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Wednesday May 15, 2019

Spotlight on Commerce: Charles Kim, Director of the Office of Petitions

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

Charles Kim

Charles Kim, Director of the Office of Petitions. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

As the Director of the Office of Petitions, I oversee a talented group of petitions examiners, attorneys, and paralegals that review over 45 different types of petitions and issue approximately 40,000 petition decisions per year. By issuing high quality and timely petition decisions, the Office of Petitions supports the USPTO’s strategic goal of optimizing patent timeliness and helps to promote the reliability and predictability of patent rights.

I was born in Seoul, South Korea. My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was four years old.  Like many Asian American and Pacific Islander (and other immigrants) parents, my parents sought to provide a brighter future for their children. With limited financial means and even more limited ability to speak English, my parents understood the uncertainties and challenges that lie ahead. However, they believed that providing their children with better opportunities was worth the risk of leaving behind their families and friends, and venturing out into the unknown. 
When we first arrived in Queens, New York, my parents only had about $500 and a Korean-English dictionary. Shortly after we arrived, my father found a job at a local grocery store and my mother started working at a clothing manufacturing company. They worked long, hard hours, but eventually saved enough money to start their own business.  We moved to New Jersey when I was about ten years old.

After graduating from high school in New Jersey, I attended Rutgers University, where I earned a B.S. degree in electrical engineering.  During my senior year at Rutgers, I saw a newsletter on a table as I walking through the hallway in one of the engineering buildings. The front page of the newsletter had the headline, “The USPTO is Hiring Talented Engineers.” I applied, and a couple of months later, I started my first full-time job as a patent examiner examining applications relating to image analysis.

While working as a patent examiner, I obtained my law degree from George Washington University Law School. After graduating from law school, I was selected as a Supervisory Patent Examiner in the Computer Architecture and Software Technology Center. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve on career development details at the Office of Patent Legal Administration and the Office of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. Immediately prior to my current role, I served for two years as a Senior Advisor to the Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy.

Charles Kim providing an overview of petitions practice to IP students vising from KAIST University.

Charles Kim providing an overview of petitions practice to IP students visiting from KAIST University.

One of the biggest motivating factors for me is when I look back and think about the sacrifices that my parents made so that I could have a brighter future. I am determined to succeed so that their sacrifices were not in vain.  I suspect that this is not a unique motivating factor for many 1.5 generation Asian American and Pacific Islanders (Note that the term “1.5 generation” refers to people who immigrated to the U.S. as children).  And in many ways, this is what Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month means to me. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportunity to reflect on the perseverance, sacrifice, and hard work of the many Asian American and Pacific Islanders that came before me to help build the foundation for future Asian American and Pacific Islander generations to become successful leaders across business and government, and to continue to advance our great nation.

One quote that has had a meaningful impact on my leadership approach is attributed to Peggy Focarino, the former Commissioner for Patents. During her retirement ceremony, Peggy stated that it is important to recognize “Mission First; People Always.” This phrase has stuck with me because it reminds me that regardless of your organization or your title, the one thing that is common (and most important) to all leaders is the people (that they lead).

My advice for those starting their career is to motivate yourself to step outside of your comfort zone.  Picture your comfort zone as a circle. If you position yourself slightly outside the circle, your circle (i.e., comfort zone) will eventually grow. By continuing to stay slightly outside the circle, you will experience continuous growth and improvement, which is a recipe for success! 

Monday May 06, 2019

Commerce Secretary Ross Honors 2019 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees at the National Building Museum

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

Secretary Ross at NIHF Induction Ceremony

Secretary Ross spoke at the National Inventors Hall of Fame induction ceremony on May 2, 2019 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross joined the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in inducting nineteen of America’s greatest inventors into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) which was held at the historic National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. At the event, Secretary Ross addressed the important role that innovation plays in transforming and advancing our society.

Television personality Danica McKellar moderated the event, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu delivered remarks, and Director Iancu presented induction medals. Nine living inventors were inducted, and another ten were named posthumously.

The inductees’ patented innovations revolutionized their industries and changed people’s lives. Those honored included Chieko Asakawa for creating accessible technology for visually disabled individuals; David Walt for developing microwell arrays that could analyze thousands of genes simultaneously; and S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker for laying the foundation for the modern power tool industry with their invention of the portable hand-held electric drill.

At the ceremony, Secretary Ross stated, “For those being inducted today, we greatly admire your grit in persevering through the trials and errors needed to turn your ideas into reality, and for your contributions to humanity.” Read Secretary Ross' full remarks.

USPTO Director Iancu stated, “When we humans harness that most unique of human qualities—the power to reason, to work together, to invent, to create—we are capable of the most remarkable things. That is what inventors do, and that is what we celebrate tonight.” Read Director Iancu’s full remarks.

In partnership with the USPTO, the National Inventors Hall of Fame has impacted 2.2 million children, educators, college students, and inventors since 1990, and 200,000 in 2018 alone. 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. NIHF was established in 1973 to honor U.S. patent holders whose inventions created new industries that employ millions of people and helped to stimulate economic growth for our nation and beyond.

