Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Thursday Nov 10, 2016

Celebrating Veterans at the USPTO

Guest blog by Chief Administrative Officer Fred Steckler

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote.

In the United States that price has been paid by generations of veterans at home and abroad, in peacetime and war – selfless citizens who have sacrificed their time, comfort, and even their lives in defense of our nation and our allies.

At the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today, we are privileged to have many such veterans among us. Some have served in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Vietnam. Some are serving still, in the reserves, attending monthly drills and annual training and deploying into harm’s way when needed.

In 2012, we embarked on a bold initiative to greatly expand our outreach to the veteran and service member communities and significantly increase our numbers of veteran hires. Since then we have added over 600 veterans across all business units to our USPTO family. In fiscal year 2016 alone, over 23% percent of new patent examiner hires and 20% of all other new hires were veterans or transitioning service members. These impressive numbers would not have been possible without a work environment that values and honors our veterans. And that environment would not have been possible without an agency leadership committed, from the very start, to President Obama’s Veterans Employment Initiative.

We are also extremely fortunate to have the USPTO Military Association (UMA), an affinity group comprised of veterans, spouses of veterans, and employees who support our veterans, those still serving in the reserves, and the entire USPTO community. Since its formation in late 2011, the UMA has done tremendous work providing mentorship and fellowship for our agency’s military veterans and raised overall awareness of veterans and those in service today. Without them we would not have agency-wide events like our annual Memorial Day observation or the Veterans Day ceremony we held on November 8 with guest speaker Dave Lavery of NASA.

So on behalf of our entire USPTO leadership team, I want to thank our veterans for their service and for “Continuing to Serve” – to quote the UMA’s motto – at America’s Innovation Agency.

Wednesday Nov 09, 2016

Collegiate Inventors Competition Showcases Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs

A post about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

Standing on stage this past Friday, inventors from colleges and universities across the country were recognized for their work developing cutting-edge inventions, at the 2016 Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC) at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, VA. Through CIC, the skills that these students have gained both through the process of invention and by learning about intellectual property will be an asset to them as they decide on their next steps, which could be further research or commercializing their invention. “The ideas represented in this room—and the bright minds behind them—are the present and future of America innovation,” said Drew Hirshfeld, Commissioner for Patents at the USPTO.

The 28 undergraduate and graduate students all had the chance to interact one-on-one with inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF). These established inventors – who have invented many tools, processes, or devices that are now commonplace in our lives, such as the digital camera, microprocessor, electret microphone, and the implantable defibrillator – served as judges for the competition and provided advice and inspiration for the students. USPTO officials and AbbVie Foundation scientists also served as judges.

The finalists showcased their inventions at a public expo, providing them with a professional backdrop to answer questions and discuss their inventions with USPTO patent examiners, patent attorneys, and trademark examiners, senior officials, corporate sponsors, and members of the intellectual property community and the public. “We consistently hear from finalists that their CIC experience was the inspiration for seeing themselves as great innovators. It’s also why they continued on as entrepreneurs, business owners, and patent holders. We look forward to seeing many more patent and trademark applications with their names on them in the years ahead,” said Hirshfeld.

CIC finalists’ inventions included a variety of technologies from advanced crop harvesting techniques for use on earth and other planets, to a bladeless drone, to a fire extinguishing ball. Medical innovations included adjustable prosthetics, hydrogels for ocular drug delivery, early cervical cancer detection methods, technology for freezing breast cancer cells, more sterile catheters, and DNA powered diagnostics. Many of these medical innovations were designed to help people in lower-middle-income countries. Several CIC finalists have already been granted patents or have filed patent applications.

The winner in the undergraduate category was a team from University of Virginia, comprised of Payam Pourtaheri and Ameer Shakeel. Their invention, AgroSpheres, re biological particles that degrade residual pesticides on the surface of plants, allowing crops to be safely harvested after just a few hours. This helps farmers avoid crop loss due to unforeseen weather events and at the same time saves the environment from additional pesticides.

The graduate winner was Carl Schoellhammer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for SuonoCalm, a device for at-home rapid administration of therapeutics. SuonoCalm is designed to deliver a wide range of medications directly into tissue using low frequency ultrasound. Tests have shown superior absorption and it takes just one minute. Read more about all the 2016 CIC finalists and winners.

The top undergraduate winner and top graduate winner each received $10,000. Second and third place winners were also recognized with cash and prizes.

The Collegiate Inventors Competition is one of several important programs the USPTO conducts in collaboration with NIHF. Others include Invention Playground for preschool children, Camp Invention and Club Invention for elementary school children and Invention Project for middle school students. Altogether, NIHF programs reach hundreds of thousands of young Americans every year, promoting a better understanding of the vital role intellectual property and innovation play in our lives and our economy, and helping build entrepreneurial skills for the next generation of inventors.

