the world’s greatest patent searchers, our USPTO examiners. The system is configured to automatically capture feedback data from our examiners to yield additional enhancements over time. We are also developing features to help examiners interpret results generated by the AI models to provide transparency into the system. A beta version of this new AI tool was released to a subset of examiners in March 2020. Assessments conducted to date yielded promising results, and steps are being taken to incorporate AI into our next generation search tool for examiners.

We also developed an auto-classification tool that leverages machine learning to classify patent documents using the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system. The system can suggest CPC symbols, and includes the ability to identify claimed subject matter for additional refinement of the suggested CPC symbols similar to our AI search system. The auto-classification system also includes indicators that provide users with insight into the reasoning of the AI, by linking suggested CPC symbols to specific portions of the document. Enhanced feedback mechanisms designed into the system integrate with our existing classification processes to support training the AI. Based on an analysis of system performance, the USPTO implemented auto-classification in December 2020 to automatically identify claimed subject matter with CPC for internal operations. As a result, the agency is realizing reductions in procurement expenditures for acquiring CPC data. Additionally, we are continuing to develop further capabilities to support a broader range of patent classification requirements at the USPTO.

These successes are demonstrating the value of applying AI to improve the agency operations and strengthen the IP system. To continue building from these successes, our Patents team has expanded their investigations to explore potential new opportunities to leverage AI. For example, research is now underway on AI-based image search capabilities which could open up whole new ways to retrieve prior art. This could be particularly useful for searching patent applications where examiners rely heavily on images for making patentability determinations, such as design patent applications.

On the Trademarks side, we recently completed market research in AI capabilities for image comparison and for checking the acceptability of identification of goods and services against the entries in the Trademarks ID Manual. The USPTO team developed AI prototypes to compare trademark images, to suggest the correct assignment of mark image design codes, and to determine the potential acceptability of the identifications of goods and services. A beta test of these prototypes through a common user interface with approximately 10 stakeholders began in November 2020 and continues, with a larger beta possible later this year. In addition, the USPTO has tested solutions for false specimen detection capabilities using a software program, which was integrated on December 1, 2020 into the agency’s efforts to identify digitally manipulated specimens of use or mock-ups of web pages. Finally, a prototype of an AI based chatbot for answering frequently asked questions via the USPTO website could be ready for beta testing later this year.

Overall we have achieved some remarkable milestones and made great strides toward integrating AI into the USPTO’s day-to-day functions. Stay tuned for more exciting updates from the USPTO on AI in the near future.

Monday Mar 15, 2021

USPTO celebrates American women inventors and entrepreneurs

Editor's note: This is a blog about the USPTO from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Most Americans have likely heard of Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, or Alexander Graham Bell. But what about Harriet Strong, Frances Arnold, and Juliette Gordon Low? These and so many more women inventors and scientists have made lasting contributions to our nation’s history. They have inspired future generations of innovators to change the world with their ideas.

In honor of Women’s History Month, as part of its mission to protect and promote the ingenuity of American inventors and entrepreneurs, the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is sharing the stories of notable women innovators, past and present. A few of these stories are highlighted below, but we encourage you to take a moment to learn more about these incredible women through the USPTO’s popular Journeys of Innovation series and on social media.

Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of the USA and patented the organization’s iconic trefoil badge in 1914. A three-leafed clover design adapted from the Boy Scouts’ similar badge, Low’s trefoil suggested a fundamental equality between girls and boys on the eve of women’s suffrage and continues to signal girls’ invaluable contributions to American life and culture. 


Juliette Gordon Low patent

Juliette Gordon Low received U.S. design patent No. 45,234 on February 10, 1914 for the trefoil, worn as a badge for the Girl Scouts.

In 2018, Frances Arnold became the first American female Nobel laureate in chemistry, for her work in harnessing the power of evolution to create new proteins that have useful properties not found in nature. She has devoted her 30-year career to making chemistry green, clean, and more efficient. A winner of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, an inductee in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and currently serving as co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, she is passionate about mentoring the next generation of young scientists.

