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Wednesday Nov 06, 2019

Collegiate Inventors Competition winners announced

Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter

Deputy Peter meets CIC finalist at CIC expo.

Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter meets University of Tennessee graduate student and CIC finalist Lia Winter, inventor of the EasyWhip™ double-loop stitching apparatus, which gives surgeons more control over the process of stitching grafts. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The future of American innovation was on display October 30 at the 2019 Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC) held at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, VA.

Cutting-edge inventions created by the nation’s brightest young innovators from colleges and universities across the country—from improvements in surgical tools to alternative energy solutions—were showcased at the competition’s public expo, providing the students a forum to answer questions and discuss their inventions with USPTO patent examiners, patent attorneys, trademark examiners and senior officials; corporate sponsors; members of the intellectual property community; and the public.

During the competition, the 23 undergraduate and graduate students from 10 teams had the opportunity to interact one-on-one with inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF). These legendary innovators – who have invented many tools, processes, or devices that are now commonplace in our lives (optical fiber, implantable defibrillator, Post-it® Notes, digital camera) — served as judges for the competition, and provided advice and inspiration for the students. USPTO patent examiners also served as judges.

“The ideas represented in this room – and the bright minds behind them – are the future of American innovation… You have started blazing your trail. As you continue your path changing our world as entrepreneurs, business owners, and patent holders, we will eagerly watch your progress.”

-Deputy Director Laura Peter, addressing CIC finalists and winners at the evening awards ceremony

The winner in the undergraduate category was Ethan Brush from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. His invention, PE-IVT (Positively Engaged, Infinitely Variable Transmission Using Split Helical Gears), is a new type of transmission for electric vehicles which increases efficiency and reduces energy losses. The graduate winner was a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, comprised of Maher Damak and Karim Khalil. Their invention, Infinite Cooling, can ionize and collect water from power plant cooling towers, so it may be reused as industrial and drinking water.

The undergraduate runner-up, and the Arrow Electronics People’s Choice Award winner, was a team from Johns Hopkins University for their invention PeritoneX, a mechanism to disinfect at-home peritoneal dialysis systems to prevent infection.  The graduate runner-up was a team from University of Washington for their invention, Nanodropper, a universal adapter for eyedrop medication bottles.

The top undergraduate and graduate winning teams each received $15,000, and the runner-up winning teams each received $5,000. Read more about all the 2019 CIC finalists and winners.

Thanks to this competition, the skills that these students gained through the process of invention and by learning about intellectual property will be assets to them as they continue with their research or commercialize their inventions.

The Collegiate Inventors Competition is one of several important programs that the USPTO, with its partner NIHF, sponsors for young inventors. NIHF’s education programs impact over 165,000 children and 20,000 educators annually — promoting a better understanding of the vital role intellectual property and innovation play in our lives and our economy, and helping to build entrepreneurial skills for the next generation of inventors.

Tuesday Nov 05, 2019

Spotlight on Commerce: Megan Miller, Plain Language Writer/Editor

A post about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

Megan Miller, Plain Language Writer/Editor, USPTO. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

After earning my engineering degree and serving in the Navy for seven years, the next logical step in my career was to take a position as a writer-editor. Sounds disjointed? It's a more natural progression than you might think.

Growing up, I loved math and science. Math homework was my favorite! It was so satisfying to start with a few numbers and a question, then figure out what to do with those numbers to find the answer. In science classes, I asked enough questions to try the patience of both my teachers and fellow students. Predictably, I went to college to be an engineer. I studied biomedical engineering at the University of Rochester. It was fascinating to learn about how the human body works and how the biomedical field uses technology to make it work better. I couldn't wait to graduate and use my skills to build things that would solve real-world problems.

As graduation grew closer, though, I decided I wanted to explore the world of engineering from a different perspective. So, I joined the Navy to study and work in nuclear propulsion. In my training, I learned how the Navy harnesses fission to move ships. It was staggering to learn about a system that starts with a few neutrons zooming around and ends with an aircraft carrier zooming through the ocean. Again, I was awestruck at how engineering gives us systems that are cohesive, despite their complexity, to elegantly solve the world's problems.

During my time in the Navy, in addition to studying nuclear power, I was also a division officer. That meant that I bridged the gap between the command's leadership and the sailors in my division. Despite being on the same ship, those two groups had dramatically different needs and perspectives. Leadership focused on accomplishing the ship's mission and keeping the ship and crew safe. My sailors, on the other hand, were concerned about maintaining and operating a complicated weapon system. When those priorities were at odds, fulfilling my role as a liaison could be quite challenging. I quickly learned that in any form of communication, it's vitally important to start by understanding the needs and perspectives of the other person. The only way to reach them is to shape your message with those needs in mind. Ignore those needs, and you'll fail. For me, a few big failures helped me learn the lesson. Seven years of smaller failures helped me hone the skill, which is fundamental to effective communication.

These experiences laid the groundwork for my career as a writer-editor at the USPTO. My focus in writing and editing is plain language. That doesn't mean that I dumb things down or that I make every piece of content understandable to the general public. It means that I write and edit so my audience can easily find, understand, and use the information they need.

It's all about audience; understanding their needs is the cornerstone of writing in plain language. For me, writing in plain language requires employing the communication skills I developed and refined in the Navy. So, my plain language savvy is a direct result of my service.

Even if you have a clear understanding of your audience, though, writing clearly can still be quite challenging. There are many obstacles to overcome. Sometimes, you're writing to multiple audiences who have vastly different needs. Sometimes, your organization's needs conflict with your audience's needs. Legal topics add another layer of obstacles. Sometimes, when you explain legal concept in the most straightforward way, you get a statement that's only true 99% of the time, making it legally inaccurate. Communicating clearly despite these roadblocks can be difficult, but it's possible. My job is to do just that, and it's my favorite part of writing and editing. Thinking outside the box to find ways to communicate clearly within these constraints is, dare I say, fun. I never expected words to be my medium for solving problems as an adult, but it's just as satisfying as the problem sets I loved as a kid. 