View a USPTO Facebook album of photos from CIC.

Monday Nov 07, 2016

IT Innovation at the USPTO in 2016

Guest blog by Chief Information Officer John Owens II

As the year comes to a close, it is a perfect time to reflect on our current successes, and challenge ourselves to continually improve our information technology (IT) systems. As the Chief Information Officer, I am focused on driving innovation at the USPTO while protecting our nation’s cutting edge ideas.

The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) works hard every day to make sure both our existing systems and our new “next generation” systems enable examiners to accomplish their important work. We are building excellent tools for the public while we drive to fine-tune our own processes for greater efficiency. Supported by more robust, updated IT systems and tools, USPTO examiners will be able to leverage these tools, and new data, to issue the best quality patents. and trademarks. When we improve systems and services for our examiners, the public benefits as well.

Bringing you next generation technology

Since day one, I have been committed to getting rid of legacy systems and bringing next generation technology to USPTO employees. This year, we got even closer to that goal. For patent examiners, we’ve been testing a new Examiner Search tool that will replace the existing EAST and WEST systems.  Currently, 200 examiners are using it and it’s expected to be rolled out to all examiners in December 2016. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s End to End (PTAB E2E) system was deployed in July, supplementing the existing PRPS system, and has received tremendous positive feedback. In Trademarks, Law Office 122 is using Trademark Next Generation (TMNG) which we will roll out to the remaining Law Offices through fiscal year 2017. TMNG will replace all legacy systems with one, cohesive, web application. 

DevOps has a firm hold

Our journey towards DevOps is well on its way as we have partnered with the Office of the Chief Financial Officer to cement it in our culture through the continuous development of Fee Processing Next Generation. We’re piloting weekly deployments of bug fixes with great success. The lessons learned will cascade throughout all products.  We are also using blue green deployments on three products to decrease any outages to our customers during their maintenance.  As DevOps is very much a community culture, we also hosted DevOpsDays DC in June, which sold out in the first day.  We look forward to even more DevOps events in the future.

Embracing open source and open data

Open data is a call to action -- which is why we created the USPTO’s Open Data Portal.  We’ve been working hard to make our centuries worth of data into a form the public can easily access and manipulate.  We continue to add to and improve our GitHub library, and some of our current projects include design patterns, a tool to help parse patent data, and a trademark status app. 

Your customer experience

We constantly engage with our internal and external customers.  You are a critical partner in our success, and we’ve been working hard to make our systems as user friendly as possible.  To that end, we’re moving towards an enterprise single sign-on (SSO) with role-based accounts.  Which means, eventually you will not need to log in separately to every system you use, but instead just log in once, and we do the rest.  The SSO system will recognize what systems you are authorized to use and will give you access. 

Finally, in order to assist the intellectual property community, this year we opened two new Patent and Trademark Resource Centers, in Las Cruces, NM, and San Jose, CA. 

What to look for in 2017

In 2017, we will continue to expand the role-based accounts to more systems that will dramatically improve customers’ USPTO logged in experience.  Starting in the spring, we will be upgrading to Windows 10.  Late in 2017, you will be seeing improvements to how to search and file for both patents and trademarks. 
I look forward to sharing more updates with you in the future as we continue to use the latest technology to support the USPTO and the public.

Tuesday Oct 04, 2016

USPTO Launches New Jobs Pages and Outreach to Hispanic Millennials

Guest Blog by Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Bismarck Myrick

USPTO’s mission, providing timely and high quality examination of patent and trademark applications, could be compromised with 18% of our workforce eligible to retire in the next 3-5 years.  Therefore, it is crucial that we actively recruit new talent from across the country and from all backgrounds.

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize that Hispanic employees at the USPTO provide a richness in skill, creativity, thought leadership and determination.

Through our newly redesigned careers pages, “USPTO Jobs,” social media, and other digital means, the USPTO is modernizing the way we recruit prospective employees, with special attention paid to reaching highly-qualified jobseekers from underrepresented groups. In particular, I am delighted to announce a new digital outreach strategy designed to reach Hispanic Millennials, making sure they know about job opportunities at the USPTO.

In June 2009, engineers at the USPTO formed the first U.S. government professional chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, SHPE-USPTO. SHPE-USPTO programs foster the professional, educational and cultural support that members rely on for career advancement and success at USPTO.
SHPE-USPTO also played an instrumental role in supporting the expansion of the agency’s telework program to Puerto Rico. As of April 2016, interested and eligible employees now have another telework option outside of the USPTO's 50-mile commuting radius. We expect that this step will not only help the USPTO’s efforts to spur innovation in more regions, but that enhance the Puerto Rican economy by bringing federal employee positions to the island.