View a complete list of the honorees and the stories behind their inventions online.

Friday Apr 26, 2019

Celebrating World IP Day

World IP Day image

By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu

Every year on April 26, we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day. Established by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2000, World IP Day highlights the importance of intellectual property in our lives around the globe. This year’s theme is "Reach for the Gold: IP and Sports.”

Inventions have revolutionized sports. From the athletic shoe and protective helmet, to materials like VELCRO®, LYCRA®, and ASTROTURF®, sports inventions have helped improve the speed, accuracy, and safety of athletes everywhere. Now, technological advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are fueling change in sports. And, perhaps even more exciting, these advances often have applications not only in sports, but in other industries as well.

Consider Stan Honey, who was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame last year for his unique augmented-reality tools. He holds over 30 U.S. patents and is the creator of the navigation and tracking technology behind the Virtual Yellow 1st & Ten® line superimposed over the playing field on television and other graphics used across a wide variety of sports. Learn more about how Stan Honey came up with the idea of the first down line or visit the interactive 1st and Ten® Line Stadium exhibit at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum at the USPTO headquarters.

Across the country, the USPTO is holding a number of World IP Day events. Last week, I participated in several such events in California, including a discussion at the University of California San Diego on innovation and sports, featuring Bill Walton, retired basketball player, television sportscaster, and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Walton is currently the executive chairman of San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI), a non-profit, business-accelerating, trade organization that connects and drives the growth of Southern California's vibrant sports economy.

At the USPTO earlier this week, Deputy Director Laura Peter interviewed entrepreneur and former professional football player Shawn Springs. After seeing first-hand the risks associated with head injuries and concussions in football, Springs thought the head protection used in car seats for children could have a much wider application. He founded the company Windpact, which uses his patented Crash Cloud® technology in helmets, with air-filled compartments that compress upon impact and then refill with air to regain their space. This technology has applications in football and other sports, as well as the automotive and military sectors.

And, on April 29, we will be holding our annual celebration of World IP Day on Capitol Hill, where we will be joined by members of Congress and sports companies. This year the keynote speaker is Dr. Phil Wagner, CEO of Sparta Science, whose force-plate technology helps predict injury risks for athletes. A strength coach and former rugby player, Dr. Wagner developed the Sparta System, which uses artificial intelligence technology to capture a personalized body scan. The scan can then identify areas prone to injury and prescribe personalized training programs to correct weaknesses. The Sparta System is already being deployed among college athletes and professionals and is also used by the military.

At the USPTO, we have the opportunity to celebrate creativity and innovation every day, and to see the cutting-edge technologies that inventors and entrepreneurs bring through our doors. These innovations will continue to play an even bigger role in the future, and they remind us of the inspiring power of invention and intellectual property, and their importance in driving our innovation economy.

Tuesday Apr 16, 2019

USPTO employees give back through the Combined Federal Campaign

By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu

From left: Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter, USPTO CFC Campaign Manager LaShawn Fortune, and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu. Photo courtesy of Amando Carigo/USPTO.

Every year, federal government workers nationwide join in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) to donate funds and volunteer time to thousands of local, national, and global charities. The recently concluded 2018 campaign, which ran from September 10, 2018 to February 22, 2019, was no exception, and I want to publically commend the employees of the USPTO for continuing their proud tradition of giving.

The CFC is a 57-year federal tradition that has raised more than $8 billion for charitable organizations. It is one of the world's largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaigns, with 36 CFC zones throughout the country and overseas raising millions of dollars each year. In the 2018 campaign, the total amount raised was over $35 million and participants pledged more than 56,000 volunteer hours.

The USPTO was honored to be the lead agency for the entire Department of Commerce (DOC) during the campaign. Under the guidance of the USPTO CFC Campaign Manager LaShawn Fortune, Deputy Campaign Manager Alexa Neckel, and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s Troy Tyler, who served as campaign manager for the Department of Commerce, we raised more than $1.1 million, or roughly 45 percent of department’s total contribution. This is incredibly impressive!

I was proud to see that our agency, which is charged with protecting and promoting innovation, itself put innovation into practice for this campaign. The USPTO’s campaign combined special events, videos, custom graphics, employee testimonials, and regular agency-wide promotions on behalf of those in need. Via the USPTO Weekly, employees shared their personal CFC cause, from local food banks and after school programs to raising awareness of, and finding cures for cancer and HIV/AIDS.

This creative determination earned Campaign Manager Fortune as an individual and the USPTO as a whole CFC Innovation Awards, which go to “the department, agency or campaign manager that implemented new and creative practices that resulted in increased contributions, participation, or education about the CFC.”
During the CFC charity fair we held in December, employees had the chance to learn firsthand about the great charities involved in the campaign. In addition, we found that charities benefited from meeting each other. For example, at the fair, a charity that sent regular support shipments to Africa met a charity that made inexpensive but critical light sources for people in Africa that was having issues reducing shipping costs. Through some conversation, they decided to work together so that the light manufacturer could add his product to the other’s support shipments for little to no cost.

