Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Wednesday Oct 11, 2017

Spotlight on Commerce: Juan Valentin, Education Program Advisor, USPTO

Blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting contributions of  Department of Commerce employees during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Guest blog post by Juan Valentin, Education Program Advisor, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

If you had told me ten years ago that in October of 2017 I would be traveling across the United States educating children and adults alike on how important intellectual property (IP) protection is for the development of our youth and nation, I would have laughed you out of the room. Growing up as one of the only Hispanics in a small, Upstate New York community, one thing that was always important in my life was my Puerto Rican ancestry. The music, food, culture and the family life-force was sewn into my soul at an early age. 

I started my career as a patent examiner, putting my engineering degree from Clarkson University to good use, examining patent applications in the field of optical measuring and testing devices. Two key events in my life were the catalysts that set me on my current career path. The first took place about five years into my USPTO career when a friend invited me to Langdon Elementary School in D.C. to make slime with third graders. This was for a program called RESET that takes volunteers and matches them with local elementary schools to do hands-on science and engineering activities with the students. My life was changed that day. I was hooked, first as a volunteer, then as an activity lead, then as a team lead who developed new activities and was responsible for finding new volunteers.

My mother had a huge impact on this change of direction. Some of my first memories are of her giving spirit, of the sacrifices she made for not only me but for those in need around her.  My mother not only worked in public service, she volunteered and as a single parent always had me at her side, helping with activities. For me, seeing the excitement, smiles, and appreciation on the students’ faces after doing educational activities brought back childhood memories of giving back to my community and it showed me there’s a need for this type of service in underrepresented communities. It reminded me of the potential my mom saw in other people and her willingness to help.

Juan Valentin (center) with students during Engineering Week

Juan Valentin (center) with students during Engineering Week

The second event came in 2009 when I co-founded the first ever U.S. federal government chapter for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) at the USPTO. Members of SHPE are a family. We take pride in helping new employees transition to the agency, while creating a community of learning here at the USPTO. As the SHPE President for past two years, I have really seen the impact of the organization over the last eight years, helping mentor and support Hispanic employees in their growth as leaders at the USPTO, while also giving back to the community. We’ve recently been focusing on ways to help the areas ravaged by the hurricanes, and have organized a donation drive for supplies to be sent to Puerto Rico. This year’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month is “Shaping the Bright Future of America,” which is very fitting for the tremendous work I’ve been blessed to be a part of through SHPE.

In 2011, I applied for and was accepted to a detail to work on K-12 IP educational initiatives at the USPTO’s Office of Education and Outreach (OEO), for eight months. That eight months went by so fast I remember thinking, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could do this full time?” As my detail came to an end, a full-time vacancy was announced for an education specialist. I was determined to apply for the position and was hopeful that through my experiences I would be given the opportunity to help expand innovation, invention, and IP outreach at the USPTO. Life doesn’t always go as planned and I didn’t get the position, but I knew that showing students how to be innovative problem solvers and critical thinkers was my future; now I just needed to make it a reality. I was determined to build up my resume so I would be ready when the next opportunity opened up. My patience was well worth it; three years later another position became available and I was selected.

I still pinch myself from time to time when the fast pace of my life slows down just enough for a moment of self-reflection on the past three years. Not everyone is lucky enough to say they have their dream job. As an education program advisor at the USPTO, I can proudly say without a doubt, I have found my dream job, or rather it has found me!  My career advice to others is not to get discouraged by setbacks, but to be determined and pursue what you love to do.

Friday Oct 06, 2017

USPTO and Denver Startup Week – What’s the Connection?

Guest blog by Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Molly Kocialski

Today’s small businesses and entrepreneurs are faced with many decisions as they pursue their dreams of creating and building their own businesses. While raising funds from investors or applying for loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA) or other lenders, they are also formulating business plans, identifying the right business partners, hiring technical help, finding manufacturing assistance, and developing an overseas marketing strategy. In short, the “to do” list is long and ever-evolving. There are also intellectual property concerns to consider. What should my brand be? Do I need a patent? How do I protect my products and services from competitors? The USPTO can help answer many of these questions, and one venue where we are able to reach and assist a lot of small businesses and entrepreneurs is at local and regional “startup weeks.”

Every year, the Rocky Mountain USPTO participates in Denver Startup Week (DSW), which showcases the area’s entrepreneur community in tech, design, business, and manufacturing. DSW was started in 2012 and in the years since has grown into the largest free entrepreneurial event in the world, with over 13,300 people attending in 2016. Over the course of five days, the USPTO provides assistance to these small businesses and entrepreneurs, ensuring they understand the ins and outs of the intellectual property (IP) system. This year, the USPTO held sessions on intellectual property as a business decision and on why licensing partnerships enhance the chance of success.