Nobel Laureate Frances ArnoldNobel laureate and inventor Frances Arnold. (Photo courtesy of Caltech)

A pioneer in advanced technologies, Marian Croak, holds more than 200 patents and has over 100 pending applications. Her many achievements include pioneering work advancing the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) with inventions that made internet phone calls more reliable and secure; text-to-donate technology inspired by Hurricane Katrina that revolutionized how people give to charitable organizations; and work on the telephone network and voting system used for American Idol®. Now a Vice President of Engineering at Google, she focuses on reliability engineering to improve the performance of Google systems and services.

Marian Croak speaks at Google for India eventMarian Croak speaks at the Google for India event in 2015. (Photo courtesy of Google)

Temple Grandin is an inventor, professor, author, inspirational speaker, and a leading advocate for the humane treatment of livestock. Unable to speak until almost age four, no one expected Temple Grandin to do much in life, let alone become one of the world’s compelling voices in science and innovation. Now, Grandin is one of the world’s most well-known autistic individuals and proponents of neurodiversity and also holds a U.S. patent for her farm animal handling system. On March 25, don’t miss the webinar on differing abilities in STEM, featuring Temple Grandin, and hosted by the U.S. Department of Education and the USPTO.

USPTO's Joyce Ward presents Temple Grandin with her inventor trading cardUSPTO’s Director of Education and Outreach Joyce Ward presents Temple Grandin with an oversized copy of her inventor trading card and her livestock handling designs. USPTO Inventor Trading Cards aim to inspire children with stories of diverse inventors. (Photo by Unsu Jung/USPTO)

Since she was a child, Sangeeta Bhatia has enjoyed figuring out how things work. Now a biomedical researcher, MIT professor, and biotech entrepreneur, she has invented human microlivers to study drug metabolism and liver disease as well as nanoparticles that help diagnose, study, and treat ailments like cancer. Bhatia has also received the prestigious Heinz Award for her groundbreaking innovations and advocacy of women in STEM fields.

Inventor Sangeeta Bhatia in the labSangeeta Bhatia and her students have explored the use of CRISPR-Cas9, a genome editing tool, for the treatment of hepatitis B. (Photo courtesy of Justin Knight)

Hinda Miller, Polly Smith, and Lisa Lindahl created the sports bra, a true entrepreneurial endeavor which has spurred women’s participation in athletic activities and advanced women’s health and well-being. Originally designed to decrease discomfort for female runners, their invention has since become a necessity for female athletes and a modern fashion staple. The empowering story of these three women offers a compelling example of determination, ingenuity, and creativity.


Inventors of the sports braFrom left: Inventors of the sports bra Polly Smith, Lisa Lindahl, and Hinda Miller. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

The USPTO is dedicated to encouraging and equipping Americans across all demographics and throughout the United States to become innovators, and to ensuring they have equal opportunities to succeed. One exciting initiative, the National Council for Expanding American Innovation (NCEAI) is strategizing new ways to expand American innovation by tapping into the strength of our nation’s diversity and increasing the opportunities for all Americans to participate in innovation. Comprised of respected leaders in the private and public sectors, one of the foremost priorities for the Council is to help the USPTO develop a long-term comprehensive plan aimed at expanding participation in America’s innovation ecosystem among women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups. Learn more about NCEAI and other USPTO initiatives, events, and resources on the Expanding Innovation page of the USPTO website.

Monday Mar 01, 2021

The growing importance of international cooperation to the protection of industrial designs

Blog by Drew Hirshfeld, performing the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Mary Critharis, Chief Policy Officer and Director of International Affairs of the USPTO

ID5 logo

Industrial design has been an essential aspect of developing new products since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 18th century. This focus on making a product more appealing and intuitive to the user by improving its appearance, function, and manufacturing has driven designers for centuries and touches our everyday lives––from making a toothbrush fit more easily in one’s hand, to creating automobile dashboards that are easier to comprehend.