From the beginning, the USPTO’s campaign emphasized how there are people all across the nation and the world, who need just a little help. A small donation can fund tutoring and job training sessions, provide food and shelter, help wounded veterans, bring adoptive families together, and so much more. The CFC gives us a chance to pull together and help each other to reach new heights, and we look forward to doing so again in the 2019 campaign.

Thank you for your contributions and hard work.

Monday Mar 25, 2019

Spotlight on Commerce: Laura Peter, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO

Blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

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

Guest blog post by Laura Peter, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Deputy Director Laura Peter

Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

This past November, I was appointed Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and since then I have been actively supporting our agency priorities and working with our high-caliber employees.

Deputy Director Laura Peter swearing in

Deputy Director Laura Peter (right) is sworn in by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu on November 14, 2018. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO) 

I grew up in California and pursued math and science from a young age. My father was a vice president at Hughes Aircraft Company, and when I was a young girl they were launching the first geosynchronous satellites into orbit. So when I was about three years old, I decided I wanted to be an astronaut! I have since learned that I don't like heights very much, and so, being an astronaut was not in my future. I was also interested in puzzles and mathematics, and that naturally led into engineering.

I always had a very strong interest in technology and policy, so when I finished my engineering degree at Cornell University, I went on to the University of Chicago and received my master's in public policy studies. I was interested in how legislation and policies should be developed in light of changing technology, and eventually I became a full-time lawyer. After practicing in the private sector for many years, I came to the USPTO – returning full circle to actualize the dream that I dreamt so many years ago.

The level of diversity at the USPTO is amazing, and this agency has done a phenomenal job of encouraging people from all walks of life to join the USPTO community to pursue their careers. Coming from the world of intellectual property in Silicon Valley where I was often the only woman in the room, this is especially refreshing and something the private sector could learn from. 

Deputy Director Laura Peter meets with members of the Supervisory Patent Examiner and Classifiers Organization in her office. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

One issue that is tremendously important to the USPTO is increasing the number of women inventors and expanding the innovation ecosphere. According to a study published last month by our Office of the Chief Economist, women inventors comprised only twelve percent of all inventors on patents in 2016. This needs to change!

In addition, there have been so many women inventors throughout history that we don’t talk about enough. For example, take National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee Harriet Strong, whose inventions in water storage in 1887 enabled the construction of the Hoover Dam, or Hedy Lamarr, who patented a frequency-hopping technique that paved the way for developments in modern wireless communications. Especially during Women’s History Month, but really all throughout the year, one of the most important things we can do is share stories of women inventors, past and present, who can serve as role models for all women and help inspire them to create and innovate.

Many people have pushed me to excel and take chances throughout my life -- from my math teacher in elementary school encouraging me to take an advanced math class, to my choir teacher insisting that I sing the solo. My mother always told me “When something doesn’t work out, try something else, and then try something else, and never give up.” And I truly believe in this.

The most important advice I would give to other women is: 1) be in the room and participate, and 2) do not give anyone an excuse to take you out of the running -- build your resume, get that advanced degree, and make yourself the strongest candidate you can be.

Friday Mar 08, 2019

International Women’s Day: Celebrating women in innovation

By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu

The United States has a rich history of women whose ingenuity, creativity, and inventions have inspired us, motivated us, and dramatically improved our lives. The stories of these remarkable women speak to the world about the vital role they play when it comes to innovation, and how we must continue our work to unleash the untapped potential of women.

At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), we regularly showcase the stories of inventors and entrepreneurs whose groundbreaking creations have made a positive difference in the world. Many of these stories have shared the amazing impact women have made across diverse fields.

For example, in December 2018, Frances Arnold became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work in harnessing the power of evolution. Motivated by the desire to do chemistry in a clean and efficient way, her efforts led to the creation of a new field called “directed evolution.” In the 30 years since she first developed this technology, she has also mentored more than 200 students and been involved in multiple start-ups based on her work.

Frances Arnold receives the Nobel Prize

Frances Arnold receives her Nobel Prize from H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall. Photo courtesy of ©Nobel Media AB/Alexander Mahmoud.

Other extraordinary female inventors include Cherry Murray, who developed lab-on-a-chip and telecommunications devices, and Irina Buhimschi, who developed a life-saving diagnostic test for preeclampsia. The contributions by women such as Sarah Breedlove also stand out. Born in 1867, Breedlove invented a line of hair-care products specifically designed to meet the needs of African American women at the age of 20. She went on to become the first self-made female millionaire in the history of our country.

Inventor Sarah Breedlove

Inventor Sarah Breedlove. Photo courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

This May, the National Inventors Hall of Fame will induct another two women in partnership with the USPTO. Chieko Asakawa invented the first practical voice browser, providing internet access for visually impaired users, while Rebecca Richards-Kortum developed low-cost, high-performance medical technologies for low-income communities.

Throughout the history of our country, women have helped spearhead astounding leaps in science and technology. The USPTO will continue to recognize and celebrate these women whose stories have inspired the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs.