Rocky Mountain Regional USPTO Director Molly Kocialski presents during Denver Startup Week

Rocky Mountain Regional USPTO Director Molly Kocialski presents during Denver Startup Week

Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the engine of the U.S. economy. According to the SBA, they make up:
• 99.7 percent of U.S. employer firms,
• 64 percent of net new private-sector jobs,
• 43 percent of high-tech employment,
• 98 percent of firms exporting goods, and
• 33 percent of exporting value. 

In addition to reaching entrepreneurs at startup weeks, the USPTO offers a wide range of resources for small businesses and innovators across the country. Our regional offices in Denver, Dallas, Detroit and San Jose provide a support system for entrepreneurs, offer free information and resources to individuals and businesses, and host frequent events. In addition, our Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) are a nationwide network of public, state, and academic libraries designated by the USPTO to support the public with trademark and patent assistance. Individuals and small businesses with limited financial resources can also receive free legal assistance in order to help them secure patent protection for their invention. Through the Law School Clinic Certification Program, assistance is provided by law students who are supervised by licensed IP attorneys, and through the USPTO’s Patent Pro Bono Program, now in all 50 states, attorneys volunteer their time as a way to give back to their communities.

At the USPTO, we understand that when starting a business, there are many IP-related concerns to consider. That is why we are working to provide local and regional innovators with the tools, information and resources they need to succeed and ultimately, protect U.S. innovation.

Tuesday Sep 26, 2017

Patents for Humanity Awards Now Open for Applications

Blog by Joe Matal, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

Patents for Humanity, the USPTO’s top honor for patent owners and licensees who use game-changing technology to meet humanitarian needs, is now accepting applications for the 2017 – 2018 cycle. Anyone who owns or licenses a U.S. patent or patent application is eligible. Winners receive an acceleration certificate to expedite proceedings at the USPTO, as well as public recognition of their work.

Patents for Humanity recognizes inventions that address global development issues such as medicine, nutrition, sanitation, energy, and living standards. We invite innovators of all kinds to tell their stories of helping underserved communities through the power of technology. Individuals, corporations, nonprofits, small businesses, academic institutions, and government agencies are all welcome to apply.

Patents for Humanity trophies

Patents for Humanity trophies

This year marks the fourth cycle of the Patents for Humanity program. Previous awardees have improved lives worldwide. Winners from the last round include Case Western Reserve University, for a low-cost malaria detection device, and startup company GestVision, Inc., for a quick diagnostic test for preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication.

If your organization uses patented technology to help address basic human needs, we encourage you to participate. The USPTO will accept applications through December 8. Please submit your completed application online through the Patents for Humanity page of the USPTO website.  You can send any questions to patentsforhumanity@uspto.gov.

Thursday Aug 31, 2017

Training Teachers to Educate the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

Blog by Joe Matal, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

As students are starting the school year, teachers are heading back with new lesson plans, some of which include intellectual property concepts. Last month, more than 50 K-12 educators from across the nation took part in the 4th Annual National Summer Teacher Institute (NSTI) on Innovation, STEM, and Intellectual Property. This year’s NSTI was hosted by the USPTO’s Office of Education and Outreach in Denver, Colorado in collaboration with the University of Denver’s Project X-ITE Team. NSTI is a week-long innovation and entrepreneurial boot camp designed to help teachers unleash the innovative potential of their students.

Teachers participate in hands-on activities at NSTI

The central focus of this year's Institute was on the creation and protection of intellectual property. Educators were broken up into teams and took part in a wide range of hands-on activities designed to inspire and motivate America’s young innovators, entrepreneurs, and “makers”. These activities encouraged participants to seek innovative solutions to a broad set of problems ranging from food and cooking to sports, design, and protecting the environment. Teams were supported by IP subject matter experts from the USPTO and innovation professionals from industry, academia and government agencies. At the end of the event, teams pitched their inventions to a panel of esteemed judges led by Molly Kocialski, Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Denver, Colorado.

For students interested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, computer science, innovation, and entrepreneurship, a strong understanding of the IP system is critical for success. The NSTI works to give teachers the tools and training they need to get students excited about innovation and IP protection. Teachers will now return to their communities ready to encourage students to innovate and invent.