My job is to serve Americans by making the information they need more accessible, using words to solve problems along the way. Though I thought I'd grow up to be a distinguished scientist or brilliant inventor, now I know that it's just as fulfilling to be a word engineer.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce military veterans in honor of Veterans Day.

Wednesday Oct 30, 2019

USPTO issues second Federal Register Notice on artificial intelligence and innovation

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

Director Iancu visits exhibits showcasing AI technologies at the “Artificial Intelligence: Intellectual Property Considerations” conference on January 31, 2019 at the USPTO. Shown above: a team from University of California, Berkeley demonstrates their patent visualization system, which enables a user to see and manipulate a three-dimensional landscape of similar patents. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution states that Congress has the power “[t]o promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” As artificial intelligence technologies (AI) quickly advance, the concepts of “authors and inventors” may not necessarily be confined to the human realm. From creating paintings and symphonies to generating advertising copy and recommending products to consumers, AI has already produced impressive artistic and commercial output. What impact will this have on our constitutionally founded IP system?

The USPTO has been examining precisely these issues. One step in this process was the publication of our Request for Comments on Patenting Artificial Intelligence Inventions in the Federal Register on August 27. We have extended the comment period to November 8, so please submit your patent-related responses if you have not already done so.

The fields of copyright, trademark, database protections, and trade secret law, among others, may be similarly susceptible to the impacts of developments in AI. Accordingly, the USPTO is just as interested in gathering public feedback on these issues. To facilitate that process, we issued a second AI-related Federal Register Notice on October 30 and comments will be accepted until December 16, 2019. There are thirteen questions in this notice, including:
Should a work produced by an AI algorithm or process, without the involvement of a natural person contributing expression to the resulting work, qualify as a work of authorship protectable under U.S. copyright law? Why or why not?

  • To the extent an AI algorithm or process learns its function(s) by ingesting large volumes of copyrighted material, does the existing statutory language (e.g., the fair use doctrine) and related case law adequately address the legality of making such use?  Should authors be recognized for this type of use of their works? If so, how?
  • Would the use of AI in trademark searching impact the registrability of trademarks? If so, how?
  • How, if at all, does AI impact trade secret law? Is the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), 18 U.S.C. § 1836 et seq., adequate to address the use of AI in the marketplace?
  • How, if at all, does AI impact the need to protect databases and data sets? Are existing laws adequate to protect such data?

We have already gleaned compelling insights from the feedback we received to date on the patent-related Federal Register Notice. But the various types of intellectual property protections work together symbiotically to create a comprehensive IP legal system that promotes creativity, development, job creation, and economic growth. As such, we are eager to hear your views on the impacts that other non-patent IP fields are or may be experiencing in the wake of AI.

However fast the pace of AI development has been until now, we firmly believe that this will pale in comparison to advances yet to come. The USPTO is committed to keeping pace with this critical technology in order to accelerate American innovation.

Monday Oct 28, 2019

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to celebrate the immeasurable contributions Americans with disabilities make to the workplace and society. Individuals with disabilities create and innovate in numerous and diverse technologies. They own registered trademarks and hold patents. They are our colleagues and our loved ones, and they are a vital thread in our American tapestry. 

Our work at the USPTO is enhanced by the spirit of inclusion and accessibility. Many of our employees—7% of whom self-identify as disabled—are able to perform their duties at the highest levels thanks to many of the same adaptive technologies that receive our IP protections.

Diversity has been an essential component to America’s long and successful history of innovation. This is true not only of our inventors themselves, but also the diversity in the inventing process and the technologies we bring forward. One only needs to look as far as our National Inventors Hall of Fame to see several examples of remarkable inventors who work to enhance the lives of persons with disabilities while also experiencing their own physical challenges.

Inducted in 2019, Chieko Asakawa used her personal experience to invent the Home Page Reader (HPR). The HPR provides internet access for users who are blind or visually impaired. Asakawa, who is herself visually impaired, has worked continually to ease communication for visually disabled users through many other inventions focused on accessibility.

Bill Warner, another 2019 inductee, changed film editing forever through his invention of a digital, nonlinear editor. A true testament to innovation, Warner has also invented a telephone-based, voice-activated virtual assistant and worked to improve hand pedaled cycles. Warner’s own condition requires him to use devices such as these cycles.

John Kaplan, Andrei Iancu, and Al Langer stand in a room with Dr. Garrett Grindle surrounded by wheelchairs and other accessible technology.
Left to right: John Kaplan, Director of Technology Transfer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Andrei Iancu,
Director of the USPTO, and Alois (Al) Langer, inductee to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, view and discuss technologies at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh with Dr. Garrett Grindle (right), Assistant Director of Engineering at HERL.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh. A joint center supported by the university and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, HERL was established in 1994 by inventor, bioengineer, and professor Rory Cooper. Cooper is a distinguished professor of rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh and a senior career scientist for Veterans Affairs. In addition, Professor Cooper himself is a competitive para-athlete and winner of a bronze medal at the 1988 Paralympic Games in Seoul.

Starting with just Professor Cooper and two graduate students, HERL has grown to a team of about 70 researchers and innovators around the world. His team has developed more than 100 life-changing inventions and holds multiple patents related to wheelchairs, robotics, and wearable instruments designed to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

HERL’s work has led to such patented technologies as the Surge and NaturalFit Handrims, which helped to reduce injury rates of wheelchair users from approximately 80% of patients to about 20% overall.  HERL’s other inventions include the Robotic-assisted Transfer Device, and the NextHealth Bed and Wheelchair to reduce strain on caregivers. HERL’s patented joystick and algorithms have made it possible for hundreds of thousands of older adults and people with disabilities to have independent mobility.

Rory Cooper's USPTO inventor collectible card depicts Cooper in a wheelchair against a blue and gray stormy background.
USPTO inventor collectible card for Rory Cooper

The inventive spirit of people like Chieko Asakawa, Bill Warner, and Professor Rory Cooper set inventors apart and lead to the tremendous growth of technology through innovation in America. Role models like them serve as beacons of invention to inspire us all. To learn more, read the USPTO’s latest Journeys of Innovation story on Rory Cooper, see his USPTO inventor collectible card and other USPTO inventor collectable cards on the USPTO kids pages, and read about National Disability Awareness Employment Month.