Wednesday Feb 06, 2019

Talking IP in the Windy City: The push for innovation and effective IP protection

Guest blog by Damian Porcari, Director of the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office

Innovation and the effective protection of intellectual property (IP) rights are vital to the economic health of communities across our country. This is especially so in the Midwest where, as regional director of the USPTO’s Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit, I see the output of American entrepreneurs and inventors, and work with them to protect their valuable IP.

As the USPTO’s newest regional director, I am making my way across the Midwest to engage with our key stakeholders, who include small business owners, independent inventors, entrepreneurs, and local officials, among others. In December, I met with various business groups and IP stakeholders when I joined several of the USPTO’s IP attachés as they conducted a series of outreach activities in the Chicago area.

The IP attachés — who are diplomats currently posted to 10 U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world — work to improve IP systems internationally to benefit U.S. stakeholders. They do this by working with foreign officials to address a wide variety of IP-related issues that arise in their respective regions, and by offering assistance to U.S. companies who encounter problems protecting their IP rights.
Each year, the IP attachés travel home to the United States, as part of their ongoing effort both to learn about the concerns of inventors and businesses and to make them more aware of the international aspects of IP protection and the role of the IP attachés. In December, Chicago was one of their destinations, and I joined the attachés when they visited business incubator mHUB.

USPTO IP attaches visit the United States in December 2018

The USPTO’s IP attachés during their visit to the United States in December 2018. Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO.

Located at a former Motorola Mobility prototyping center, mHUB opened its doors in 2017 with help from private industry and the city of Chicago. It brings together a unique co-working community of product designers, developers, entrepreneurs, engineers, and manufacturers.

According to mHUB’s lead for programming, Cynthia Macias, the facility works to foster connections: “At mHUB, we are focused on creating the conditions for product innovation to thrive. This includes reducing cost and barriers associated with entrepreneurship that prevent so many talented innovators from taking the leap. We foster connections between local manufacturers, university researchers, and the blooming entrepreneurial community of makers and innovators in the Midwest. This ecosystem ensures the Midwest region’s manufacturing industry continues to grow, lead, and reduce the cost and barriers to entry for physical product innovation.”

One of the highlights of our visit was a presentation the IP attachés gave on the basics of protecting and enforcing one’s creations and inventions abroad, and a follow-up discussion which I joined regarding various aspects of innovation.

Damian Porcari speaks to mUB

Damian Porcari, Director of the USPTO’s Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit, speaks at the Chicago incubator, mHUB, during a visit he and several of the USPTO’s IP attachés made to the facility on December 4, 2018.

“The information our member companies gained from the IP attachés was extremely valuable and will help them understand the procedures to submit and process patents and trademarks in various regions around the world,” said Jenna Feldman, programs coordinator at mHUB. “Every participant has or will have a product that’ll be sold in at least one of the attachés’ markets, so they were able to seek answers most relevant to their business. In addition, the participants learned that the USPTO is more than just an entity, but a resource with a wide range of services to help entrepreneurs.”

It was gratifying to hear that during its relatively short time in existence mHUB has already helped a number of companies achieve success. These include such innovators as Cast21, a developer of unique bone-mending aids that can replace casts; OrbitMuse, a platform for space entrepreneurship; and Guardhat, a smart hard-hat designed to protect workers in factories, plants, construction sites, oil rigs, and mines.

The importance of IP to small innovative firms such as these cannot be understated: There is a large body of research showing that startup firms with patents, for example, are likelier to continue receiving venture capital funding, experience greater growth in employment and investor returns, and have a higher rate of firm survival.

Our visit to mHUB underlined the critical role that the USPTO plays in supporting the efforts of these innovative startups, by helping them protect their valuable IP both here and abroad. Learn more about the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program.

Thursday Jan 31, 2019

USPTO releases 2018 Performance and Accountability Report

Guest Blog by Chief Financial Officer Tony Scardino

I’m pleased to announce that the USPTO has published its Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for fiscal year (FY) 2018. 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 FY 2018 PAR charts the agency’s progress toward meeting goals outlined in our 2014-2018 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. In addition, the PAR provides information on the USPTO’s progress towards a broader management goal:  achieving organizational excellence.  These goals drive the quality and quantity of our service to intellectual property stakeholders over the last five years.

Quote by President Abraham Lincoln on the patent system

Quote by President Abraham Lincoln on the patent system, as displayed on the Herbert C. Hoover federal building in Washington D.C., headquarters of the U.S. Department of Commerce

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 under our new 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, which was published in November. We will continue efforts to issue predictable and reliable patents; continue implementation of the patent dispute resolution portions of the America Invents Act (AIA), including ensuring that procedures and standards are balanced and predictable; monitor and help address dynamic IP issues in Congress and the Courts; maintain the high and sustained trademark performance level in the face of significant trademark application growth rates; improve the customer experience and develop outreach at both headquarters and regional offices; expand on dissemination of data; maintain sustainable funding; and ensure our IT systems enable our nationwide workforce to serve our customers with a “24/7/365” operational capability.