This year’s class of educators now joins a growing network of NSTI grads dedicated to applying their training to improve their students’ understanding of the IP system. As past NSTI participant Yolanda Payne explained, “Attending NSTI is a life changing experience. It is a lot of hard work, but it’s fun learning new things...At NSTI, you learn things you and your students will benefit from. It will make you a better teacher. Anything that captures students’ attention is winning for a teacher.”

Do you want to learn more about the experiences of past NSTI participants? Read about how a former athletics coach from Massachusetts lead his InvenTeam to the White House Science Fair or about how a science teacher from Maine gets her students excited about innovation.

Thursday Aug 24, 2017

Avoiding Intellectual Property Theft Abroad

Guest blog by Director of the Texas Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Hope Shimabuku

Overseas markets present some of the best economic opportunities for U.S. companies, and at the same time can pose some of the greatest risks  such as counterfeiting. According to a recently released White House Fact Sheet on protecting American intellectual property (IP), the annual cost to the U.S. economy from intellectual property (IP) theft, including counterfeiting, could be as high as $600 billion.

Many U.S. businesses, particularly small and medium-sized ones, are not aware that their U.S. patent or U.S. trademark is not enforceable in other countries. In fact, to their unpleasant surprise, some U.S. companies who have never done business abroad find themselves in an untenable position when foreign manufacturers copy their products, packaging, and business plans without their knowledge or authorization. Additionally, foreign counterfeiters steal product pictures, brochures, and logos from U.S. company websites and register such materials as their own. As a result, American companies not only face counterfeit issues abroad, but consequently are then vulnerable to counterfeit products entering the U.S. For these reasons, it’s vital that U.S. companies seek trademark and patent protection well in advance of doing business internationally and adapt strategies to prevent counterfeits.

To combat this problem, the USPTO works closely with other federal agencies to protect and enforce American IP rights abroad, and provides an array of tools and resources to assist U.S. businesses doing business overseas. Our IP attachés are one of our most valuable resources. Located at U.S. embassies, consulates, and missions across the world, IP attachés assist U.S. businesses in navigating foreign laws and regulations and advocate for U.S. positions with foreign governments. They also work hand in hand with the U.S. Commercial Service's commercial specialists, who are experts in trade and export regulations. In addition, the USPTO partners with the National Intellectual Property Rights Center, which includes 19 federal agencies, as well as international agencies such as Interpol, to provide a comprehensive response to IP theft. Finally, we staff a hotline through STOPFakes.gov, where the public can provide information on suspected counterfeit goods and get information on protecting their IP. To learn more about the risks of IP theft and counterfeits, watch the Science of Innovation video on anti-counterfeiting, made with NBC Learn.

Anti Counterfeiting and the Global Marketplace

Anti Counterfeiting & The Global Marketplace

On August 29, the Texas Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in coordination with the Dallas Bar Association and the U.S. Commercial Service, will host a daylong seminar, Anti-Counterfeiting and the Global Marketplace: How to Protect and Enforce IP While Expanding Trade, in Dallas. Speakers will include the Honorable Eddie Bernice Johnson and the Honorable Pete Sessions of the U.S. House of Representatives, USPTO Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Boney Denison, as well as representatives from Customs and Border Protection and the private sector. Please join us for this exciting event.

The USPTO is committed to ensuring that IP continues to drive American innovation, and that American companies can compete and succeed domestically and in the international marketplace. Working with the U.S. Commercial Service and other partner agencies, we are dedicated to helping U.S. businesses secure and enforce their IP rights both domestically and abroad for the benefit of the U.S. economy.

Wednesday Aug 16, 2017

Dream to Reality – Helping Inventors Patent New Technologies

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

Small businesses and independent inventors both serve a vital role in our nation’s economy. And, helping those with limited resources is an important goal of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The USPTO’s Patent Pro Bono Program provides free legal assistance to financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses interested in securing patent protection for their inventions. Inventors then bring their inventions to market helping to grow the economy and turn their dreams into reality.

 John Kirkpatrick, Associate Pro Bono Coordinator

John Kirkpatrick, Associate Pro Bono Coordinator and Staff Attorney, USPTO

In every patent, there’s a story. Take for example Travis Kelley, from Backus, MN. Travis invented a simple but effective device to take the guesswork out of home door installations. He couldn’t afford to hire an attorney and filed a provisional patent application on his own. After learning about USPTO’s pro bono program, he applied and received legal representation. His patent was issued in 2014.

Today, Travis and his wife Jennifer run a small business called JenTra Tools. Having sold thousands of units per year, JenTra is now moving into new markets to expand its customer base.