Watch our video to learn more about the impact that Hispanic employees are having at the USPTO.

Positions at the USPTO are available not only in our headquarters in the Washington DC area, but also in our regional offices in Detroit, Denver, Dallas, and Silicon Valley, as well as remotely through our telework program. Speak to us this fall as we visit over 24 universities, and hold events from info sessions to Twitter chats. Follow us on Linked In, Twitter, and Facebook for the latest details. And be sure to check out USPTO Jobs, which provides prospective employees with improved navigation, accessibility of agency news and information, and a live feed of job openings from USAJobs.gov.  

We are a workforce of nearly 13,000 highly-skilled and motivated professionals including engineers, scientists, attorneys, strategists, and computer specialists – all dedicated to protecting U.S. intellectual property rights. The USPTO is one of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government,® rankings produced by the Partnership for Public Service. Read about some of our talented professionals, and learn more about our benefits, student programs, veteran employment and disability hiring programs.

Wednesday Jun 29, 2016

Teaming Up to Cure Cancer

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

Anyone who has held the hand of a friend or family member suffering through chemotherapy and radiation or comforted a friend or colleague dealing with the loss of a loved one understands the savagery of cancer. With a disease that causes such devastation and loss, we are often left feeling alone and with more questions than answers.

During his final State of the Union, President Obama reminded all of us that we are not alone in this fight against cancer, and that if we work together, answers are within our reach.  With a nearly $1 billion dollar budget and a commitment to success, the President is committed to doubling the rate of progress in cancer research and treatment.

The President’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative is not an endeavor that one person or one institution can accomplish in isolation. Such a herculean goal requires, as Vice President Biden opined, “… the need for more team science and increased collaboration among the private sector, academia, patient foundations, and the government.”  Working together through public and private partnerships, we can overcome the many barriers that currently impede progress towards treatment and we can identify where resources can be more strategically included to foster and advance solutions.

The USPTO is proud to join this team of allies in the President’s effort to refocus, reinvent, and reprioritize the fight to cure cancer. As “America’s Innovation Agency,” it fits squarely in our mission to contribute to this massive and just cause. And, in collaboration with the Vice President’s office, we are excited to unveil two major projects to support the National Cancer Moonshot. 

To start, we are implementing a free initiative in July called Patents 4 Patients that will “fast-track” reviews of patent applications related to cancer treatment. The goal of this accelerated program is to complete review of applications that are accepted into the program in one year or less after they are received. The sooner we can identify and patent these innovations, the closer we are to a cure.

In addition to this “fast-track” program, we will unveil an Intellectual Property (IP) “Horizon Scanning Tool”. This tool will allow the public and the federal government to analyze and build rich visualizations of intellectual property data, often an early indicator of meaningful R&D. When combined with other economic and funding data (such as Security and Exchange Commission filings, FDA reports and National Science Foundation grants), the Horizon Scanning Tool can illuminate trend lines for new treatments and allow federal funding and policy efforts to be more targeted.

President Kennedy’s revolutionary moonshot challenge to the American people more than 50 years ago was a galvanizing call to collective action to achieve a worthwhile yet potentially unattainable goal in a very short period of time. That historic call to action echoes today.

President Obama recognizes that data and technology innovators can play a role in revolutionizing how medical and research data are shared and used to reach new breakthroughs. Innovations in data and technology can break down silos and bring all the cancer fighters together. Working together and sharing information, we can provide hope to the more than 1.6 million Americans who will be diagnosed with cancer this year.  

It is my desire that we also inspire a new generation of scientists to pursue new discoveries. I am proud of the part the USPTO will play in this most worthwhile effort, and I count as well on your strong support.

With the leadership of President Obama and under the guidance of Vice President Biden, we can make a difference and we can change the future so that upcoming generations do not have to experience the same pain that cancer has caused over the last decades.

For information and updates on how the USPTO is advancing President Obama’s call for a Cancer Moonshot, please visit www.uspto.gov/about-us/national-cancer-moonshot.

 

Tuesday May 17, 2016

USPTO Regional Offices Forge Ahead in 2016

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

USPTO regional offices support our core mission of fostering American innovation and competitiveness by offering services to entrepreneurs, inventors, and small businesses, while effectively engaging communities and local industries. All four of our regional offices now have directors, making us well-positioned to fully advance this mission. The establishment of four USPTO regional offices fulfills a commitment dating to September 16, 2011, when President Obama signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) into law. All the regional offices have been busy these last few months, including holding events for World IP Day and enabling local innovators to participate virtually in the Patent Quality Community Symposium.