Today industrial design helps turn complex technologies into products that can be used by billions of people, surmounting massive differences in language and culture. But with industrial design’s growing complexity, its exponential growth in importance in our time, and the advent of new technologies—such as personal computing and the numerous digital devices on the market today—it is important to ensure that our systems for protecting designs are meeting the needs of global designers.

In response to these challenges, the world’s five largest industrial design offices—the China National Intellectual Property Administration, European Union Intellectual Property Office, Japan Patent Office (JPO), Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)—came together in 2015 to create the Industrial Design 5 Forum, or ID5. Their goal was straightforward: the five offices pledged to “promote and further the development of user-friendly, highly efficient and interoperable industrial design protection systems.”

The ID5 celebrated its fifth anniversary in October 2020 at the annual meeting hosted by the United States (and the forum’s first-ever virtual meeting). Meeting virtually may have been driven by necessity, but it highlighted the forum’s versatility and provided representatives from the five intellectual property offices with the opportunity to take stock of the impressive progress they have made since 2015 and to map a way forward for future cooperation.

Those accomplishments include:

  • Implementation of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Digital Access Service for designs. This electronic document exchange system has made the process of seeking design protection in multiple jurisdictions around the world significantly more efficient, and has resulted in substantial cost savings for patent applicants. (And, given the challenges presented by the pandemic in obtaining certified paper copies of applications, has eliminated countless problems and headaches for applicants across the globe.)
  • Agreement by the JPO, KIPO, and USPTO on a set of common recommended design formalities practices. This agreement is in line with the draft Design Law Treaty that is currently still pending at WIPO.
  • Completion of 16 projects and comparative studies providing patent applicants with numerous new comparative reference manuals to help them more easily navigate the global design patent system. Key topics include eligibility, grace period, partial designs, and 3D printing.

For U.S. patent holders and applicants, these accomplishments mean simplified electronic procedures for design patent filings abroad, and the availability of a set of tools to help them understand the practices and procedures of the five partner offices where international protection is most often sought.

Over the coming years, it will be essential for the USPTO and its international partners to work together through forums such as the ID5 to anticipate and address the challenges that still exist in the global design system for applicants. The ID5 partners recognized this at their October meeting by undertaking a number of new projects, including studies on term and renewal of protection and deferred publication and examination. They also made plans to engage in further discussions regarding the use of new technologies in examining and issuing industrial design rights.

In addition, the ID5 partner offices underlined the importance of soliciting stakeholder input in the forum’s deliberations by unveiling a joint communication plan that will allow for improved engagement with stakeholders.

Finally, recognizing the important role of intellectual property offices in the current climate, the offices pledged in a special joint statement on COVID-19 that they “stand united in their efforts to respond to the pandemic and to continue to strengthen the international intellectual property system.”

More than ever, industrial designs are being used around the world to create intuitive interfaces that turn complex technologies into useful tools. Facilitating their development and protection within a workable, international framework will be important to meeting the needs of the international design community. The USPTO is hard at work with its ID5 partners to meet this collective challenge, and is actively engaged with U.S. stakeholders, through such means as a recent forum on global trends in industrial design, to ensure that the latest developments in international design protection are made widely known. To learn more, visit the ID5 website.

Sunday Feb 21, 2021

Spotlight on Commerce: LaRita Jones, Division Chief, Office of Human Resources, USPTO

Guest blog post by LaRita Jones, Division Chief, Office of Human Resources, USPTO

LaRita Jones

LaRita Jones, Division Chief, Office of Human Resources, USPTO

Black History Month is a time to honor and show gratitude to African Americans who have made contributions – whether extraordinary or minute, well-known or untold – to better humanity in some way. It is a time to express pride as we reflect on a heritage full of triumph over the harshest of adversities and celebrate innovations we have made in the arts, science, and technology and our achievements in politics and business. It is a time to remember the Black heroes of the past while uplifting our heroes of today.