Then there is Deborah Campbell, from Grand Junction, CO, who developed a sushi-making machine that can churn out sushi rolls in just two minutes after years of designing and prototyping. She received pro bono assistance from the law firm of Merchant and Gould through Mi Casa Women’s Business Center in Denver. Find out more about her journey to sushi success in the recent article from Inventors Eye.

Glenn Vogel, a custom metal worker and father of three from Evergreen, CO, also received assistance through Mi Casa. In 2015, thanks to a volunteer attorney and the pro bono program, Glenn patented a customizable wine storage rack and saw his revenue increase by 20 percent.

Regional patent pro bono programs not only support local inventors, but are also a way for patent practitioners to give back to their community. To date, more than 1,000 practitioners have volunteered their availability, time and resources. However, in order to assist even more independent inventors, entrepreneurs and small businesses, the USPTO welcomes even more practitioners to participate.

Visit the USPTO website to learn more about available resources for both inventors and entrepreneurs.

Wednesday Aug 02, 2017

Federal Agencies Tackling Trademark Scams

Guest Blog by Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Boney Denison

Some trademark applicants and registrants have paid fees to private companies while mistakenly thinking they were paying fees required by the USPTO. To combat this problem, last week, the USPTO co-hosted its first ever public roundtable on fraudulent solicitations with the Trademark Public Advisory Committee. The objectives of the event were to educate the public about the problem of misleading or fraudulent advertisements for trademark services, to learn more about what other government agencies were doing, and to brainstorm new ideas for tackling this complex issue.

Joe Matal, who is performing the duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, spoke at this roundtable, as well as 11 public speakers and 7 federal speakers from the USPTO, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Small Business Administration (SBA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Matal urged all of the participants to “work together to corral and fix this problem.”

Mary Denison and Joe Matal at the Public Roundtable on Fraudulent Trademark Solicitations

The USPTO has worked closely in the past with other federal agencies on criminal prosecutions for fraudulent trademark solicitations. During the roundtable, representatives from DOJ and USPIS spoke about the recent criminal convictions in California of five individuals, including employees of a bank, who ran a lucrative trademark scam and knowingly laundered the proceeds. Two have been sentenced and the remaining three are scheduled for sentencing in August. To learn more about this case and the USPTO’s role in it, read my blog from December 2016.

Trademark scams range from offers to file renewal and maintenance documents, to offers to record marks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to monitoring services, to recordation in useless databases. Some of the scammers take consumers’ money and deliver nothing. For instance, during the roundtable, the American Intellectual Property Law Association cited an example of a restaurant that mistakenly paid a scammer to file maintenance documents for a registration. The restaurant relied on the assumption that the filing would be made. Only when the restaurant sought legal counsel about enforcement against an infringer did it learn that the scammer filed nothing and the registration had been cancelled. Others scammers actually perform work but at exorbitant prices. One speaker at the roundtable had filed three civil law suits against different scammers.

At the USPTO, we offer warnings in trademark application filing receipts, in emails transmitting office actions, and with registration certificates. On the informational page of the USPTO website on trademark solicitations, customers can watch a brief video on how to identify misleading notices, and see a list of fraudulent entities we’ve already identified. For further information, customers can consult our Basic Facts Booklet on protecting trademarks, or contact us directly at TMFeedback@uspto.gov. While the USPTO lacks the power to file lawsuits against the scammers, we have issued cease and desist letters against them and pursued others for unauthorized practice of law.

Anyone who receives a fraudulent trademark solicitation should file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission or call 1-877-FTC-HELP. This is key in order to help the government tackle the ongoing solicitation problem, and USPIS and DOJ use the FTC complaint reports to decide which companies to pursue criminally. When filing a complaint, customers should include the solicitation and the envelope with the postmark, as well as a copy of the front and back of any cancelled check paid to a scammer when applicable. Scammers should be reported to the FTC as soon as possible because they frequently change mail drop addresses and other traceable information (often monthly), and delay can hinder or preclude criminal investigations. Note that lawyers can also report solicitations for their clients. The FTC has additional information on scammers and government imposters on its website.

The USPTO continues to work hard to fight solicitations from companies fraudulently promising to protect trademarks. We plan to issue a report on our findings from the roundtable and will continue to collaborate with other federal agencies to educate the public on this issue and identify those responsible.

Tuesday Aug 01, 2017

Inspiring Young Minds to be Innovators and Pursue their Dreams

Blog by Joe Matal, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

At Camp Invention, almost two million students have explored their own innate creativity, inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit in a week-long day camp program that’s been running annually since 1990. Currently held at more than 1,400 sites in 50 states for kindergarten through 6th grade, these students are learning how to think big, be innovators and pursue their dreams.