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 2018 marks the 26th 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. The auditors did note a deficiency in our internal controls related to managing and configuring IT system access. We have already begun developing plans to address the auditor’s concerns. Despite this deficiency, the auditor found no material weaknesses in the USPTO’s internal controls, and no instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations affecting the financial statements.

The PAR is a faithful snapshot of the USPTO’s FY 2018 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.

Monday Nov 19, 2018

A tribute to veterans

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

There are currently more than 20 million U.S. veterans, over 1.2 million men and women serving on active duty in our Armed Forces and another 800,000 in the reserves. Many millions more have served in uniform since the birth of our nation, in peacetime and war. Behind every one of them is a story – of struggle, perseverance, camaraderie, triumph, and sometimes even tragedy.

At the USPTO, we are committed to working with veterans who are transitioning or have recently transitioned from active duty. One way we do this is through our highly successful Veteran Hiring Program. In fiscal year 2018, 8% of new patent examiner hires and 17% of all other new hires were veterans or transitioning service members. Since the program began in 2012, we’ve hired approximately 800 veterans or transitioning service members. Once at the USPTO, we continue to provide a support network through the USPTO Military Association, an affinity group comprised of veterans, spouses of veterans, and employees who support our veterans and those still serving in the reserves.

Photos from the Veterans Keepsake Project
Clockwise from top left: Keepsakes from USPTO employees Mary Capodice, Troy Tyler, Dean Dominique, and Cevilla Randle. Photos by Jay Premack/USPTO.

At the end of October, we unveiled our Veterans Keepsake Project, a photography exhibit highlighting stories and keepsakes of military service from USPTO employees and their loved ones. The intention of this effort was to take something so large and important like the millions of veterans who have served and are serving our nation, and find the individual stories within. The end results are personal and emotional accounts from USPTO employees that foster a reverence for service and sacrifice.

On November 8, Lieutenant General David Halverson, U.S. Army, Ret., gave remarks at the USPTO’s annual Veterans Day ceremony. Before the event began, we toured the exhibit, and in the process we met many of the subjects in the photographs. Lieutenant General Halverson remarked on the power of stories and shared one of his own.

Lt.Gen. David Halverson speaks to a USPTO employee in front of the veteran keepsake gallery.
Lt. Gen. David Halverson speaks to USPTO employee Anthony Twitty about his keepsakes. Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO.

After his parents had both passed, he read the letters his father had sent to his mother during World War II. “That was a whole different man than I had ever grown up with. He never talked about his experiences in the Pacific on the landing craft. He never talked about it being hit by a Kamakazi. He never talked about him with all of the beach heads he had to hit as a gunner as people went there for maybe the last time in their life - all scared, all not knowing - but he put that in words and thoughts of the commitment to the love of my mother, why he was fighting, and the hope that he had to come home.”

I encourage everyone to stop by and view the Veterans Keepsake Project through December 3, located on the concourse level of the Madison building on the east side of the auditorium at our headquarters in Alexandria. If you are unable to come in person, you can also view the photographs on the Veterans Keepsake Project page of the USPTO website. Also featured at the USPTO is the Visionary Veterans® exhibit at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I, focusing on stories of five WWI veterans responsible for innovations that continue to benefit our world.

It is important to remember and tell the stories of those who serve and who have fallen. As Theodore Roosevelt said in 1910, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Thursday Nov 08, 2018

Passage of the Music Modernization Act

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

Top down photo of a record player on a grey background.
The institutional knowledge of the USPTO spans beyond patents and trademarks and provides a resource to other government bodies on many aspects of intellectual property, such as music copyrights.  


As part of our work here at the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) we also provide deep expertise that can help advise other government bodies on all aspects of intellectual property. As significant legislation was passed by Congress over the past few weeks on a host of IP issues, we stood ready to help and offer further guidance.

First, on October 11, President Trump signed the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act. This bi-partisan bill passed both chambers of Congress unanimously. The new Act updates copyright law to reflect the realities of music licensing in the digital age and also seeks to adequately compensate legacy artists and music producers for the fruits of their labor.

The law combines three separate music copyright bills: the Music Modernization Act (MMA), the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act, and the Allocation for Music Producers (AMP) Act. Title I, the Musical Works Modernization Act, creates a blanket license for the reproduction and distribution of musical works by digital music providers who engage in digital streaming, and creates a new entity to administer the license and distribute royalties. Title II, the CLASSICS Act, brings pre-1972 sound recordings into the federal copyright system. Before this legislation, performers like Smokey Robinson did not have to be compensated for performances of songs like “Shop Around” or “I Second that Emotion.” Finally, Title III, the AMP Act, helps to compensate music producers by codifying and improving an already existing process for royalty payments to be distributed.

I was pleased to attend and represent the USPTO at the signing ceremony for this legislation developed during multiple sessions of Congress. Throughout its development, USPTO staff was able to contribute to make this landmark law a reality – among other things, providing technical assistance to Congress, facilitating public forums at which music stakeholders discussed marketplace challenges, and producing reports for the Department of Commerce that identified online licensing problems to be addressed.