Wednesday Oct 23, 2019

Your feedback is driving improvements to trademark filings and login user experience

Guest blog by Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Denison

Screen shot of MyUSPTO landing page

MyUSPTO landing page

As we work to strengthen security and enhance the trademarks filing experience, we continue to listen to your ideas and feedback. Among these efforts is an upcoming enhancement you should prepare for now. Beginning October 26, 2019, you'll need to log in with two-factor authentication to your USPTO.gov account to access TEAS or TEASi forms. If you haven’t yet created your account, set up your USPTO.gov account today.

Filing features through MyUSPTO
By logging in to MyUSPTO for your trademark filings, you have a personalized homepage for managing your trademarks portfolios using widgets to meet your needs. MyUSPTO provides the Trademark Application Docket and Trademark Post-Registration Docket, which allow trademark owners or practitioners to create an unlimited number of trademark portfolios (or “collections”) of up to 1,000 trademarks per collection. You can also set up notifications of changes to your applications or registrations, such as to the owner address, attorney address, or voluntary amendments.

The trademarks widgets on MyUSPTO also include the Trademarks Form Finder, which allows users to quickly search for a trademark form by name or locate it by action or response needed. You can stay current with the Trademark Official Gazette Watch by saving search queries as well.

There are also two MyUSPTO widgets for making sure you have access to the resources and latest trademarks news. The Trademark Alerts widget provides a list of recent emails from the USPTO relevant to trademark customers. Using the Favorites widget, you can bookmark USPTO webpages and systems. This means the pages you need most often are there regardless of the device or browser you use to log in.

Preventing fraud with two-factor authentication
We need to improve the security of your information by preventing fraudulent attempts to alter your information or file documents. Adding two-factor authentication to the login process will admittedly add another step to your workflow by requiring a unique six-digit code, but it is necessary. Two-factor authentication significantly reduces the chance these malicious attempts to impersonate you will succeed because knowing your password alone is not enough to pass the authentication check.

Other USPTO applications have already implemented this technology in the customer workflow. Through those efforts, we heard your feedback that the authentication code takes too long to arrive, so we’re reducing your wait time by improving the underlying email infrastructure and changing the email service we currently use. Further, the authentication code can be provided via two alternate methods either a voice call or an authentication app. Beginning October 26, you will also have the option to receive the authentication code via text message.

Improving security with shorter timeout on TEAS and TEASi forms
You will encounter another change when you use the TEAS and TEASi forms. To comply with NIST Special Publication 800-63B (June 2017) and the statutory requirements under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) of 2014, 44 U.S.C. § 3551 et seq. Public Law (P.L.) 113-283, “… [r]eauthentication of the subscriber SHALL be repeated following any period of inactivity lasting 30 minutes or longer.” After 30 minutes of inactivity, “[t]he session SHALL be terminated (i.e., logged out)…” As a result, your TEAS and TEASi sessions will timeout after 30 minutes of inactivity on a form, a reduction from the current 60-minute period.

We recognize this likely affects some of your filing processes, such as when selecting a lengthy identification of goods and services or writing an argument in response to a substantive refusal. This is necessary to improve the security of your information and to prevent fraudulent attempts to impersonate you in a trademark filing.

To help you manage your work with the reduced timeout, you'll receive a pop-up warning after 25 minutes of inactivity on a form. When you see this, select the “Yes, keep me signed in” button to reset your activity for another 30 minutes. Activity on a TEAS form that will extend your session includes uploading or attaching files and using the buttons on the forms, such as “Go Back,” “Continue,” and “Validate.” For sections of forms that take you longer than 30 minutes to complete, we also recommend gathering information and writing responses prior to logging in to a TEAS or TEASi form.

Increasing system availability and responsiveness
Since customers first started using USPTO.gov accounts to log in to USPTO systems, we as an agency have heard loud and clear the need to improve both system availability and performance. System availability is improving as a result of recent work to upgrade and stabilize our external applications’ infrastructure, and performance will continue to improve based on the addition of high-availability capacity and increased automated system monitoring.

Please continue to share your feedback with us so we can integrate it into our development process and improve your experience.

Prepare for the login requirement
Along with creating your USPTO.gov account before October 26, 2019, we also recommend that you bookmark the Log in to TEAS and TEASi page. From here, you can access the resources and contact information for technical assistance. This is also where you can watch the How to prepare for the new TEAS login requirement recorded webinar.

When you’re ready to work on a filing, access the TEAS and TEASi forms through the Apply online page and Index of all TEAS forms page. Those pages will provide login information as well.

 

Friday Oct 11, 2019

Expansion of prioritized examination

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

Track One logo

Innovation and the protection of it are hallmarks of America’s competitive edge. To help businesses and innovators move through the patent process quickly so they can make informed decisions on developing and marketing more of their products and services, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) established the Track One program. This program provides for the prioritized examination of patent applications.

The program works extremely well. As shown on our Patents Dashboard, the average pendency from filing a Track One request to a first office action has been 3.0 months in fiscal year 2019. Customers who took advantage of the program during the same period received, on average, final disposition within 7.8 months. For businesses and inventors who need to have their applications examined quickly, the Track One program offers a great solution.

The AIA originally stipulated that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) could not grant more than 10,000 requests for Track One prioritized examinations in any fiscal year. To meet the needs of our stakeholders, we recently issued regulations to increase the number of Track One requests that we could grant. Effective September 3, we increased the limit to 12,000 each fiscal year, as detailed in our Federal Register Notice.

Shortly after issuing that notice, the USPTO granted its 10,000th Track One request for fiscal year 2019 and continued processing additional requests throughout the remainder of the fiscal year. The higher limit provides the opportunity for more interested stakeholders to participate in, and benefit from, prioritized examination in the cases they deem appropriate. With respect to the Patent Office as a whole, as we recently announced, the USPTO improved overall pendency to an average of 14.7 months for first office actions and 23.8 months total. This program allows even faster action in cases applicants select based on their own needs.

