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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.

 

 

Thursday Jun 14, 2018

10 million patents: A celebration of American innovation

By Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office

A photo of the newly redesigned patent cover, featuring the word "patent" inscribed in gold leaf lettering.

The USPTO will first issue this new patent cover, designed in-house, for patent number 10 million on June 19. Photo by Jeff Isaacs/USPTO

On June 19, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will issue patent number 10 million—a remarkable achievement for the United States of America and our agency. More than just a number, this patent represents one of ten million steps on a continuum of human accomplishment launched when our Founding Fathers provided for intellectual property protection in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of our Constitution.

Appropriately, patent number 10 million will be the first issued with a new patent cover design, which we unveiled in March at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. It was created by a team of USPTO graphic designers including Rick Heddlesten, Teresa Verigan, and led by Jeff Isaacs. Like the numerical milestone, the new cover design celebrates both how far we have come and the new frontiers we have yet to explore.

Four people stand on a stage applauding the unveiling of the new patent cover at the south by southwest festival.

Left to right: Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet and a National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee; Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO; Drew Hirshfeld, USPTO Commissioner for Patents; and Susann Keohane, IBM Master Inventor and Global Research Leader for the Aging Initiative, unveil the new design for U.S. patents at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO

Each patent blooms from the creativity, brilliance, and determination that an inventor or a team of inventors have invested in order to bring an idea to fruition. In fulfilling our Constitutional mandate “to promote the progress of science and useful arts,” our nation has become the world's leader in innovation. Our strong IP system has delivered 10 million patents’ worth of innovation representing trillions of dollars added to the global economy.

Patent examiners and the entire USPTO have played a vital role in every single one of these patents. So, in marking this historic occasion, we also honor and salute the public service delivered by all employees of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office now, and those of its predecessor agencies throughout our history. The work of this remarkable agency has been and continues to be critically important.

The future—the next ten million patents and beyond—is even more exciting. We stand on the cusp of truly historic times for science and technology. The USPTO is committed to encouraging and supporting future generations of inventors and entrepreneurs in communities across the nation who will lead us to ever higher achievements and development.

At this time in our nation’s history, we are proud to celebrate American innovation, the men and women who stand behind it, and the American intellectual property system which has helped fuel it all.

Friday Jun 08, 2018

From Seattle to Shanghai: Protecting America's IP at home and abroad

By Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office

USPTO Director Andrei Iancu joins AIPLA Executive Director Lisa Jorgenson to talk IP and the U.S. patent system at AIPLA's 2018 Spring Meeting in Seattle, Washington.

USPTO Director Andrei Iancu joins AIPLA Executive Director Lisa Jorgenson to talk IP and the U.S. patent system at AIPLA's 2018 Spring Meeting in Seattle, Washington.

I recently joined several of the USPTO’s intellectual property (IP) attachés and the regional director of the USPTO’s Silicon Valley office, John Cabeca, in Seattle. We were there to meet with IP stakeholders, visit several leading companies in the region, and attend a series of meetings, including the American Intellectual Property Law Association’s 2018 Spring Meeting.

Certainly a highlight of our time in Seattle was the opportunity to tour the facilities of several Washington-based companies that have an acute awareness of the growing importance of protecting and enforcing their IP, both at home and abroad.

One of them was Seattle Genetics, a biotech company based in Bothell, Washington. Founded in 1997, the company has grown to be among the 25 largest U.S. biotech companies by market capitalization, with nearly a thousand employees. Currently, Seattle Genetics holds more than 80 patents.

During our meeting and subsequent lab tour, representatives of Seattle Genetics explained to us their goal of transforming cancer therapy with multiple, globally available products, and they detailed the company’s significant research into advancing its antibody drug conjugate  technology, a proprietary process that links the specificity of monoclonal antibodies with potent cell-killing agents to treat cancer. Intellectual property is critically important to enabling companies like Seattle Genetics to develop life-saving and world-changing products.

The biotech industry is one of the most innovative and fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy: according to a 2016 report from the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, it accounted for more than 1.6 million employees across some 77,000 business establishments in 2014, offering significantly above-average wages.

Following a tour of Amazon HQ with USPTO Director Andrei Iancu, the IP Attachés met with Amazon's IP team to discuss concerns with counterfeiting and piracy around the world.

Following a tour of Amazon HQ with USPTO Director Andrei Iancu, the IP Attachés met with Amazon's IP team to discuss concerns with counterfeiting and piracy around the world.