Since its grand opening on November 9, 2015, the Texas Regional Office in Dallas welcomed its first class of patent examiners in January, and they are expected to complete their initial training and move into their offices by the end of April. The office also welcomed five new Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) judges in the first quarter of 2016, thereby reaching a total of 17 PTAB judges. The Texas Regional office has already held a number of outreach events in 2016, including three seminars on patents, trademarks and petitions, and a Congressional App Challenge celebration for students and their families who participated in the competition from Congresswomen Eddie Bernice Johnson’s district.

The West Coast Regional Office in Silicon Valley continues to engage in conversations about policy decisions that affect innovation. It’s hard to believe the Silicon Valley office officially opened only six months ago, on October 15, 2015. It has already celebrated the graduation of its first training academy of examiners and welcomed its second academy in February.

The office is serving the regional entrepreneurial community with events such as “Speed Dating for Startups,” co-sponsored by Santa Clara University, where over 150 entrepreneurs, small business owners, and students learned about incorporating IP into their business strategies. Several top USPTO officials also participated in an “Inventor and Entrepreneur Forum” at the University of California, Irvine Applied Innovation Lab, which had 700 attendees in person and online. The office also recently welcomed Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who discussed the importance of open data to innovation in an entrepreneurs’ showcase, and Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews who met with the newest class of examiners and the newest PTAB judge.

The Rocky Mountain Regional Office, which will celebrate its second anniversary in June, has experienced a number of firsts since our last update. The office hosted its first Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) argument, with participants in Denver appearing before the TTAB via the USPTO’s telecommunications system, and will also be holding its first AIA trial proceeding in the month of April. The office is now fully staffed with PTAB judges and examiners, with the addition of two new PTAB judges, and a third class of patent examiners that graduated recently.

Under the leadership of Regional Director Molly Kocialski, education efforts and partnerships in the Rocky Mountain region have expanded significantly, with outreach visits and events across Colorado, Utah, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. These include conferences, listening tours, participation in startup weeks in the region, STEM engagement, presentations, office hours, and meetings with members of the public and partners across the region. Additionally, we were very excited to release a new USPTO inventor trading card featuring Rocky Mountain inventor and noted autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin.

The Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit has continued to host PTAB hearings, including their first live Inter Partes Review trial in January, and recently welcomed a new Administrative Patent Judge, bringing the total to 11 PTAB judges. The office has been active in the community as well, recently hosting the first Patent Drafting Competition in conjunction with University of Detroit Mercy. Law schools from around the Midwest region sent teams to Detroit to present in front of a panel of judges including patent examiners, PTAB judges and IP practitioners, with Indiana University Maurer School of Law winning the competition.

In March, Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Boney Denison joined Midwest Regional Director Dr. Christal Sheppard at the IP Spring Seminar in East Lansing, Michigan, coordinated by the Michigan State Bar IP Section, and also spoke to 60 local entrepreneurs at a Trademark Lunch and Learn at TechTown Detroit. In a continuous effort to attract a talented workforce, the Midwest Regional Office will be hiring a new class of patent examiners soon and has been on the recruiting trail with stops at several local university career fairs and informational sessions.

The USPTO regional offices play an important role in supporting the overall mission of our agency, including ensuring easier access by innovators and entrepreneurs to resources and intellectual property protections they need to compete in today’s global economy. To find out more about events in any of our regional offices, visit the events page of the USPTO website, and for employment opportunities, visit USAjobs.gov for openings. I will continue to keep you informed about new updates on our regional offices throughout the year on this blog.

 

Friday May 13, 2016

Protecting U.S. Trade Secrets

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

Innovators of all types, from independent inventors to large corporations, rely on trade secrets to safeguard their creativity, gain competitive advantage, and further their business goals. Congressional passage of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and the signing of the bill by the President this week, strengthens U.S. trade secret protection for U.S. companies and innovators, allowing trade secret owners to now have the same access to federal courts long enjoyed by the holders of other types of IP.

Read more in my opinion editorial, “Protecting America’s Secret Sauce: The Defend Trade Secrets Act Signed Into Law,” in The Huffington Post.

Thursday May 05, 2016

USPTO Celebrates World IP Day and Digital Creativity

Guest blog by Russ Slifer, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO

Last week, the USPTO celebrated World IP Day in the Washington, D.C. region, across the country, and abroad. World IP Day was established in 1999 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to celebrate the important role of intellectual property (IP) and the contributions made by creators and innovators around the globe. We had a lot of fun with this year’s theme, “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined.” We chose to highlight the importance of the video gaming industry, its exponential growth, and impact on our daily lives.

On April 26, the USPTO hosted the “Legend of World IP Day,” in Alexandria, Va., an event focused on the history of IP and creativity in the video game industry. Video game curator and patent holder Chris Melissinos discussed how video games have rapidly evolved, been commercialized, and have become ingrained in our culture during his keynote remarks. Watch the recorded livestream of the event, and watch our USPTO video which goes behind the scenes on IP and the history of the video games. 