Applicants have embraced the Track One program due to the speed with which the applications are handled and the high-quality examinations that they receive. The USPTO remains committed to meeting the needs of our applicants through innovative programs such as this, and will continue its work to improve the experience of those who come before us.

Wednesday Oct 09, 2019

USPTO meets critical goals to reduce patent examination pendency

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu and Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld

Total and first action patent pendency graph

For many years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been working to reduce patent pendency times. And since 2018, the agency has had specific goals of under 15 months for first office actions and under 24 months for total pendency, on average.

We have now achieved these goals! As of September 30, 2019, which is the end of our 2019 fiscal year (FY), the averages are 14.7 months for first action pendency and 23.8 months for total pendency. All along, we have maintained and indeed improved the quality of our examination. This achievement marks the USPTO’s lowest first action pendency since January 2002, despite total application filings nearly doubling in that time, from 353,000 in FY 2002 to 667,000 in FY 2019.

Our success in meeting these goals is the direct result of the efforts of our employees, at all levels, to drastically improve analyses, streamline processes, and clarify approaches that benefit all applications. At the patent examining level, supervisors and examiners undertook and implemented complex data analyses to better prioritize applications and balance workloads without sacrificing quality. At the application processing level, the team focused on increasing efficiencies to accelerate the overall patent examination process. These actions led, for example, to a decrease in the average processing time for an amendment filed in a patent application from 26.2 days to 6.8 days. And, of course, we increased the examiner ranks and we improved examiner training so that today the USPTO boasts the best examining corps anywhere in the world.

But our work does not stop here. We will in fact redouble our efforts to optimize pendency using considered analytics that make sense. Among other changes, we are improving how cases are routed to the right examiner and how time is allocated to each examiner based on a number of factors. And we will focus on areas that need most attention and strive to meet in as many cases as possible the time frames outlined by the patent term adjustment statute (35 U.S.C. 154b). This means, for example, issuing a first office action in as many applications as possible in no more than 14 months.

Processing and examining patent applications in a high quality and timely manner, a primary tenet of our 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, advances economic prosperity and supports a business environment that protects, cultivates and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship. In turn, this helps grow the economy, create jobs, and ultimately improve the way we all live.

Born of the Constitution and steeped in our history, the American patent system is a crown jewel, a gold standard. The USPTO’s more than 12,000 employees come to work every day dedicated to ensuring its continued success. Timely and quality patent examination are key components. We are proud of our achievements as stewards of this treasured system.

Monday Oct 07, 2019

Spotlight on Commerce: Jim Alstrum-Acevedo, Supervisory Patent Examiner, USPTO

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

Guest blog by Supervisory Patent Examiner Jim H. Alstrum-Acevedo

Supervisory Patent Examiner Jim Alstrum-Acevedo

Jim Alstrum-Acevedo, Supervisory Patent Examiner at the USPTO. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

I am a Supervisory Patent Examiner (SPE), whose team examines pharmaceutical and biotechnology patent applications. My skilled team of fifteen examiners evaluates patents concerning short polypeptides having less than 100 amino acids, compositions containing these polypeptides, and methods of making and using these compounds. Examples of polypeptides examined by my team include insulin derivatives used to improve the treatment of diabetes mellitus as well as polypeptides with uses as antibiotics effective against antibiotic resistant bacteria, immunosuppresants useful in organ transplantation, and polypeptides to control blood clotting for the treatment of clotting disorders, such as, hemophilia. In short, the patents issued by my team help promote the well-being and health of people all over the country by facilitating intellectual property protection for new peptidic drugs, pharmaceutical compositions, and treatments for chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes) and public health concerns, such as bacterial infections caused by methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA).

I was born in Bogotá, Colombia to a Connecticut yankee, who was a former Peace Corps volunteer and an aspiring literature and Spanish language professor, and his smart Colombian wife, who was a high school English teacher. My family moved first from the high mesa of Bogotá to Laramie, Wyoming and Oxford, Mississippi, before settling down in Normal, Illinois, where my father was a Spanish language and Colombian literature professor, and my mom was a family counselor, after finishing a master’s degree in counseling. I grew up in an environment that emphasized education, learning, and helping others. My parents set a great example for me and my three siblings by their love of books, teaching, and service to others through their chosen professions, and work helping out the local Latino community in central Illinois.

Unlike patent examiners in many other areas of patents at the USPTO, I’m not an engineer. I have a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from UNC Chapel Hill. For my dissertation, I worked on the synthesis of photoactive inorganic coordination compounds that I appended to organic polymers to obtain an “artificial photosynthetic system.” I did a short post-doc and was hired to be a patent examiner in Technical Center 1600 in 2005. After a few years of patent examining, I decided to get a juris doctor (JD) in the part-time program at The George Washington University and passed the Virginia bar in 2012. Having a law degree has helped me better understand case law, the positions advocated by applicants’ attorneys during patent prosecution, and to facilitate communication between examiners and applicants.

I am a people person and helping others is something I really enjoy and find rewarding in my job as a SPE and in other interests that I have. For example, I am a member and president of the USPTO professional chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, an affinity/employee resource group, which seeks to promote STEM education at all levels, provide a sense of family to SHPE members at the USPTO, and help with recruitment of talented Hispanics into STEM-based positions at the USPTO.  I’m also involved in a local non-profit called Asian American Success (AASuccess), which provides life skills training to Asian American youth, especially from the local Vietnamese community and remotely to a community in Vietnam. AASuccess tries to inspire youth to make giving back a key facet of their lives as they acquire life skills that will help them succeed in their chosen careers.

Hispanic Heritage Month runs each year from September 15 through October 15 and highlights the many contributions Hispanics have made and continue to make to our great nation in various areas ranging from science and technology, to service in the armed services, and enriching our culture through new creative works, such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s recent musical, Hamilton. This yearly celebration is also a great opportunity to inspire Hispanic youth, who are under-represented in STEM fields, to strive for careers in STEM so they can become tomorrow’s innovators, physicians, and educators who will continue to improve the lives of people all across the world.