A personal hero of mine is my father, Carl Ross. He was a career Army soldier who served two tours in Vietnam and retired as a master sergeant. He performed his duty with the highest work ethic and took so much pride in defending his country, even when fellow soldiers and officers did not treat him as their equal. I admire him for leading a life of bravery, honor, and integrity despite all the barriers to equality that he faced.

I remember him meticulously pressing his uniform and polishing the toes of his combat boots so perfectly that I could see my reflection. My father taught me that education was the top priority and that hard work starts with showing up and ready to work hard every day. He said that being a committed, responsible individual who can be trusted is important, particularly when things are not fair or favorable. I have leaned on all that my dad taught me about having integrity and dignity, showing up every day, working hard, and treating others with respect – even when I did not receive the same in return.

That advice was especially relevant when I attended the University of Washington to earn a degree in Sociology. There were few African Americans enrolled here and it was not always easy. As a way to connect with other students of color, I joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and volunteered in communities with other Black sororities and fraternities.

It was through this sisterhood that I gained a deeper understanding of, and reverence for, my African American heritage, which is filled with heroes who continue to break barriers still today. With immense pride, I have witnessed the election of the first female, and first African American vice president Kamala Harris, who is also a member of our illustrious sorority.

Seeing my father give his entire career in service to his country and then joining an organization rooted in service to humanity, a career in public service was a natural fit for me. Currently, I serve as the division chief of a high-functioning team of human resources professionals responsible for recruitment, classification, and staffing consultation in support of the Patents business unit.

I extend my father’s advice to my employees and I can see in their work ethic that they share the same passion as I do for connecting top Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) talent with fulfilling careers at the Commerce Department’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Careers in government are more progressive, inclusive, and agile than ever before. Opportunities today seem limitless compared to when I started my own government career. And I am proud to work at an agency that champions diversity and inclusion in the way that the USPTO does.

We are constantly striving to increase recruitment and retention among underrepresented populations as part of one of our agency’s key strategic goals to “recruit, enhance and sustain an engaged workforce.” As we continue to build deeper and more meaningful relationships to attract, hire, and retain talent from historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic serving institutions, tribal and community institutions, and women in STEM organizations, it is my hope to see the USPTO significantly boost each of these employee groups in the years to come.

I also hope that my work in some way—whether extraordinary or minute—inspires students at those institutions who may not yet grasp that their personal and professional opportunities are indeed limitless, thanks in large part to the contributions of African Americans in this country.

Each celebration of Black History Month means that there is another opportunity to celebrate African American heroes. Hopefully, it also motivates and encourages future generations to value themselves and fully appreciate all they can become.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce African Americans during Black History Month.

Tuesday Jan 19, 2021

Leading the way in the IP economy

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

Director Iancu at PPAC in 2018
Director Iancu at the quarterly meeting of the Patent Public Advisory Committee at the USPTO in Alexandria, Virginia on August 2, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Isaacs/USPTO)

At the outset of my tenure as Director of the USPTO in early 2018, I challenged the USPTO staff and stakeholders to focus on reclaiming our nation’s leadership on intellectual property, first by creating a new, pro-innovation, pro-IP dialogue and, second, by balancing our IP systems and increasing the reliability of the rights we issue.

Working together for the past three years, we did exactly that—and so much more. The list below summarizes a number of our accomplishments, but let me highlight a few.

We issued new guidance to our examiners on patent subject matter eligibility in 2019. The USPTO’s Chief Economist confirmed in a study released in April 2020 that the uncertainty of examination in this area has decreased by a remarkable 44% in the one year following publication of the guidance.

We balanced post-grant proceedings at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board through a series of carefully calibrated initiatives, including aligning the claim construction standard with the district courts, improving the amendment process, reducing duplicative proceedings, and increasing transparency and consistency of decisions. We decreased patent examination pendency to 23.3 months on average, the lowest since 2001. We also reduced the average patent appeal time to a remarkable 13 months, down from 30 months in 2015.