President Trump recently also signed legislation implementing the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The Marrakesh Treaty aims to reduce the global shortage of print materials in accessible formats for the many millions of Americans and others throughout the world who are blind or visually impaired. This Treaty meaningfully increases the number of books available to this under-served population. In addition to its work on MMA, the USPTO helped in negotiating the treaty in 2013 and then assisting with the drafting of legislation to implement its terms.

Congratulations to the copyright community and all who have worked tirelessly for years on these significant accomplishments.

Wednesday Oct 24, 2018

A look at our new homepage features

A guest blog by USPTO's Chief Communications Officer Chris Shipp

Our commitment to customer service includes having a user friendly and valuable website. To that end, you may have noticed the USPTO.gov homepage has a new look and improved features. For starters, if you are one of the 20 percent of users who visit USPTO.gov on a mobile device you should find the homepage easier to read and navigate.

A screenshot showing some features of the new USPTO Homepage such as the "find it fast" feature.

Of course, we didn’t stop at mobile compatibility. If you are an independent inventor, entrepreneur, or a junior attorney, our “New to IP” section is for you. It links to practical and important basic educational resources about the USPTO. For visitors who know exactly what they are looking for, we have expanded the “Quick Links” section and renamed it “Find it Fast.” This feature provides direct links to our most popular Patent and Trademark Tools. A “Find it Fast” button also appears at the top of every subpage.

To me, the most exciting feature of the new homepage is the “Journeys of Innovation” section. Each month we will highlight a new innovator story there. Currently, we are featuring Steve Katsaros, an inventor who is changing lives in the developing world. “Journeys of Innovation” provides an inviting and inspiring starting point for the USPTO.gov site. More importantly, it illuminates remarkable stories of American innovation and entrepreneurship.

a screenshot of the "Journeys of Innovation" section of the new USPTO.gov homepage.

You will also find a variety of tabs to guide you toward the latest USPTO news and upcoming public events. The lower section of the page highlights other ways to interact with us. Some examples include the Director’s blog, upcoming events, and educational multimedia. You can subscribe to much of the content offered in these sections so you never miss an important update or event.

We made these changes based on your feedback, with the needs of our many customers in mind. At the USPTO, we know that improvement is a continuous endeavor. So, I invite you to share your thoughts about the new homepage either below or directly to the Office of the Chief Communications Officer.

Monday Oct 15, 2018

Talking tech with USPTO’s Acting Deputy Chief Information Officer Debbie Stephens

By Adrienne Cox, Marketing and Communications, Office of the Chief Information Officer

Photo portrait of USPTO's Deputy CIO Debbie Stephens

To be a technology executive these days is both challenging and exhilarating. More and more, chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers(CTOs) are shaping the technology agenda, driving new IT investments, and fine-tuning teams. With vast amounts of data and new digital tools, CIOs and CTOs are helping guide transformational change in the digital age.

It is no secret that diversity is essential for innovation. While progress continues on this front, a gender gap remains in the tech industry. Through initiatives and partnerships like All in Stem and Camp Invention, the USPTO encourages girls and young women to pursue STEM careers.

I caught up with the USPTO’s Acting Deputy CIO Debbie Stephens to talk about what inspires her and some new items on the IT agenda.

[Adrienne Cox] Over the course of your career, what were some key elements to your success?

[Debbie Stephens] I am a continual learner. I not only learn a great deal from my mentees (both those older and younger), but I know that when you lift others up, help them go further, and make them a part of something bigger than themselves, we all benefit.

[AC] What are some projects underway at the USPTO that have you most excited?

[DS] Artificial Intelligence (AI) will increasingly be a strategic asset for our enterprise and part of our innovation playbook. We kicked off an AI initiative with a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public input on how AI could help fuel efficiencies in patent search. AI is the primary focus, but we are also interested in seeing how other advanced technologies like quantum computing, machine learning, and natural language processing can help.

We also have a tremendous ecommerce effort underway. EFS-Web or Private PAIR users now have a new, more secure, and simpler log-in for their USPTO.gov accounts. A migration tool is now available to link accounts and give customers a new way to gain access to multiple USPTO systems with one sign-in process. The new log-in method, replacing the digital certificate, not only saves time, but also prepares users for the transition to our next generation tool for electronic patent application filing and retrieval, Patent Center, coming in 2020.  

[AC] The USPTO regularly has job openings for IT professionals. What are you looking for in potential candidates—what are the skills most in demand now for our teams?

[DS] We need the core skills listed in any job opening, of course. But more than that, curiosity and tenacity are critical for us to innovate.

[AC] What has been your favorite moment in your time at the USPTO?

[DS] One of the most exciting moments for me was reaching the Patent 10 Million milestone. All organizational silos disappeared as the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Procurement, Patents, Office of the Chief Communications Officer, Office of General Law, and Office of Patent Information Management—six different groups—collaborated in a never-before effort to ensure the success of this historic program for the USPTO.