My advice for today’s youth interested in a career as a patent examiner or in STEM generally is to follow your passions, believe in yourself, ask questions, and always try to keep learning something new, regardless of where your life path takes you.

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce Hispanic employees in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15--October 15).

Wednesday Oct 02, 2019

Recent advances in ex parte appeals and hearings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board

Guest blog post by Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board Scott Boalick

While recent changes to Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) practices for America Invents Act (AIA) trials have garnered a significant amount of attention recently, the Board has also been making major strides in ex parte appeal pendency as well as improving accessibility to hearings in both types of matters.

The Board brought the ex parte appeal inventory down from a high of over 26,000 appeals in 2012 to less than 8,700 as of the end of the fiscal year. This is the lowest inventory in over a decade.

The Board’s significant reduction in ex parte appeal inventory means a corresponding significant reduction in ex parte appeal pendency. Judges obtain and decide cases faster, which translates to a shorter wait time for patent applicants to receive a decision regarding their patent applications. In fact, the average ex parte appeal pendency, which is measured from receipt at PTAB after completion of all appeal briefing through the mailing of a decision on appeal, has been cut by 50% from about 30 months in 2015 to about 15 months at the end of the fiscal year. And we are working to resolve pendency even more.

Chief Judge Boalick meets with his team. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

The Board has updated the notice of hearing in ex parte appeals. The updated notice allows the appellant to designate any regional office where they want to appear to argue their case. The updated notice also allows the appellant to request remote viewing of the hearing from any regional office. For example, an appellant may elect to appear for their hearing in Denver and request remote viewing for in-house counsel in San Jose.

Further, the Board has replaced its electronic docket management system for ex parte appeals to better assign, manage, and track cases and workloads. In December 2016, the USPTO deployed a new IT system called PTAB End-to-End (E2E) to receive and manage AIA trial filings.  In July 2018, the USPTO expanded the functionality of PTAB E2E to manage ex parte appeal filings. Through this expansion of E2E for ex parte appeals, the USPTO retired its legacy IT system previously used for appeal management. While the public will continue to file appeals through EFS-Web, judges will use PTAB E2E to process appeal decisions in more streamlined way, which means better customer service for applicants.

Separately, the Board has been making hearings more accessible and transparent. Among other improvements, the Board recently published a Hearings Guide to help parties prepare for a hearing. While this document did not create any new rules or procedures, it brought together separate descriptions of existing procedures so that parties have a single easy reference guide for any hearings-related questions. Additionally, the Board recently renovated the hearing room in its Rocky Mountain regional office to reconfigure the layout for better space utilization, and we are about to begin renovating and expanding one of the hearing rooms at our headquarters in Alexandria so that more members of the public can attend important hearings in person, such as our new precedential opinion panel hearings. We likewise are planning to update the audiovisual equipment in the other hearing rooms over the next 24 months.

We are proud of the strides that we have made to lower the inventory and pendency in ex parte appeals to better serve our stakeholders. And we hope these updates will give stakeholders more information and options to enhance their appeals practice. We will continue to make improvements and welcome your suggestions, which can be emailed to PTAB_Appeals_Suggestions@uspto.gov.

Monday Sep 30, 2019

Inventors converge at Invention-Con 2019

Guest blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Laura Peter

Can a 16-year old young woman change the world? Grant her a patent and watch her! Recently, we were privileged to hear an inspiring keynote from Kavita Shukla—an innovator, entrepreneur, and CEO—who is the force behind Freshglow Co. and inventor of FreshPaper. Her patented technology prevents food spoilage and helps avert hunger around the world. After receiving her first patent at the age of 16 and selling FreshPaper at farmers markets, she built her business from the ground up and became an award winning and successful entrepreneur. 

Invention-Con keynote speaker Kavita Shukla describes her journey as an inventor and entrepreneur. (photo by Cynthia Blancaflor/USPTO)

She joined other notable speakers Invention-Con 2019, hosted by the USPTO at our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Invention-Con is an outstanding opportunity for inventors, makers, and entrepreneurs to meet and learn from each other, attend workshops, and hear from our officials and intellectual property (IP) experts. Agencies including the Small Business Administration and Copyright Office also presented useful educational materials during the conference.

As it has been the last several years, the two-day event was completely sold out, with over 170 in-person attendees and over 4,000 unique online viewers. Many attendees were new to IP and wanted to learn whether it’s worth patenting their idea or registering a trademark for their product or business. IP professionals from the USPTO and other agencies were able to provide them with an introduction to IP and helped guide them to the resources they needed. Other attendees were already patented inventors who have a product ready for manufacture and wanted to know how to get it from the workshop to the marketplace. For them, we showcased entrepreneurs like Kavita to share their stories and offer hard-earned lessons.

We were lucky to hear from many speakers who shared their stories about obtaining IP protection, developing a business, and commercializing a product. Past Invention-Con favorite, Howie Busch, an inventor and entrepreneur, hosted a panel of Shark Tank contestants. These Shark Tank speakers had great advice to share with our attendees on how to stand out, develop, fund, and market their products.

Entrepreneur Howie Busch (right) moderates the panel “Swim with the Sharks: Learn how national exposure changes your business,” comprised of past Shark Tank contestants. (Photo by Cynthia Blancaflor/USPTO)

It is not uncommon for inventors to return to Invention-Con, year after year. One example is Ruth Young, who after attending in 2017 and 2018 took advantage of the USPTO’s Law School Clinic Certification, Pro Bono, and Pro Se programs. This year, she joined us as a panelist and shared her inspirational invention journey.

Prior to joining the USPTO, I worked with high-tech startups as an IP attorney in Silicon Valley.  I know that launching a business can often be an overwhelming and intimidating experience, and the patent process is one more task that is added. The USPTO issues nearly 25% of patents to small and micro-entities, and the percentage of micro-entity patents has grown every year since the USPTO introduced that category for patent applications. In fact, the USPTO issues over 300,000 patents a year, and over 7,500 of those are to micro-entities, including to independent inventors.