We reduced fraudulent trademark applications through improved technology, examination, and various new procedures. And we saw the passage of the Trademark Modernization Act, the most important trademarks legislation in decades.

Furthermore, we improved operations at the USPTO, and upgraded, backed up, and secured our vast data repositories, information technology systems, and telecommunications networks. We completely revamped and modernized our website. And we created artificial intelligence tools for classification, examination, and much more to come. Importantly, we maintained continuity of operations during the pandemic and during a government shutdown due to lapse in funding.  

Director Iancu and Director Tovar of IMPI in 2020

Director Iancu and Director General Juan Lozano Tovar, Instituto Mexicano de la Propiedad Industrial (IMPI) at the signing ceremony for the USPTO-IMPI Work-Sharing Agreement on February 5, 2020.

Internationally, we forged a broad-based coalition of countries to elect new leadership at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that respects and champions intellectual property rights. We implemented a first-of-its-kind Parallel Patent Grant with Mexico. And we signed a patent validation agreement with Cambodia, and many MOUs with countries around the world.

We recognized the need for a renaissance in American innovation – one that opened doors for more women, minorities and geographic regions to participate in the American intellectual property system. As a result, last fall we kicked-off the inaugural meeting of the ground-breaking National Council for Expanding American Innovation, which is now fully operational and in the process of helping us develop a first-ever National Innovation Strategy aimed at substantially broadening participation in the innovation economy, demographically, geographically and economically. 

Director Iancu visits Terra Centre Elementary in Burke, VA in 2019

Director Iancu meets with a kindergarten class at Terra Centre Elementary School in Burke, Virginia on April 4, 2019, where he took part in their Kindergarten Invention Expo and gave a presentation on IP and invention. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Additionally, I’ve spent the past year presenting to faculty and students at dozens of America’s top intellectual property universities, seeking to establish among our next generation of IP professionals a common understanding of, and appreciation for, the theories, benefits, and practical applications of intellectual property laws.

Through these and numerous other engagements, we have highlighted for teachers, parents, and students from kindergarten through college the virtues of invention, IP protection, and entrepreneurship, and shared information about the important and exciting careers that exist for innovators and IP professionals. Additionally, we created new training programs, such as the Legal Experience and Advancement Program, for fledgling patent attorneys so they can gain confidence and experience in patent and trademark proceedings. 

Director Iancu interviews Dr. Martine Rothblatt in December 2019

Director Iancu interviews Dr. Martine Rothblatt, the creator of SiriusXM Satellite Radio, former CEO of GeoStar, and the founder and CEO of the Board of United Therapeutics on December 4, 2019, as part of the USPTO Speaker Series. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

We have promoted the incredible—yet mostly unheralded—stories of the people whose inventions have fundamentally changed the lives, and livelihoods, of millions of Americans. For example, we created the first-ever USPTO Speaker Series, bringing to USPTO employees and the public some of our nation’s greatest inventors and entrepreneurs. We also took the opportunity of promoting the grant of Patent 10 Million to raise the profile of our inventors and entrepreneurs, and we created the Journeys of Innovation series of online articles about innovators who have made a positive difference in the world. These people should be our most celebrated national figures, role models, and mentors for the next generation of Americans.

We have worked to improve the dialogue surrounding IP in many other ways too. When I arrived at the USPTO, I noted that for too long, the words used to describe our patent system focused too heavily on its faults. Our IP system—born from the Constitution and steeped in our history—is a crown jewel, a gold standard. It must be defined by its goals, aspirations, and successes. As a result, we worked to create a new, pro-innovation narrative that focuses on the brilliance of inventors, the excitement of invention, and the incredible benefits they bring to society, while still ensuring patent and trademark examination of the highest quality.  