I spoke on Capitol Hill on April 26 at the World IP day event, “Digital Creativity: Culture Reimagined,” where I discussed the importance of digital creativity, the USPTO’s progress on copyright treaties, and the importance of ensuring that our copyright system and laws keep up with the digital age. Read my remarks.

The White House also recognized World IP Day, with President Obama issuing a commemoration of World IP Day, stating: “Whether through the music or movies that inspire us, the literature that moves us, or the technologies we rely on each day, ingenuity and innovation serve as the foundations upon which we will continue to grow our economies and bridge our cultural identities.” The President even tweeted his favorite movie, song, and invention. Others posted their list of favorite American innovations and creative works using the hashtag #AmericaCreates.

Our USPTO regional offices held events to celebrate World IP day across the country. On April 20, the Midwest Regional Office held a World IP day event in Detroit recognizing local students for their innovations and contributions to their community. The West Coast Regional Office in Silicon Valley held several World IP events, including a gathering of the Bay area intellectual property community on April 21, featuring the Honorable Sam Liccardo, mayor of San Jose. The Rocky Mountain Regional Office held “The Evolution of Cultural Expression through Digital Creativity” on April 25, focusing on Native American culture, as well as a Lunch and Learn with startups and entrepreneurs on April 26. And on April 27, the Texas Regional Office hosted a World IP Day exposition in Dallas, where business, legal, academic, and federal experts provided attendees tips on protecting their IP, developing technologies, and building their businesses. See our Facebook photo album of World IP day highlights.

Finally, USPTO IP Attachés participated in World IP Day events around the world with U.S. Embassies, consulates, and the American Chamber of Commerce, including roundtable discussions in China and Thailand, events in Mexico and Qatar, a film screening and discussion in Singapore, and cyber working group meetings in the Ukraine.

The USPTO is focused on safeguarding the rights of creators of all types and supporting an ecosystem where innovation can flourish. We are honored – not only on World IP Day, but every day – to do our part to support creators, innovators and entrepreneurs as they define their ideas in the form of patents, trademarks, and copyrights.

Thursday Apr 07, 2016

USPTO Launches Two New Online Fee Payment Tools

Guest Blog by Chief Financial Officer Tony Scardino

For several years, the USPTO has been making significant progress in modernizing its information technology (IT) infrastructure and tools for both employees and the public. Our financial tools are no exception, and I’m excited to announce that on April 9, the USPTO is launching two new online fee payment tools to the public:  Financial Manager and the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront. Watch the short video overviews of Financial Manager and the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront.

These new tools incorporate feedback from customers that we received through outreach efforts, including interviews, surveys, and user design sessions. The result for users is increased efficiency, better information, and a workflow that is better streamlined to integrate with users’ business processes. Here are some of the tools’ new features:

  • For the first time, customers will have streamlined uspto.gov accounts. To access Financial Manager, customers will easily create their own uspto.gov account. Then once signed in to their account, customers will also have access to advanced features in the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront, like bulk file payments and a virtual shopping cart.
  • In Financial Manager, customers will be able to store and manage their payment methods online; assign secure user permissions, allowing others to access and help manage payment methods; receive administrative email notifications; and create transaction reports, including monthly deposit account statements. Each individual in an organization will need their own uspto.gov account to access or help manage a stored payment method. 
  • In the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront, customers will be able to retrieve patent maintenance fee information (including payment window dates for up to 10 patents at once); upload bulk files to pay any number of patent maintenance fees at once; check out more quickly using their stored payment methods; add fees to an online “shopping cart” and save them for payment later that day; receive an itemized receipt for each payment; and download a statement for each patent.
  • In the months ahead, we’ll be expanding the stored payment methods feature to pay for other patent, trademark, and USPTO service fees.

Here are some additional changes to be aware of:

  • These new tools will replace the current Office of Finance Online Shopping Page and Financial Profile. Once the new tools go live, the old web pages will no longer be available.
  • Similarly, anyone attempting to pay a patent maintenance fee online will need to use the new Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront.
  • Deposit accounts are “going green.” Deposit account holders will now manage all deposit account activities online using the new Financial Manager. Monthly statements are also going paperless. Deposit account holders will be able to access their statements online at any time in Financial Manager, and the USPTO will no longer be mailing paper statements. 
  • Finally, for deposit account holders with multiple users in their organization, each user must create their own uspto.gov account in order to be able to access the deposit account.

We will be working with our current customers to ensure a smooth transition to these new tools. This includes implementing a temporary transition period to allow customers to adjust to the new way of managing financial transactions and paying fees at the USPTO.