Camp Invention is a partnership between the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The program includes a robust STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum while also providing insights into the role of patents and trademarks in innovation. Children develop questions, collect data, draw conclusions and apply new knowledge, while tackling hands-on challenges.

Recently, I had the chance to visit Camp Invention at Hyattsville Elementary in Maryland. I was especially impressed by how they were coming up with new product ideas and building original prototypes using real tools and components found in everyday devices. But beyond that, they had also thought through how they were going to brand and market an item and how they would protect their innovation by applying for a patent and trademark. I was inspired by their enthusiasm and inventive thinking.

Photo of Joe Matal at Camp Invention in Hyattsville, Maryland

Camp Invention is unique because it provides an exciting environment with no wrong answers, a chance to brainstorm with peers and an opportunity to build confidence in the natural ability to dream and create. On a given day, students might learn about such things as terraforming exoplanets, building an air cannon, exploring circuits and electronics or presenting their new invention to mock investors. 

Each year, one Camp Invention student is selected through the “Mighty Minds” contest for an all-expense paid trip to attend the National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony held every year in Washington, DC.  This year, the winner was 9-year-old Mya Sewell of Grayson, GA, who has attended Camp Invention for several years. She says she wants to be a scientist or inventor because, “it gives me the freedom to experiment with things without anybody telling me what to do.” Learn more about her experience interacting with prominent inventors at this year's induction  ceremony on May 4.

In addition to Camp Invention, the USPTO also works with the National Inventors Hall of Fame on the Collegiate Inventors Competition, a program designed to allow undergraduate and graduate students to showcase their emerging ideas and inventions that will shape our future. The finalists are judged by a team of inductees from the National Inventors Hall of Fame and USPTO subject-matter experts, and then honored at the USPTO. Winners enjoy over $100,000 in cash prizes and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC.

Through the USPTO’s partnerships with youth programs, such as Camp Invention and Collegiate Inventors, we hope to inspire future innovators and encourage creativity and problem-solving skills to enable the next generation to achieve the American Dream.

Tuesday Jul 25, 2017

New Report Presents Viewpoints on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility

Blog by Joe Matal, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

This week, the USPTO published a new report synthesizing public comments on an important question for innovators in a wide variety of industries: What are the appropriate boundaries of patent eligible subject matter?

Between 2010 and 2014, four opinions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court—Bilski, Mayo, Myriad, and Alice—significantly affected patent eligibility law. Following these rulings, the USPTO provided updated guidance to patent examiners, initiated a nationwide conversation on patent subject matter eligibility through a series of events and roundtables, and has now published a report presenting what we have learned from the public on this important issue. Some have raised concerns that the heightened bar for patent subject matter eligibility that resulted from these decisions has undermined the ability of intellectual property (IP) intensive industries to secure rights and investments in their innovations. Others have applauded the rulings for providing a useful tool in flushing out patents on technologies that they feel should not be patentable.

U.S. patent

U.S. Patent

In 2016, the USPTO convened two roundtables and issued a request for public comments on the topic of patent subject matter eligibility. The first roundtable was held November 14, 2016, at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, and the second roundtable was held December 5, 2016, in Stanford, California. All four USPTO regional offices also participated in the events via webcast.

Much of the feedback we received highlighted the complexities of determining the appropriate boundaries of patent subject matter eligibility. Commenters confirmed that the recent Supreme Court cases have significantly changed the standards for determining patent subject matter eligibility. Several commenters expressed concern that these decisions have created inconsistency, uncertainty, and unpredictability in the issuance and enforcement of patents, particularly in the life sciences, software, and e-commerce industries.

A diverse group of representatives from academia, industry, law firms, and legal associations proposed legislative changes aimed at reversing the recent trend in the law and restoring, in their view, a more appropriate dividing line between eligible and ineligible subject matter. In contrast, a sizable portion of representatives from the software industry argued that the Court’s two-step test provides an appropriate standard for patent subject matter eligibility. This group cautioned against legislative redress and instead recommended that the common law should be allowed to evolve.

The useful feedback that we gathered from the public over the past months will help ensure that we understand the views and concerns of the innovation community. As the world’s most innovative economy, the United States relies on IP to support economic growth and business development. A healthy patent system that fuels research and development of innovative technologies is a critical component of our nation’s robust system of IP rights. Given the link between a healthy patent system and our nation’s economy, the contours of patent subject matter eligibility are of great concern to the USPTO and the IP community.