It only takes one really good idea to launch a successful enterprise, and it is inspiring to see that many of them are also looking to help society. Consider, for example, the story of Alice Chun, whose company Solight Design was a winner of the 2018 Patents for Humanity award for the SolarPUFF™, a compact foldable light made of a flexible waterproof material with a solar panel on top. Alice was inspired after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to create a product that made light after dark available for the 1.6 billion people still living without electricity. Although the SolarPUFF™ was designed with developing countries in mind, this unique light has also found a market in camping and other outdoor uses. By issuing patents to independent inventors like Alice Chun, in addition to larger entities, the USPTO is helping sow the seeds of success for many other small companies that will continue to invigorate our thriving innovation economy.

History has shown that IP rights have been indispensable to our country’s prosperity and economic growth. In fact, our founders thought IP rights were so important, they had the foresight to enshrine them in our Constitution. In Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, they granted Congress the power “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”

Since then, we have benefitted from the development of electric lighting, powered flight, DNA synthesis, the internet, and countless other transformational technologies. At the USPTO, we are seeing an increasing number of developing technologies that we will benefit from tomorrow, such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and biotechnology.

IP is of key importance to this progress. A 2016 report by the USPTO estimated that in 2014, IP-intensive industries supported 45.5 million jobs in the U.S. and contributed $6.6 trillion to the U.S. economy, equivalent to 38.2% of GDP. It is in our interest—in fact, it is our mission—to help all inventors achieve their goals by protecting the fruits of their imagination and determination. Every day, our patent examiners and trademark examiners work with inventors and businesspeople to secure and protect their IP rights for their innovations and brands.

Innovation is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from. It’s what you can do that gets you IP rights. And, the USPTO’s doors are open to everyone, from all walks of life. Inventors and entrepreneurs are the heart and soul of innovation in America. We at the USPTO remember that every day as we walk through these doors.

Together with Deputy Commissioner for Patents Andrew Faile and Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Boney Denison, it was a pleasure to meet so many innovative and creative entrepreneurs. If you missed Invention-Con, you can watch recordings of the sessions in the videos section of the USPTO Facebook page. The Invention-Con 2019 booklet also provides a valuable list of services we offer to support inventors, as well as who to contact to learn more. We hope you can join us next year for another incredibly educational and useful Invention-Con!

Thursday Sep 12, 2019

Spotlight on Commerce: Tariq Hafiz, Group Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

Ed. note: This post is part of the very first Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees who are First Generation Professionals. First Generation Professionals are one of the first in their immediate families to enter the professional work environment. They are professionals with varying socio-economic backgrounds, life experiences, skills and talents that diversify our workforce.

Blog post by Tariq Hafiz, Group Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Tariq Hafiz, Group Director at the USPTO

Tariq Hafiz, Group Director, USPTO

My name is Tariq and I am a first generation professional. I came to the United States of America at the age of 10 and immediately attended elementary school without knowing a word of English. I learned the English alphabet in the 4th grade. I was the only immigrant in the whole school.

While growing up being an immigrant and eventually being the first in my family to attend college was not an easy road, it also was extremely fulfilling. Although my parents could not provide me with guidance on how to access and navigate college or give me career advice, they were supportive of my goals. My mother did not speak English and had not even completed grade school, while my father had only completed high school. One of the traits that I acquired from my father was an ethic for hard work. Even though he had a non-professional job, he always went to work, and I rarely saw him take a sick day. In fact, I don’t ever remember him taking a day off except for one week of vacation every August.

When I landed my first professional job after graduation, I was extremely grateful. I knew that I had to work extra hard to show my gratitude and ensure that there was nothing that would jeopardize my job, due to a lack of effort.  After a few years with a defense contractor, I came to work at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) where I began my career as a patent examiner. As a patent examiner, my performance was based on objective goals, which was an environment in which I thrived. Thus, I moved up the ladder quickly. I worked my way up to management positions, and after successfully completing the Department of Commerce's Candidate Development Program, I became a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES).

Throughout my career, I have mentored many employees–both professional and non-professional staff–helping them with their career development. Growing up without role models made me appreciate how important they are in a person’s career development. I hope that through mentoring employees, I can be a role model for others in their lives.

On September 12, the Department of Commerce hosted the inaugural First Generation Professionals 2019 Summit, and Tariq participated as a guest speaker. Learn more about the First Generation Professionals Initiative.

Monday Sep 09, 2019

Appeal board hearing availability in the regional offices

Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Laura Peter and Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Office Molly Kocialski

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) have been making significant strides improving access to hearings, ensuring transparency in proceedings, and providing an effective alternative to district court litigation. The USPTO’s four regional offices in Dallas, San Jose, Denver, and Detroit augment these improvements by offering regional hearing facilities for PTAB and TTAB matters.

At the USPTO, we understand that when an attorney advocates on behalf of a client, or when entrepreneurs or small businesses want to protect their investments, there are many IP-related concerns to consider, including the costs of appeals and trials and ease of access to proceedings. This is why we have worked, and will continue to work, to provide local and regional innovators with the tools, information and resources they need to succeed and ultimately, protect their innovations.

As an example of how we are improving our services for stakeholders of PTAB and TTAB services, after a year-long renovation process recently completed in our Rocky Mountain Regional Office (RMRO), the layout now allows for better participation by stakeholders in hearings, and public viewing when available. The RMRO hearing room has been reconfigured for better space utilization, and to have increased capacity. Upgrades such as these will continue in all USPTO offices (including Alexandria Hearing Room D) to, for example, increase the occupancy size to accommodate viewers of public hearings. Along with the space renovations, the audiovisual equipment is also being updated in all of the USPTO offices, as budget allows, to ensure that each and every hearing room continues to provide the dignity the proceedings deserve. This will ensure that every regional office can reach their growing stakeholder needs for such services to the best of their ability.

Previous configuration of the hearing room at the Rocky Mountain Regional Office

The hearing room at the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, before construction with a capacity of 12.