Customers currently using a deposit account or EFT to pay fees at the USPTO will still be able to do so by entering their current deposit account or EFT credentials (i.e. deposit account access code or EFT profile name and password) immediately after the release of Financial Manager. After the temporary transition period, customers will need to store and manage deposit accounts and/or EFTs in Financial Manager, and only users who have been granted “Fee Payer” permissions for the payment method will be able to use them for payment. The transition timeline will be posted on the Financial Manager page of the USPTO website when Financial Manager goes live. In the meantime, customers can refer to the Fee Payment Transition Resources section of the USPTO website to find additional information on the payment method migration.

We are very excited about bringing these new financial and fee payment tools to the public, and we’re confident that they will enhance our customers’ experience of doing business with the USPTO. If you have additional questions, please visit the FAQ page for Financial Manager, or the FAQ page for the Patent Maintenance Fees Storefront. You can also email us at fpng@uspto.gov. We rely on customer feedback to drive our plans for future improvements.

Friday Mar 11, 2016

USPTO’s National Summer Teacher Institute – Bringing Innovation to the Classroom

Guest blog by Russ Slifer, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Teachers across the country have until April 18 to apply for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) 3rd annual National Summer Teacher Institute—an exceptional opportunity  for teachers to garner additional skills in innovation, “making,” and intellectual property, to incorporate into their classrooms.

The institute will be offered in collaboration with Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing from July 17-22, 2016. Fifty elementary, middle school, and high school science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) teachers will be selected to participate, and they will explore experiential training tools, practices, and project-based learning models to help foster skills and motivation for innovation.

Speakers and hands-on workshop instructors will include experts from the USPTO, faculty from MSU, noted scientists and engineers from the Science of Innovation curriculum, and representatives from other federal government agencies and non-profit organizations.

Invention projects provide a practical experience for participants to understand concepts of intellectual property in the context of STEM. Teachers will have access to maker spaces on the campus of MSU during the institute and are encouraged to take ideas and lessons learned back to their own classrooms. The program is designed to help teachers enhance student learning and outcomes, while meeting the rigors of common core and next generation science and engineering standards.

Steve Bennett,  an 8th grade engineering and technology teacher at a middle school outside of Houston, participated in the teacher institute in 2014 and served as a teacher ambassador in 2015. Bennett stated the teacher institute was the best summer experience he has had as an educator. He learned about the patent process, how to teach his students about it, and activities to use in the classroom such as making a microscope from a simple laser pointer.  Along with the tools and techniques to inspire intellectual property and innovation in his curriculum, Bennett said it’s the connections he made at the institute that help continue to drive him professionally. He’s met more than 60 teachers across the country who he continues to collaborate with and share ideas with. He now works with other schools and universities to promote STEM teaching programs, activities, and events. “The teacher institute opened up a whole new world for me,” he said. “The USPTO’s program can be used for any subject, and I recommend it for any teacher.”

Requirements for the USPTO’s National Summer Teacher Institute include three years of teaching experience and a commitment and willingness to take what they learn back to classrooms to help inspire a new generation of innovators. Teachers are chosen from across the country, and will have travel and lodging expenses covered if they live more than 50 miles from the venue.

Monday Feb 29, 2016

USPTO Maintains Productivity Despite Inclement Weather

Guest blog by Russ Slifer, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

The big East Coast snowstorm last month demonstrated the continuing effectiveness of the USPTO’s telework program, as more than 9,600 of our approximately 12,000 USPTO employees were able to telework despite the aftermath of the blizzard, allowing the agency to maintain high levels of production and efficiency.

While the federal government in the Washington, D.C. area was officially shut down, 77 percent of the total USPTO workforce was teleworking at peak times of the day. Not every USPTO employee has a telework agreement. Among those who do, nearly 93 percent of all employees were working at peak times.  In terms of productivity, our Trademark examining attorneys performed more than 90 percent of the work they did on recent comparable days without closures or storms. Patent examiners accomplished an average of 84 percent of the work they did on recent comparable days. Patent Trial and Appeal Board staff continued to respond to customer enquiries, judges conducted hearings remotely, and over 20 America Invents Act decisions were entered. 

The USPTO has been leveraging telework for many years; since 1997 in fact, when the Trademark Work at Home program started. In those days, telework in most federal government agencies was still considered to be the “shiny new penny” and federal agencies were just starting to get on board the telework train. In addition to our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, the USPTO’s regional offices across the country also effectively use telework when needed to serve inventors and entrepreneurs in their regions.

Prior to this year, February 2010 saw the last severe blizzard-like weather in the Washington metropolitan area. When the 2010 “Snowmageddon” storm hit, the USPTO was prepared: Trademarks was able to maintain fully 86 percent of normal workday production, and, agency-wide, more than 3,000 USPTO employees logged on to the PTO Virtual Private Network (VPN). The 2010 blizzard also helped the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act gain traction, especially in the Washington metropolitan area.