Monday Jul 17, 2017

3D Printing – a New Industry Made in America

A blog post about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

Increasingly, we’re seeing the products of additive manufacturing – better known as 3D printing – all around us: in retail stores, in classrooms, and even in medical technologies.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) received over 8,000 patent applications last year alone in the field of additive material technologies. These represent a range of products – from household items to prosthetics – that are being manufactured with 3D printing and are having a positive impact on people’s lives and the economy.

One of the founding minds in 3D printing is National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee Charles Hull. Troubled how long it could take to create a prototype of a new device or tool, he created stereolithography in the 1980s, the first commercial rapid prototyping technology, now known as 3D printing.  In recent years, the growth and popularity of 3D printers has skyrocketed, as they are increasingly being used by small businesses, hobbyists and entrepreneurs because of their speed and accuracy. There is now even a 3D printer on the International Space Station

Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting at the USPTO

Additive Manufacturing Partnership Meeting at the USPTO

Exciting advances are being made with 3D bioprinting, a method of using 3D printing to create new tissues and organs. The USPTO works with the National Inventors Hall of Fame in running the annual Collegiate Inventors Competition, which has showcased the next generation of 3D printing innovation, such as previous graduate school winner Dave Kolesky for 3D bioprinting of vascularized human tissue. Learn more about 3D bioprinting in the USPTO’s Science of Innovation video, produced by NBC Learn.

The USPTO plays an important role in supporting American businesses in new and growing industries to get new products and technologies to the marketplace faster. This ultimately drives innovation and creates new jobs for American workers, benefitting consumers and manufacturers alike.

Lastly, to stay ahead of the curve in new areas, the agency partners with private industry in other areas such as cyber security and bioscience, all while providing the most up-to-date technical training to patent examiners who examine these new technologies every day.

Thursday Jul 13, 2017

Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – 5 Years Supporting Innovation

Blog by Joe Matal, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Christal Sheppard, Director of the Midwest Regional Office

When the USPTO set out to open regional offices, our goals were to create hubs of innovation and creativity, protect and foster American innovation in the global marketplace, help businesses cut through red tape, and create hundreds of jobs in the local communities. As we celebrate Detroit’s 5 year anniversary today, we’re happy to report that we’ve done just that.

The Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit led the way as our first regional office. A variety of factors led us to choose Detroit, including an international border, multiple world class universities where we could recruit patent examiners, an economy that had seen its share of hardship, and a creative and innovative environment. Not long after the Midwest Regional Office opened, we followed up with three more regional offices, in Denver, San Jose, and Dallas. 

Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Since opening in 2012, the Midwest Regional Office has granted more than 10,000 patents, and outreach efforts have reached nearly 37,500 members of our community. We are especially proud of the outreach to educators and students, which have allowed us to hold innovation challenges and help incorporate science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and intellectual property concepts into classrooms. We’ve worked to cut through red tape, enabling inventors and small businesses to walk into any of the four regional offices, use the public search facility, and easily get their questions answered. In addition, intellectual property practitioners can conduct examiner interviews or participate in Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) hearings either in person or remotely using video conferencing. 

Regional offices enable us to receive input from a greater cross-section of our community, including inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs in a variety of industries and technologies. This is essential if we are to best serve our customers and promote American innovation across all geographic regions in the country. 

Our regional offices also provide jobs for the local community. Currently, there are 102 employees in the Midwest Regional Office, which include eight classes of examiners, as well as PTAB judges, outreach officer, and support staff. And if you add in employees of the other regional offices, the total is over 400 employees bringing the resources of the USPTO to the public. Additionally, since the regional offices provide training and services to our nationwide workforce, we are able to save time and resources as employees do not have to return to our headquarters as frequently.

Amazing things are happening in Detroit, and we are proud of the important role that the USPTO is playing in the revival of this great American city. It’s been especially exciting to see how we’ve been able to connect with small businesses and individual inventors and make an impact in the community. Here’s to another 5 years, and beyond.

Thursday Jun 29, 2017

One Year On: Developments in the Protection of Trade Secrets

Guest blog by Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs Shira Perlmutter

U.S. businesses own an estimated $5 trillion worth of trade secrets. Their theft, involving losses in the tens or possibly hundreds of billions of dollars a year, poses a serious threat to our nation’s economy. Because the protection of trade secrets — which by their nature are not patented or publicly disclosed — is critical to the commercial viability of many U.S. businesses, Congress passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016. The law provides trade secret owners with a federal civil cause of action, rather than limiting them to state laws or criminal enforcement.