[AC] What are you passionate about—besides technology for business value?

[DS] Leadership. I am a perennial student of leadership, and am currently reading Simon Sinek on the power of why. Next up is John Maxwell’s latest book on leadership, focused on how to unlock one’s potential as a leader.

Transformation in an organization needs ideas and energy from everyone. Leaders can set the agenda, but we don’t always have all the answers. So often, our colleagues are the source of insights, helping us see new dimensions in any issue. When you’re building systems as complicated as the ones we are, people need each other! 

Friday Oct 12, 2018

Spotlight on Commerce: Nestor Ramirez, Technology Center Director, USPTO

Blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

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

Guest blog post by Nestor Ramirez, Technology Center Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Nestor Ramirez

Technology Center Director Nestor Ramirez

The United States Patent and Trademark Office is one of those amazing places in government you may not be familiar with. The Patent Examining Corps, in particular, is filled with over 9,000 scientists, engineers and other professionals who labor every day to reward our nation’s drive for creativity and innovation and in turn contribute to the development of our economy.
I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At the urging of my parents, I decided to seek my college degree in the mainland U.S. where I obtained a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Florida Tech. I certainly did not know much about the Patent Office until they came to visit my school campus about 29 years ago. I signed up for an interview and shortly afterwards, got an offer. Getting a job at the USPTO was, of course, the first opportunity this agency would give me but it would not be the last. At that point, I knew one thing, I was heading to Washington D.C. to begin my career at the USPTO!

I started working as a Junior Patent Examiner examining applications in photocopying machines. As an examiner, I saw the transition of an entire industry into the digital age. I saw them transition from basic analog machines into systems with digital capabilities. I saw the proliferation of image editing, color capabilities and the advent of ink jet and laser printers. Fellow examiners in other groups were seeing patent applications on digital cameras, cell phones, televisions and millions of other inventions that would eventually change the world we live in. Most great inventions start with a patent and working at the USPTO gave me the opportunity to see technological innovation up close.

Whether you examine patent applications or work on any other branch of government as federal workers in general, we have the opportunity to help the United States become a more prosperous nation. Every single day we have the opportunity to make a difference!

Throughout my career, I got the opportunity to serve as a managing partner in charge of overseeing the USPTO’s transition to a paperless environment. I got the opportunity to expand my education and mentor hundreds of examiners and see them grow into successful professionals. I got the opportunity to become the first Hispanic Senior Executive in the USPTO helping shape the future of this office. I also got the opportunity to join the ComSci Fellowship Program participating on a one year assignment to the Executive Office of the President where I was assigned to the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the White House and served as the Executive Director of the National Science and Technology Council. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I never ever thought that someday I would shake hands with a President of the United States.

Today, we celebrate our Hispanic culture and heritage and recognize the many contributions Hispanic Americans have made to our nation. We come from many different backgrounds; South American, Central American and the Caribbean, we have very diverse histories, and very strong ties to family and to our ancestral homelands. We are an integral part of the diverse fiber of this country. We have had a significant role in our nation’s history and will have an even greater role in shaping its future. We are embracing that responsibility.

As I reflect on my experience, I have enjoyed the benefits of opportunities and most importantly, I see the promise of opportunities for our future generations, opportunities for a great career, and opportunities to make a difference. The Department of Commerce and its bureaus and offices provide vital services to our nation and they are brimming with opportunities for future generations to enjoy a bright career and a prosperous future. Opportunities are out there and it is up to us to take advantage of them.

Friday Sep 21, 2018

Constitution Week at the USPTO

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

 The top half of a USPTO Patent which reads the words "To promote the progress of science and useful arts"

The newly designed patent cover, unveiled in March of this year and used for the first time with the issuance of patent number 10 million, features a passage from Article 1 Section 8 Clause 8 of the Constitution, "To promote the progress of science and useful arts..." Photo by Jeff Isaacs/USPTO

On September 14, President Trump issued a Proclamation on Constitution Day, Citizenship Day, and Constitution Week, 2018. Our Founding Fathers recognized the important role intellectual property plays in promoting “the progress of science and useful arts…” and growing a vibrant economy. And so, at the USPTO we are proud to draw our mission and mandate from Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution.

As our citizens recover from devastating floods and storm damage in the Carolinas and elsewhere, I am reminded how blessed we are that our nation is built on such a strong foundation as the U.S. Constitution. Among countless other benefits, it provides a legislative body that can approve storm relief funding and an executive branch that can provide resources to rescue those in dire need. And, I think of all the remarkable technology that warned us of this storm, kept many safe as it raged, and continues to save lives in its aftermath—technology that would not exist without the freedom to apply the innovative spirit of the American people to serious challenges and problems.

Which is why it is a wonderful thing for our nation to pause and consider the importance of the Constitution. It is even better that the work of this agency lets us consider that significance every day. Indeed, the USPTO is among the most suitable of places to celebrate it, every day, as we work through the process that provides inventors and entrepreneurs the IP protections promised by this historic, cornerstone document.