Although Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring, the Farmer’s Almanac indicates more inclement weather before winter’s official end. Whatever the case may be, at the USPTO it is business as usual.

Friday Feb 26, 2016

USPTO Submits its Fiscal Year 2017 Congressional Budget Justification

Guest Blog by Chief Financial Officer Tony Scardino

Each year, the USPTO submits a budget justification to Congress in order to obtain authority to spend the patent and trademark fees we collect. I’m pleased to announce that the USPTO has published its fiscal year (FY) 2017 Congressional Budget Justification.

The FY 2017 Congressional Budget Justification, which covers the period from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017, provides detailed information on how the USPTO plans to spend fees in the upcoming fiscal year. The FY 2017 budget documents our plans to enhance patent quality and continue reducing patent application pendency and backlog in order to help bring innovations to the marketplace and create jobs for the American people. It also enables us to continue maintaining our high levels of trademark quality and pendency despite increasing numbers of application filings; modernizing our information technology (IT); carrying out the provisions of the America Invents Act (AIA); and providing domestic and global intellectual property leadership.

In FY 2017, the USPTO expects to collect—and has requested an appropriation of—$3.3 billion in fee revenue, which is derived primarily from patent and trademark fee collections. This is approximately $49 million more than our FY 2016 appropriation.

Our estimated fee collections have been modified from the projections included in the FY 2016 President’s Budget to reflect new assumptions about the growth rate in patent application filings—based on our latest assumptions about demand for our services—and to incorporate proposed fee adjustments that were presented to the USPTO’s Public Advisory Committees (PACs) in early FY 2016. Both PACs have held public hearings on the agency’s proposals. We are currently awaiting and analyzing the findings and recommendations reported from our PACs. Once our analyses are completed, we will update our fee collection estimates in the notices of proposed rulemaking that will be published in the coming months.

The USPTO FY 2017 budget tells the story of a dynamic organization that is continually adapting to the ever-changing environment in which we operate. The agency maintains operating reserves to help us effectively manage through these changes. Even as fee collections vary from year to year, the operating reserves allow us to continue to make critical, multi-year investments to improve the USPTO and its operations. In FY 2015, the USPTO established minimum operating reserve levels for FY 2016 and FY 2017—$300 million for the patent operating reserve and $55 million for the trademark operating reserve—to help us mitigate known financial risks. Our goal is to continue to grow these reserves to their optimal levels of three months for patents and four months for trademarks within the five year term reported in the budget.

Throughout FY 2015, patent application filings and fee collections were trending at less than planned levels. We recognized that planned spending in FY 2016 and FY 2017 no longer aligned to our projected resources, and the agency conducted a comprehensive financial planning and resource management review. Based on this review, the USPTO’s FY 2017 budget prioritizes the agency’s spending across multiple years and reduces our budgetary requirements—i.e., what we plan to spend in FY 2016 and FY 2017—from the levels we identified at this time last year.

The budget places high priority on financing fixed operating costs (e.g., paying for on-board staff, production and operating requirements) and carrying forward with targeted investments and improvements. We also recognize that it is prudent to extend some of our information technology (IT) investments over a longer period of time in order to continue the effective implementation of critical systems that are essential to accomplishing our strategic goals.

The spending and revenue adjustments included in the FY 2017 budget allow the USPTO to continue to make responsible investments in the agency’s mission while maintaining our minimum operating reserve levels, and demonstrate the USPTO’s commitment to sound business and financial practices. Looking to the future, we will continue to assess the proper balance between pursuing strategic improvements and mitigating financial risks to the agency’s mission.

Thursday Jan 14, 2016

Leadership in All USPTO Regional Offices

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

After much excitement in the last few months of 2015 with the opening of our final two regional offices—the West Coast Regional Office in Silicon Valley in October and our Texas Regional Office in Dallas in November—I’m happy to announce that Molly Kocialski will be the Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office in Denver, Colorado. With Molly’s addition, all four of our regional offices now have directors, making us well-positioned to fully advance the mission of the USPTO as America’s Innovation Agency.

As the new director, Molly will spearhead the Rocky Mountain Regional Office’s efforts to bring the USPTO’s resources directly to the local innovation community, helping to fuel economic growth and innovation in the region, as well as oversee the local team of patent examiners and PTAB judges.   Molly is an established IP leader in the Rocky Mountain region, having served as the Chair of the Intellectual Property Section of the Colorado Bar Association and currently on the Colorado Bar Association’s Board of Governors. Moreover, Molly brings to bear more than 20 years of experience in intellectual property. Most recently, she was the Senior Patent Counsel for Oracle America, Inc. in Denver, responsible for managing an active patent prosecution docket and all of the post-grant PTAB proceedings and patent investigations for Oracle and its subsidiaries. Prior to Oracle, she worked at Qwest Corporation and was in private practice both in New York and in Colorado focusing on intellectual property litigation for multiple high-tech companies while maintaining an active prosecution docket.  Her extensive experience and familiarity with the region’s unique ecosystem of industries and stakeholders will be an asset to the USPTO. 