Last month, one year after enactment of the law, the USPTO convened a public symposium on “Developments in Trade Secret Protection.” The event brought together nearly 200 participants, at the USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria Virginia, and via live webcast to individuals and the USPTO’s four regional offices.
The symposium consisted of four panels focused on various aspects of trade secret protection. The first panel, of business economists, discussed recent trends, including how to estimate the value of trade secrets and calculate damage awards in litigation, and how calculating damages in trade secret cases differs from cases involving other forms of intellectual property.

The second panel, a group of attorneys, addressed the use of the Defend Trade Secrets Act in practice, including the provisions for ex parte seizure of stolen trade secrets. The third panel, with participants from academia, private practice, and the World Intellectual Property Organization, examined the differing ways in which other countries have implemented trade secret protection and identified the elements that make up an effective regime. The final panel brought together participants from private practice, the U.S. government, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce to role-play as a corporate legal team called on to consider enforcement options for dealing with a case of trade secret misappropriation occurring overseas.

The practical information exchanged at the symposium should help governments and trade secrets owners improve protection for this valuable form of intellectual property in the United States and abroad. In helping to take forward the federal government’s 2017–2019 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, the USPTO will continue its work to promote the adoption of effective systems of trade secret protection and enforcement around the world. Videos of all four sessions of the trade secret symposium are posted to the Trade Secret Policy page of the USPTO website, as well as additional useful information about the protection of trade secrets.

Tuesday Jun 13, 2017

Update on Global Trademark Harmonization

Guest blog by Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Denison

In late May, I attended the TM5 mid-term meeting in Barcelona hosted by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The TM5 is a strategic cooperation group of the five largest trademark offices in the world including the USPTO, EUIPO, China (SAIC), Japan (JPO), and Korea (KIPO). I gave a blog update last year on the TM5 meeting we hosted at the USPTO, and I’m happy to report we have continued making headway this year towards global trademark harmonization.

TM5 Leadership

TM5 Leadership

The TM5 seeks to facilitate and harmonize trademark filings within its members, as well as other trademark offices around the world. The work of the TM5 is structured through cooperative projects designed to improve users’ interactions with national trademark offices and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). These projects include, among others, the Common Status Descriptors project, the Identification project, and the Indexing of Non-Traditional Marks project.

Common Status Descriptors (CSD)

The CSD Project is designed to assist trademark owners and other interested parties in understanding the status of their applications and registrations in other offices, whether or not they understand the language, by using icons and common terms. In the past, partners have used terms to describe the status of applications and registrations that may be confusing to users outside their country or may not have been understandable without knowledge of the local language. While partners will continue to use terminology specific to their offices, they have now agreed to implement a series of Common Status Descriptors which will use icons and a second set of terms common to all of the partners. 

CSD Examples

CSDs for Live Application/Published for Opposition and Dead Registration/Expired

These icons and common terms were implemented by the USPTO in 2015 and have now been implemented by EUIPO, JPO, and SAIC. KIPO plans to implement the icons and common terms by the end of calendar year 2017. View all icons and common terms.

Identification Project (ID Project)

For global trademark filers, one bottleneck in applying in multiple jurisdictions has been the differing national practices in accepted application wording to identify the goods and services on which a mark will be used. To attempt to alleviate that bottleneck, the USPTO used the success of the U.S. ID Manual as an inspiration to create a harmonized TM5 ID List. To date the TM5 partners have agreed on more than 17,000 terms they will all accept.  Applicants can determine whether a good or service has been agreed upon by the TM5 members by consulting the USPTO’s Manual of Acceptable Goods and Services.  For example, if you search for the term “golf shoes,” you will see it is marked with a “T” meaning that it acceptable to all TM5 members.

The USPTO has also solicited participation in the project from a number of countries outside the TM5 members, and we are delighted to report that Colombia, Chile, Mexico, and Singapore have now each accepted more than 10,000 terms. Other current participants include Canada, the Philippines, and the Russian Federation, and we are seeking participation from a number of additional countries throughout the world.

Indexing of Non-Traditional Marks Project (INTM Project)

Non-traditional marks include three-dimensional, sound, single color, tactile, holographic, scent, movement marks, and more—basically all marks that include elements other than character data (words, letters, numerals, etc.) and designs. Trademark professionals have long acknowledged the difficulty in searching for non-traditional marks in the United States and around the world. Most national offices use the WIPO Vienna Classification System, or some variation thereof, to index the design elements in a trademark application. That system does not provide specific codes to index the elements of a non-traditional mark. The TM5’s INTM Project is designed to improve and potentially harmonize the TM5 Partners’ methods of searching for non-traditional trademarks.