Director Iancu, Deputy Peter, CEO of Virtusphere Ray Latypov, and son Alfred

Director Iancu and Deputy Director Laura Peter, shown with Ray Latypov, patent-holder and CEO of Virtusphere, (a device created for full body immersion into virtual reality) and joined by his son Alfred. Latypov’s invention was displayed at the USPTO on July 23, 2019 in conjunction with an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

This pro-innovation, pro-IP dialogue is more important than ever, since we depend on inventors and entrepreneurs to solve mankind’s most vexing problems, including the current pandemic. These and creators of all kinds have always defined America, and, with a robust IP system, will continue to do so.  

Director Iancu visits Camp Invention in Hyattsville, Maryland

Director Iancu visits Camp Invention at Hyattsville Elementary School, Maryland, on June 26, 2019. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Through it all, the most amazing people I met these past few years are the inventors of the future—starting with kindergarteners making their first creations and excitingly explaining them to me. Jumping up and down, many would say, “Director, I want to be an inventor when I grow up!” Their unbridled enthusiasm assures me that America’s best days are yet to come.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve this great country that I love. 

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Highlights of USPTO Accomplishments (2018-2021)


1. Strengthened the USPTO’s Patent and Trademark Operations

  • Reduced patent pendency to below 15 months for a first Office action and below 24 months for final disposition, the lowest patent pendency since 2001.
  • Reduced ex parte appeal pendency to 13 months, down from 30 months in 2015.
  • Accomplished mandatory electronic filing for all trademark filings.
  • Developed artificial intelligence and machine learning tools for patent and trademark application processing and examination. 
  • Achieved permanent congressional authorization of the TEAPP telework program, which will ensure strong hiring, retention, and cost savings.
  • Achieved enactment of legislation to allow the USPTO to limit response periods for trademark Office actions in order to further reduce pendency.


2. Increased the Certainty, Reliability, and Quality of IP Rights

  • Issued Section 101 examiner guidance on patent eligibility, improving certainty of examination by 44%.
  • Improved and added to patent examiners’ search tools, including launch of collaborative search pilot training and enhanced examiner search training.
  • Established a new automated routing system for patent applications to help ensure incoming applications are best matched with examiners with relevant experience.
  • Adjusted the performance appraisal plan for patent examiners to focus on improved search and examination quality.
  • Reorganized senior patent management to broaden responsibility for operations and quality.
  • Increased the rate of patent examiner interviews to an all-time high. 
  • Negotiated a revised policy with the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards and Technology on standard essential patents.
  • Prepared and released multiple reports on public views on artificial intelligence and IP policy.
  • Achieved the enactment of trademark legislation to strengthen trademark owners’ enforcement rights in court and to create additional tools for the USPTO to combat fraud on U.S. IP systems.
  • Achieved the enactment of legislation to implement the Marrakesh Treaty, which enables greater access to copyrighted content by the blind, visually impaired, and otherwise print disabled.
  • Multiple legislative achievements to balance and strengthen the copyright system.


3. Changed the Dialogue on IP 

  • Created a public relations and media campaign celebrating the patent system, including the signing of patent 10 million.
  • Held Patents for Humanity awards ceremonies for inventors who create solutions to humanitarian crises.
  • Achieved enactment of legislation to enhance the Patents for Humanity program by allowing the award benefits to be transferable.
  • Conducted numerous briefings for Members of Congress and their staff on the importance of patents to producing lifesaving technologies.
  • Promoted the induction of 56 inventors into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
  • Created the USPTO Speakers Series to allow leaders in the IP system to share innovation success stories with Office employees and the public.
  • Created the Journeys of Innovation series on the USPTO’s home page to celebrate inventors and their personal stories.


4. Balanced AIA Review Proceedings at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board

  • Promulgated rules to change claim construction standard to match district courts, to allocate burdens with respect to motions to amend, to respond to all claims and grounds in a petition, and to weigh all evidence at the institution stage equally for both patent owners and petitioners.
  • Created a Precedential Opinion Panel to address important issues before PTAB.
  • Designated numerous decisions as precedential and issued guidance memoranda to improve consistency of PTAB proceedings.
  • Developed institution factors to reduce multiple patent challenges.
  • Created a Motion to Amend Pilot Program to improve amendment process.
  • Established standard operating procedures to improve transparency.