Updated hearing room in the Rocky Mountain Regional Office

The hearing room at the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, newly redesigned, with a capacity of 70.

TTAB allows practitioners to make use of the hearing rooms in the regional offices in their practice before the TTAB. Since time and cost constraints can frequently pose a hurdle to a client’s attendance at TTAB hearings, the regional offices can provide a more convenient and cost-effective venue, so that clients can stay attuned to and be present for proceedings that can significantly affect their trademark interests. The facilities present at the USPTO regional offices in Detroit, Denver, San Jose and Dallas now enable clients the opportunity to now be able to attend the hearings that affect the protection of their brand investments.

With regard to PTAB, Notices of Hearing will now include a QR code printed on the notice to allow recipients to more easily access the recently published PTAB Hearings Guide. The PTAB Hearing Guide provides an easy reference guide for any hearings-related questions including scheduling for both ex parte appeals and American Invents Act (AIA) trials. The Hearings Guide also includes instructions on how to exercise the option to attend or view hearings not only at headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, but also at any of the regional offices. This allows stakeholders across the country the ability to be more active in the protection of their intellectual property rights, and also to stay more acutely attuned to recent Board proceedings and decisions.

Hearings in AIA trials are scheduled as set forth in an order issued by the adjudicating panel. The scheduling order generally will indicate if a panel is available to hold a final hearing in a regional office or location outside of Alexandria, Virginia, and will provide guidance on how a party may request a location preference. If a location preference is requested, the hearing date choice will take into account a judge’s schedule in the requested regional office.

In both TTAB and PTAB hearings, including for ex parte appeals and AIA trials, the client can request to view the hearing in the regional office, regardless of whether their legal counsel is presenting arguments at USPTO headquarters or at a different regional office–meaning the client can view the hearing at the office most convenient for the client. In addition, for oral hearings open to the public, the regional offices hearings facilities allow for increased opportunity for practitioners and law students to attend and observe oral arguments to further their own education and skillsets. Patent Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) hearings will also be streamed from headquarters to the regional offices for public viewing in the hearing rooms.
If you are interested in attending a public hearing at a regional office, the information is available in the Hearings Guide, or you may contact our regional offices directly through the information found on their respective sections of the USPTO website. For further questions about any of these improvements, please contact your local USPTO regional office.

Wednesday Aug 28, 2019

Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – 5 years supporting innovation

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu, and Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Office Molly Kocialski

Five years ago this summer, we opened our Rocky Mountain Regional Office (RMRO) in the Byron G. Rogers Building in downtown Denver. It was a huge day for both the USPTO and the people of Denver, whose great city is home to 24 federally funded research laboratories, four major research universities, and a creative and innovative environment full of start-ups. It also helped fulfill a key promise of the America Invents Act, to better connect inventors and entrepreneurs around the country with the resources of the USPTO.

Since that day in 2014, the RMRO has engaged with more than 90,000 regional stakeholders through over 1,260 outreach and education events in Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado.

The Byron G. Rogers Federal Building in downtown Denver- home of the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

The RMRO is paving the way on regular educational programming like our quarterly Trademark Tuesday and Path-to-a-Patent programs. These are broadcast region-wide through the help of our very engaged Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. Another way we have removed obstacles and increased access to IP resources is by encouraging more personal interactions with the USPTO. Today, inventors and entrepreneurs can walk into the RMRO, use the public search facility, and easily obtain answers to their questions. Additionally, IP practitioners and their clients can conduct examiner interviews, participate in Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) hearings, or view other public hearings, all from our office.

Recruiting and retaining local talent is a key goal for the USPTO, with the added benefit of providing jobs for the local community. The last two classes of examiner recruits had 425 applicants for 25 jobs in 2018 and 317 applicants for 17 jobs in 2019, respectively. Such demand for our available positions is impressive for a state with approximately a 2.5 percent unemployment rate in each of those years, and we hope to answer more of that demand as we grow in the years to come. In addition, there are 94 employees in the Rocky Mountain Regional Office plus 246 examiners hoteling throughout the region—quite a change from 49 hoteling examiners prior to the regional office opening in 2014.

The RMRO is the first USPTO regional office to have representation from all technology centers, allowing for improved communication and sharing of resources between examiners and stakeholders. We also have seven classes of new patent examiners as well as 10 PTAB judges, an outreach officer, and support staff. In addition, our physical space in the Byron Rogers Federal Building has grown, with updates and improvements to a public search facility, interview room, and newly redesigned hearing room.

People truly want to be in Denver, and if you are here for even a short time you will understand why. We are proud of the role the USPTO is playing in the “Mile High City” and the connection with the local community that we have built in such a short time. We look forward to continued growth, partnership, and innovation here and throughout the Rocky Mountain region in the next five years and beyond.

Monday Aug 26, 2019

USPTO announces Federal Register Notice on artificial intelligence patent issues

Guest blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter 

Image showing the text "Artificial intelligence: intellectual property policy considerations"

As a former Silicon Valley intellectual property attorney for more than 20 years, the potential of disruptive technology has long been of special interest to me. Artificial intelligence (AI) promises to be one of the most important innovations that powers many disruptive ventures and brings exciting changes to our legal system. AI is already influencing the way we work, travel, shop, and play.

From autonomous vehicles to improved medical diagnostics to voice assistants, AI is increasingly at the forefront of innovation. As a continuation of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) policy leadership in the field of AI, the USPTO convened a conference on Artificial Intelligence: Intellectual Property Policy Considerations on January 31 this year. With six panels featuring IP specialists from around the world, the USPTO considered AI’s impact on our innovation ecosystem.

The USPTO continues to promote and protect AI-technology innovations and entrepreneurship. With respect to AI inventions to date, the USPTO has issued thousands of patents on AI technologies, and the future grows more exciting every day as new AI technologies are developed. However, with excitement comes change and the potential for uncertainty. Therefore, the USPTO must continue to ensure the appropriate balance in the administration of our IP system.

With this in mind, the USPTO looks forward to working with the AI academic and industrial community. Working together, we will continuously improve the USPTO’s efforts to foster innovation, competitiveness, and job growth.