We have worked to identify which member countries accept which types of non-traditional marks, and next we will determine how they index them. Once we have that information, the TM5 will move forward to determine best practices, with the potential for agreeing to a common standard amongst the TM5 and perhaps other national offices.

The USPTO is proud to play an important part in facilitating and harmonizing trademark filings throughout the world. The projects that USPTO is leading, along with other projects led by the other TM5 member countries, will contribute to a more streamlined global trademark system going forward.

Monday May 22, 2017

Spotlight on Primary Patent Examiner Angela Nguyen

A post about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of current and past members of the Department of Commerce during Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

Guest blog post by Angela Nguyen, Primary Patent Examiner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Angela Nguyen, APANET President (second from left) with APANET executive board members Nasir Ahmed, Susannah Chung, and Harshad Patel

As a Primary Patent Examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I am responsible for delivering high quality and timely examination of patent applications in computer networking at the USPTO, but I also promote diversity, professional development, and outreach as a board of director for various affinity groups. Currently, I serve as President of the Asian Pacific American Network (APANET) at the USPTO, and with approximately 900 members, it is the largest affinity group in the federal government.

Reflecting back on my path to public service, I believe my parents have been my greatest influence. They fled war torn Vietnam to start a new life in the U.S. where they found freedom, safety, a better life for themselves and more opportunities for their children. They faced challenges such as learning English as a second language, overcoming cultural barriers, and facing the pain of leaving their families indefinitely. Most importantly, they instilled in me the values of hard work, ambition, commitment, family, love, respect, and empathy.

During the last few days of the Vietnam War, my parents escaped separately and were reunited through the help of Americans at a refugee camp in Arkansas. They acquired engineering degrees in Texas, where I was born, and we later moved to Orlando, where they pursued their careers. While attending the University of Central Florida in Orlando, I found that I also had an interest in science, math, and technology, and graduated with a degree in computer engineering. During college, I worked as a computer technician for a wholesale computer retail and consulting company and a junior software developer intern for a defense contractor, which inspired me to apply and work as a computer engineer for the Navy. Upon graduation, I moved to Virginia to work for the Navy, and during that time, I earned my master’s degree in systems engineering at George Mason University.

I’ve always been very active in extracurricular activities and affinity groups, so when I joined the USPTO, I became involved as a board member with the Patent and Trademark Office Society (PTOS) and APANET. These groups have provided a valuable way to connect with others at the agency and also give back.

My parents instilled strong values in me from a young age. They have taught me the value of hard work and dedication, which are reflected in my work as a Federal employee. I am honored to be in public service and feel privileged to work at such a diverse agency. As a board member of both APANET and PTOS, I hope I can lead by example and encourage not only Asian American and Pacific Islanders, but all federal employees to get involved and active in their agencies.

Tuesday May 09, 2017

2017 Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees Honored at the National Building Museum

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

On May 4, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) inducted fifteen of America’s greatest innovators into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Held at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., CBS News correspondent and television personality Mo Rocca moderated the event, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee gave remarks, and Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld presented induction medals. Seven living inventors were inducted, and another eight were named posthumously.

Director Lee lauded the new inductees, stating, “Among them all, tonight's Inductees, collectively, hold almost 550 patents. In and of itself that’s an impressive number. But more impressive are the innovations behind those patents. They have transformed how we communicate; how we manufacture; how we remember; and even how we explore the vast reaches of space.”

2017 National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees

2017 National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees and prior winners

This year’s class of inductees includes Beatrice Hicks, inventor of a device for sensing gas density used in the ignition systems that launched the Apollo moon missions; Marshall G. Jones, a pioneer in using lasers for industrial materials processing; Tom Leighton and Daniel Lewin for a content delivery network for a faster internet; and Carolyn Bertozzi, a pioneer in DNA-cell conjugates. Learn more and watch a video on the inspiring work of all the inductees.

Since 1973, the USPTO has partnered with the nonprofit National Inventors Hall of Fame, an organization that also educates more than 100,000 grade-school and middle-school students every year through interactive programs such as Camp Invention. To be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, one must hold a U.S. patent, as well as contribute significantly to the nation's welfare and the advancement of science and the useful arts.

The induction ceremony on May 4 was part of a series of events to honor both the new and previous inductees, which kicked off with an illumination ceremony on May 3 at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum on the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia.

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