The biotech industry faces some unique challenges in protecting its IP abroad. That is where the USPTO’s IP attachés—who are U.S. diplomats posted in 12 locations throughout the world—are an invaluable resource. They help ensure that foreign laws, regulations, and IP enforcement regimes in their respective regions effectively protect the IP of U.S. biotech firms such as Seattle Genetics. They also work with foreign officials to improve patent and trademark practices, offer guidance to police and customs officials on enforcement mechanisms, as well as monitor the activities of international and regional organizations that might affect the IP interests of U.S. companies. USPTO’s IP attachés are a valued resource to U.S. companies and their representatives when they contemplate entering or expanding in these overseas markets.

My visit to Seattle Genetics further impressed upon me the importance of the USPTO’s IP attachés’ work on behalf of U.S. interests, particularly those of our most cutting-edge, jobs-producing industries. Our subsequent visits with several other Seattle-area companies—including Amazon and Nintendo of America—underlined how important a job we have, no matter the industry, in protecting U.S. IP overseas.

Learn more about the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program.

 

Monday May 14, 2018

Innovation is alive and well in 2018

By Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office

 2018 NIHF inductee Sumita Mitra speaks behind a podium at the 2018 induction ceremony.

2018 National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee for Nanocomposite Dental Materials, Sumita Mitra, accepts her award, and thanks the many people she says helped her along the way. Photo courtesy of NIHF.

Innovation is alive and well in 2018. How do I know? On May 3, I had the honor of helping induct 15 of America’s greatest innovators into the 46th class of the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF).

The historic National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., echoing with memories of America’s greatest thought and political leaders, was a fitting backdrop for the momentous event. The personal stories of these visionary men and women encouraged everyone present to keep dreaming of a better tomorrow.

By the end of the evening we had inducted 10 living inventors, named another five posthumously, and raised thousands of dollars for Camp Invention – NIHF’s nonprofit elementary enrichment program that is building the next generation of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs like 8-year-old Mighty Minds contest winner Nikaya Baranwal. I’ve spoken before about the power of a childlike wonder for discovery and invention. Camp Invention spreads and nurtures that wonder in children today, especially in underserved communities, so that they can be the innovators of tomorrow.

 A woman stands on stage smiling with a young girl.

2017 NIHF inductee Frances Ligler discusses the excitement of invention with 2018 Camp Invention Mighty Minds winner Nikaya Baranwal of Clifton Park, New York. Photo courtesy of NIHF.

The induction ceremony on May 3 was part of a series of events honoring both the new and previous inductees, which kicked off with an illumination ceremony on May 2 at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum on the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia. If you haven’t been to the NIHF museum, I encourage you to make a visit part of your summer plans; I guarantee you’ll be inspired.  

 Stan Honey inserts his name plaque into a hexagonal icon at the NIHF museum.

2018 NIHF inductee for Sports Broadcast Graphics Enhancements, Stan Honey, illuminates his name in the Gallery of Icons at the 2018 illumination ceremony at the NIHF museum in Alexandria, Virginia. Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO.

During the illumination ceremony, each inductee places their name into a beautifully lit hexagonal icon. The shape of the icons is deliberate – a structure based on hexagons grows stronger with each new addition just as each of the inductees have added to the economic and social strength of our nation. And each one adds their light to the bright beacon of invention.

 The 2018 inductees were not the only stars at the museum last week. In recognition of their important work, the patent examiners of record on NIHF inductee patents attended the ceremony. Each went home with a certificate of appreciation from the USPTO and NIHF, and an opportunity to meet the grateful inventors behind the hall of fame patent they examined. As I’ve said before, across our desks, and through our doors, comes the future. I cannot overstate how essential our patent examiners are to the innovation ecosystem.

 All present NIHF inductees sit or stand on stage for a group photo at the 2018 NIHF induction ceremony.

All National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees present at the 2018 induction were recognized on stage with the newest class of inventors to share the prestigious title. Photo courtesy of NIHF.

Collectively, this year’s inductees have used IP protection to create more than 16 startups, some of which have grown into leading American companies in fields from biotechnology to wireless communications. They have dramatically changed things from the way we watch sports and communicate to the way we eat food and care for the environment. Their vision has manifested into thousands of jobs and countless improvements to our very way of life. We are forever grateful for the contributions of all National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, and I know I am not alone when I say we look forward to seeing what the future brings.

Learn more and watch a video on the inspiring work of all the inductees.