Molly joins a group of exceptional office directors already in place, including Hope Shimabuku, Director of our Texas Regional Office in Dallas, whom I recently swore in on January 3, Christal Sheppard, Director of the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit, and John Cabeca, Director of the West Coast Regional Office in Silicon Valley.

The establishment of four USPTO regional offices fulfills a commitment dating to September 16, 2011, when President Obama signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act into law. These offices serve their region’s innovation and intellectual property communities and put tools into the hands of individuals who need assistance at every step of the business lifecycle. I am proud of the historic progress we have made over the last four years in establishing and growing these offices, and as we continue to bring resources to the doorsteps of innovators and serve entrepreneurs from coast to coast.

All of our offices will continue to hire talented and dedicated professionals to join their teams. For more information about openings, go to www.usajobs.gov, keyword: USPTO.

Wednesday Dec 30, 2015

Power and Systems Update

Guest blog by Deputy Director Russell Slifer

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of our stakeholders and employees for their patience and support as we worked to repair USPTO operations to full functionality. I also want to extend our sincere appreciation to the hundreds of employees, contractors, and service providers who have been working around the clock, through the holidays, to restore operation of thousands of servers, network switches, firewalls, databases, and their connections.

The USPTO contracts, through service providers, for clean uninterrupted power from state of the art, redundant, uninterrupted power supplies for our data systems. On December 22, both of these power supplies were damaged, resulting in a complete power outage to our data systems. Analysis of the damage over the last week confirms our earlier assessments and eliminates any concerns of foul play. We will take this opportunity to work with our service providers to ensure that lessons are learned and improvements are made.

We regret that any interruption occurred, and we strive to provide service equal to the best in government and industry. The USPTO continues to invest in improving our IT systems and many of these improvements allowed the agency to bounce back more quickly. I am proud to say that the USPTO teams returned operation to many systems as early as the next day, successfully restored data from our backup systems, and made all the necessary hardware repairs to return to nearly 100 percent operations by December 28th. Thanks to the tireless dedication of so many people, the USPTO is again operating on an uninterrupted power supply.

Tuesday Dec 15, 2015

USPTO Releases its FY 2015 Performance and Accountability Report (PAR)

Guest Blog by Tony Scardino, Chief Financial Officer

I’m pleased to announce that the USPTO has published its Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for fiscal year (FY) 2015.  The PAR serves as the USPTO’s annual report, similar to what private sector companies prepare for their shareholders.  Each year the USPTO publishes this report to update the public on our performance and financial health.

Our PAR charts the agency’s progress toward meeting goals outlined in our 2014-2018 USPTO Strategic Plan: optimizing patent quality and timeliness; optimizing trademark quality and timeliness; and providing domestic and global leadership to improve intellectual property policy, protection, and enforcement worldwide.  These goals govern the quality and quantity of our service to intellectual property stakeholders.  In addition, the PAR provides information on the USPTO’s progress towards a broader management goal:  achieving organizational excellence.

Here at the USPTO, we take pride in producing a PAR that meets the highest standards of transparency, quality, and accountability.  The PAR contains a wealth of data and historical information of interest to our stakeholders, including data on patent and trademark examining activities, application filings, and agency staffing levels.  This information is conveniently presented in the Workload Tables section at the end of the PAR.

On the issue of financial performance, FY 2015 marks the 23nd consecutive year that the USPTO’s financial statements have received an unmodified audit opinion.  Our clean audit opinion gives the public independent assurance that the information presented in the agency’s financial statements is fairly presented and follows generally accepted accounting principles.  In addition, the auditors reported no material weaknesses in the USPTO’s internal controls, and no instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations affecting the financial statements.

While the PAR is a record of our achievements, it is also an honest discussion of the challenges we face as an agency moving forward in FY 2016.  Among our numerous challenges and opportunities, we will continue efforts in:  managing the transition to a steady-state operation as the patent business comes closer to achieving its pendency and inventory targets; establishing an Office of the Deputy Commissioner to ensure that the growing Trademark organization has the resources and knowledge it needs to continue to modernize; attaining and maintaining full sustainable funding in an era of increased budgetary pressures; and providing IT support for a nationwide workforce with a “24/7/365” operational capability.

The PAR is a faithful snapshot of the USPTO’s FY 2015 performance.  I hope you find value in this document, and that it allows you to glean greater insights into the agency’s activities and achievements.

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