Of course, while at the USPTO we are a bit partial to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, we know the entirety of the U.S. Constitution is a remarkable document, as the USPTO Military Association reminded us when passing out pocket-sized copies of the Constitution on our Alexandria campus this week. I hope that wherever you are or whatever you are doing, you find a way to celebrate the amazing freedoms and protections provided by our Constitution.

Monday Aug 06, 2018

A conversation with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the 2018 Trademark Expo

Guest blog by Linda Hosler, Deputy Program Manager for USPTO partnerships

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sits across from interviewer smiling and gesturing with his hands.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NBA legend, businessman, and a registered trademark  owner, shared his thoughts on African American inventors and the importance of intellectual property with the USPTO’s Linda Hosler on July 27. In his brief interview with the USPTO, Abdul-Jabbar said, “… science, technology, engineering and math really are the foundation for all of the good jobs where young people should focus,” which is part of the mission at his foundation, Skyhook. Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO.

On July 27 and 28, guests poured in to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to participate in the 2018 National Trademark Exposition. This free biennial event supports the USPTO’s mission of educating the public about the vital role intellectual property protectionsin this case trademarks play in our increasingly competitive global marketplace. More than twenty exhibitors, including government entities, non-profits, small businesses, and corporations from all over the country provided thought-provoking interactive displays and educational workshops.

Keynoting at this year’s expo was NBA All-Star, author, and entrepreneur, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I had the opportunity to sit down with Abdul-Jabbar to find out what made him the industry giant he is today—not surprisingly, it is much more than his 7 foot 2 inch stature.

Note: The transcript below is edited for length and clarity.

[Linda Hosler] Could you start by telling me a little bit about how you think we can spark innovation?

[Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] I think the saying really holds true that necessity is the mother of invention. So people get it in their mind that they have a problem that needs to be solved, and they put a lot of thought into how to get something done easier, quicker, safer, and asking: “how do you improve a situation?”

[LH] With that in mind—that necessity is the mother of invention—could you talk about a time in your life where you had to overcome a barrier?

[KAJ] Oh yeah. Retiring really presented me with a whole set of situations. You can’t just sit around all day and think about how many points you scored against the Denver Nuggets. You’ve got to do something with your life.

Writing and history were two of my passions. So, I put pen to paper, and I wrote the history book that I felt needed to be written. It's called “Black Profiles in Courage.” And I just went from there. It was one step after the other. And that's how my writing career evolved.

[LH] That's fantastic. Regarding one of your other books, “What Color is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors”, why did you pick to talk about African-American inventors? Have you always been interested in science and technology?

[KAJ] I just started to write about the things that I felt needed some attention. So for me, the contributions that Black Americans have made to America that go unacknowledged and under-reported was my focus. So I ended up with this book.

It is really important for me to connect with kids who don't understand what their legacy is, and preparing them to be productive citizens. People are always shocked when they found out that a black person invented the ice cream scoop, or potato chips, or the filament that made electric lighting possible.

A book titled "What Color is my World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors" authored by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sits on a table next to the author's hands.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's book, "What Color is my World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors” highlights the contributions Black Americans have made to America in a relatable format for young people. Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO. 

[LH] I'm going to shift gears a little bit and ask about the role of intellectual property (IP) in your career. You have many trademarks, including one for your name. Could you talk a little bit about the role of IP in your career?

[KAJ] Well, I think as an athlete nobody can challenge your unique identity. But when you step away from the game, it's really important that people understand who you are when you enter the marketplace. My name, image, and likeness are things that have enabled me to make a living. So, you know, you have to protect that.

[LH] What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs and innovators?

[KAJ] Geez, it's hard for me to advise anybody. I don't know their circumstances. But I think having a plan for what you want to do is always the first step. Things don't just fall out of the sky. You have to really understand who you are and where you want to go. So that whole process of self-examination, I think, is a good starting point for people who want to be entrepreneurs.

 

Two children look on as three people sit on a stage for a discussion.

Moderated by the Vice President of Global Divisional Communications for Hologic Jane Mazur, NBA all-star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his business manager Deborah Morales discussed how celebrities build and maintain their brands at the 2018 National Trademark Exposition. Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO.

[LH] What about a young person who reads your book and is inspired by it? What advice would you give them?

[KAJ] Follow your dream. Understand what your passion is and try to follow that. A lot of young people think, “Oh, I can't do that.” That's usually where they come from, because they know very little about the world and their own potential. So you have to impress upon young people that they have tremendous potential, but it takes work to realize some benefits from it.

[LH] I think we’re almost out of time. So, before we close, could you tell us a bit about your non-profit, the Skyhook Foundation?

[KAJ] The mission is to get young people to understand where the good jobs will be in the 21st century. So science, technology, engineering and math really are the foundation. And the most important aspect of it is getting them to understand that they can do it. Too many kids see technology as something for other people from other parts of the world, and they don't realize that they can do it here in our country. We focus on the fourth and fifth graders and we try to help them to focus on success from an early age.

A special thank you to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for sharing his insights. You can learn more about trademark protection on the Trademarks page of the USPTO website.