Thursday Apr 26, 2018

USPTO Celebrates Women Innovators for World IP Day

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

 By Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office

World Intellectual Property Day 2018, Powering Change, Women in Innovation and Creativity.

Today, April 26, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) celebrates World Intellectual Property (IP) day in Washington, D.C., as well as across the country in HoustonChicago and Silicon Valley. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) established World IP Day in 1999 to celebrate the important role of intellectual property, and the contributions made by creators and innovators around the globe. The theme of this year’s World IP Day is “Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity.”

Consider, for example, Mary Dixon Kies the first woman to apply for and receive a U.S. patent in her own name. Her patent, issued May 5, 1809, was for a straw-weaving process that was widely used for over a decade. New England’s hat-making industry adopted her patented process, and First Lady Dolly Madison personally praised her invention and recognized the prosperity it helped bring to the region.

This afternoon we are holding a World IP Day program on Capitol Hill featuring three of today’s remarkable female innovators. Dr. Cherry Murray of Harvard University, Dr. Irina Buhimschi of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Danya Sherman, Founder of KnoNap,LLC, will discuss their innovations, how women have inspired them, and how they wish to empower fellow and future women innovators. The event is free and open to the public

Dr. Francis Ligler speaks to an audience of USPTO employees.

National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee, Dr. Frances Ligler, talks to USPTO employees about her career, current research, and the importance of women inventors and innovators.  

On April 24, we celebrated World IP Day with hundreds of USPTO employees at our headquarters and around the country with a keynote speech from Dr. Frances Ligler from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University. She holds 32 U.S. patents (and counting) and has commercialized 11 of those inventions. Inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2017, Dr. Ligler invented portable optical biosensors, which are used in food production, health clinics, pollutant cleanup sites and military applications, including detecting botulinum toxin and anthrax during Operation Desert Storm. During the event, Dr. Ligler discussed her career at the Naval Research Laboratory and her current research, as well as her insights about women as inventors and innovators.

 I also invite you to watch this special video featuring Dr. Ellen Ochoa – inventor, NASA astronaut, and Director of the Johnson Space Center – about the importance of women in innovation as well as her thoughts on mentorship and leadership.

From the 19th century economy of New England to the International Space Station orbiting the Earth, women continually shape the innovation landscape, playing a critical role in improving our way of life and enhancing our country’s economic prosperity. Their work reminds us that every day is IP Day, an opportunity to celebrate the creativity and innovation of people from all walks of life.

Thursday Mar 22, 2018

Greetings from Director Iancu

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

By the end of this week, I’ll have held the title Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO for more than six weeks. In that short time, apart from learning to say my whole title in one breath, I’ve learned a great deal about the day-to-day activities of the USPTO. From greeting examiners who arrive for work in my first week, to speaking to a group of over 700 managers and attending the African American Leadership Breakfast, it has been thrilling to learn more about what USPTO employees do every day.

Director Iancu greets employees entering the building for work.

Director Iancu (center) greets employees arriving to work at the USPTO Alexandria campus.

The work we do here at the USPTO every day is vital to our nation and its economy. Our vision is to fully realize our constitutional mandate to “promote the progress of science and useful arts” so that we may ensure that impact for future generations. It is no coincidence that innovation has thrived here for centuries, under the auspices of our Constitution that explicitly lays out protections for intellectual property.

The public servants at the USPTO are at the crux of innovation, and our agency serves as a fulcrum on which our customers can leverage their creations towards further development and growth. Examiners work within a very challenging set of laws, against tight time and quality constraints, yet deliver results on a consistent basis.

We will continue working with inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs to ensure that when they disclose their inventions, we properly scope and protect their best ideas by granting strong and predictable IP rights. We will also cement our IP system as balanced, efficient, and industry neutral. Whether we’re working with a small inventor with a big idea, or a big company with a small improvement, or everyone else who comes before us, each customer who comes through our doors can be assured that they will receive the highest quality service.

Director Iancu sits at the center of a large conference table , speaking with employees.

Director Iancu (center) meets with USPTO leaders and employees.

I think of inspiring inventors like Michael Schultz, the U.S. Paralympic competitor who built himself a better prosthetic, which led to a better life for himself and amputees around the world. Inventors like Michael, as well as the public, must have confidence in our system in order to spur increased innovation, productive competition, and job creation.

I look forward to talking with and listening to our many partners, customers, stakeholders, and employees to ensure the USPTO and the U.S. IP system continue to be at the forefront of our nation’s growth.