5. Bolstered the United States’ Leadership in IP

  • Extended the U.S.’s lead as first in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global IP Index, and increased the U.S.’s rank in patents from twelfth (2018) to tied for second (2020) and in trademarks from fifth (2017) to tied for first (2020).
  • Led effort to elect a WIPO Director General with strong support for intellectual property protection.
  • Helped lead the Administration in adding new IP provisions as part of the USMCA.
  • Achieved the first ever Parallel Patent Grant Agreement with Mexico and Patent Validation Agreement with Cambodia.
  • Negotiated new work-sharing agreements with multiple foreign IP offices.
  • Elevated the diplomatic rank of four USPTO IP Attachés.   
  • Worked with international IP forums to assist innovators and stakeholders to create
    COVID-19 solutions.


6. Reduced Abuse of the IP System

  • Established U.S. Counsel Rule to reduce fraudulent trademark filings.
  • Worked with the National Crime Prevention Center to launch a nationwide public awareness campaign regarding the dangers of counterfeit products.
  • Established a special task force to monitor and identify fraudulent trademark filing behaviors and to develop tools, including policies, to address them.
  • Established a successful pilot program and then a permanent program to conduct random audits of post-registration maintenance and renewal documents to ensure the accuracy of the trademark register.


7. Strengthened the USPTO’s Fiscal Health

  • Extended USPTO fee-setting authority for an additional eight years, through the end of 2026.
  • Restructured patent and trademark fees to ensure better cost recovery.
  • Increased the reserve fund to ensure stability and continuity of USPTO operations.
  • Maintained USPTO operations during temporary suspension of funding.
  • Identified $1B in diverted fees in the U.S. Treasury.


8. Expanded American Innovation

  • Submitted the SUCCESS Act report to Congress, which studied participation rates among women, minorities, and military veterans in patenting.
  • Prepared and released well-received Progress and Potential Report and update, which studied participation rates among women in patenting.
  • Launched a National Council of private, academic, non-profit, and public sector executive-level leaders to expand American innovation.
  • Created the LEAP program at PTAB for training and developing new patent attorneys, and established a PTAB law clerk program.
  • Supported independent inventors, small business concerns, and nonprofit organizations in filing patent applications and encouraged collaboration with the federal Government by expanding the opportunities to qualify for the small entity discount for inventions made during the course of federally-funded or federally-supported research.
  • Enhanced the USPTO’s home page to allow first-time inventors and small businesses to easily access a map of all the resources the USPTO offers in their local areas.
  • Launched an online platform available on the USPTO website that provides resources for inventors and practitioners to encourage greater participation in the patent system.
  • Renamed Alexandria headquarters’ auditorium after Clara Barton, the first public space at the USPTO ever named after a woman.


9. Ensured Continuous Operations During Pandemic

  • Transitioned seamlessly to all telework presence for employees during pandemic.
  • Transitioned to all-virtual board hearings.
  • Successfully sought enactment of statutory authority to provide relief at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Issued extensions of time for patent and trademark filing and fee deadlines, due to COVID-19 issues, within three days of enactment of statutory CARES Act authority.
  • Established fast-track examination programs for COVID-19-related medical treatments and devices.
  • Established the Patents 4 Partnership program to facilitate licensing of COVID-19 innovations.
  • Launched the first all-virtual, entry-level training program to on-board over 400 new examiners.


10. Modernized the USPTO IT System

  • Upgraded the USPTO IT system with new, faster, more efficient, and secure servers.
  • Established redundant systems to ensure continuity of operations in case of certain IT failures.
  • Initiated transition to the cloud for essential services.
  • Rebuilt the USPTO website for a more modern look and a more interactive interface.