I am also excited to announce that we will be publishing a notice in the Federal Register that poses questions regarding the intersection of patent law with AI that the public may respond to. This first step will allow us to gather information on AI patent policy issues for purposes of evaluating whether further guidance is needed and informing the development of any such guidance. Questions the public is invited to reply to include:

  • Do current patent laws and regulations regarding inventorship need to be revised to take into account inventions where an entity or entities other than a natural person contributed to the conception of an AI invention or any other invention?
  • Are there any patent eligibility considerations unique to AI inventions?
  • Does AI impact the level of a person of ordinary skill in the art?
  • Do the disclosure rules (enablement, specification, etc.) need to be altered for AI-related patent applications?

This is just a sample of some of the issues on which the USPTO is seeking input regarding AI patent policy.  And this is only the first step. In addition to patents, in the coming months and beyond, the USPTO will examine the full spectrum of intellectual property policy issues that have arisen, or may arise, as AI technologies become more advanced. From AI’s impact on existing intellectual property rights, including copyright and trademarks, to considering if new legal rights are needed in the wake of more advanced AI, the USPTO will continue our thought leadership on AI-related intellectual property policy issues.

Thursday Aug 22, 2019

Dog Days of Summer

Guest blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter

“Sitting back in the evening, stargazing and stroking your dog, is an infallible remedy.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The “dog days of summer” have arrived! According to the Farmer’s Almanac, they traditionally take place from July 3rd to August 11th. You may be surprised to learn that the phrase “dog days of summer” originated with the Greeks and Romans and is derived from the “dog star” Sirius and its position in the sky during this time. These days may be the hottest days of the year, depending on your latitude on Earth.

Intellectual property (IP) rights power the U.S. economy across many industries, including the pet sector. Patents on technical innovations and trademarks on branding are critical assets in the pet industry. In fact, legal specialization to support the pet industry has taken off: a number of law firms have now launched practices around food, beverage, and pet issues, representing a wide array of industry leaders on matters ranging from litigation, regulatory, and IP rights. Similarly, government oversight over the pet industry has grown to agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Federal Trade Commission.

Growth in the pet sector has soared, and shows continued economic strength, even during times of recession. Currently, sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. Over 43 million of those households own dogs. In 2018, the pet industry in the United States was $72 billion; it is estimated to exceed $75 billion in 2019. The largest sector of this industry is pet health care, with $18 billion spent on vet care and $16 billion spent on supplies and over the counter medication. A close second is the pet food sector, which grossed $30 billion last year. Dog owners spend almost $1,300 a year on their pets.

Underpinning the powerful growth of the pet industry economy is strong IP protection. While we may be familiar with some of the big brand names in the pet retailer space, we are also seeing record-setting growth and entrepreneurial activity and inventions by new innovators. Entrepreneurs launching start-ups and building new businesses rely on patent protection and trademark registration as a means of differentiating their products and attracting customer loyalty. Also, IP protection wards off infringers and counterfeit goods. However, even though legally empowered with intellectual property rights, sadly, the threat of counterfeiting now requires the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators to post frequent warnings about the dangers of counterfeit pet medicines and/or pet food that can harm pets, as well as nascent businesses.

So let’s take a closer look at some examples of innovations driving this thriving industry.

  • The Frisbee™ is still one of the most beloved dog toy inventions. Fred Morrison created and sold the first flying disc toy, named the Pluto Platter in 1955. Morrison filed a design patent (U.S. Patent No. D183,626) in 1957. He then sold the rights to Wham-O, who renamed the toy and received a trademark registration for “Frisbee” in 1959, named after the pie tin sold by the Frisbie Pie Company in the late 1800s. While working for Wham-O, Edward Headrick designed an improved “Flying Saucer,” for which he was granted a patent in 1967. 

 

Morrison patent for flying disc toy 

Morrison patent for "flying disc toy."

  • The automotive market has expanded to cater to our pets. For example, Tesla has created a “dog mode” so you can leave your pet in the car with the air conditioning (or heat) on while you run a quick errand. The console informs people passing by: “My owner will be back soon. Don’t worry! The A/C is on and it’s [temperature].”

 

Tesla "dog mode" showing a cat and dog inside a car

Tesla has created a “dog mode” where pets can be left in a car for a short time with the air conditioning (or heat) on. (Photo courtesy of Tesla)

  • In the fitness sector, you can track your pet’s activity with “smart collars,” which function similarly to the human activity tracker, FitBit. There are multiple patents directed to tracking systems for monitoring a pet’s location, activity, training, and creating virtual fences.
  • To keep our pets safe, implantable microchip devices equipped with GPS can help find the almost 10 million pets that are lost every year. Numerous patents directed to implantable microchip devices, which are generally the size of a grain of rice, can be implanted by your local veterinarian.
  • Some pets struggle with health problems, including joint ailments or even lost limbs. In the 1950s, inventor Carl Creamer received a patent for a “Mobile Sling for Crippled Animals” (U.S. Patent No. 2,546,726). These veterinary prosthetic carts are intended to help animals experiencing a range of health issues including, spinal damage, forelimb or shoulder pain or weakness, degenerative myelopathy, elbow dysplasia, and other joint and limb ailments. His patent has spawned a cottage industry of device manufacturers working on a range of new and improved designs to assist with a variety of ailments for a range of breeds.

 

Carl Creamer patent for dog sling

Carl Creamer patent for "mobile sling for crippled animals."

  • Taking this to another level in the health industry, prosthetic implants made by 3D printing techniques can help disabled pets attain a better quality of life. Many of these devices were inspired by similar devices designed for humans. Virginia-based Animal Ortho Care, and its founder Derrick Campana, was one of the first to use 3D-printed prosthetics for animals. He is one of only 10 people in the world to design prosthetics for animals, including elephants, cows, goats, horses, dogs, and cats.

 

Throughout the “dog days of summer,” including National Dog Day on August 26th, follow the USPTO on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more examples of pet-related inventions and trademarks, as we celebrate the ways in which these inventions have made our pets and us happier, healthier, and safer.