Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Thursday Apr 27, 2017

Celebrating World IP Day

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

On April 26, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) celebrated World Intellectual Property (IP) day in Washington D.C., as well as across the country in Houston, Chicago, and Silicon Valley. The theme of this year’s World IP Day is “Innovation – Improving Lives.”

One program which is a prime example innovation improving lives is Patents for Humanity, the USPTO’s awards competition recognizing innovators who use game-changing technology to meet global humanitarian challenges. This year’s winners found new and innovative ways to administer and provide health care solutions in some of the most disadvantaged regions of the world. Watch the USPTO’s Patents for Humanity video to learn more about the program’s mission and impact.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee gave remarks at a World IP Day event on Capitol Hill, stating:

“We have seen the profound impact that good ideas, protected through a world-class IP system, can have on humanity. From new and powerful technology that we can wear on our wrists and carry in our pockets, to new methods of diagnosing and treating disease, intellectual property can not only improve lives, it can save lives. It can also create new jobs and grow our economy, which is why we must always ensure that our IP system supports small businesses, startups, and individual inventors.”

 

 Co-founder of GRIT demonstrates the all-terrain Freedom Chair for the disabled.

Co-founder of GRIT demonstrates the all-terrain Freedom Chair for the disabled.

Featured speakers for World IP Day also included Jeanine Hayes, Chief IP Officer of Nike, Inc., who discussed Nike’s FlyEase technology, a line of footwear built for athletes with disabilities, and Mario Bollini, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Global Research Innovation and Technology, Inc. who demonstrated the company’s all-terrain Freedom Chair for the disabled.

See images from World IP Day events.

Thursday Mar 30, 2017

Spotlight on Pam Isom, Director of the Office of Application Engineering and Development

A post about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

Guest blog by Pam Isom, Director of the Office of Application Engineering and Development, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

As Director of the Office of Application Engineering and Development (AED), I oversee all aspects of next generation systems engineering, development and implementation at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I am also responsible for hiring, budget formulation, planning and execution, and laying a foundation for the retirement of legacy systems. 

My office is large and our initiatives are complex. As a result, we have frequent working sessions (standups are not uncommon) where we break problems into manageable components, brainstorm ideas and address. I value my team. Together we are building systems that protect the nation’s intellectual property (IP) through the consistent application of DevOps, user centered design, and advanced agile principles. We have fun, succeed, make mistakes, learn, and get better.

I joined the USPTO in 2015 with over 25 years of IT experience, and as an industry veteran I recall the process of evolving ideas into inventions, and then patents. This process was not easy - it required extensive dialogue, much patience, sometimes rejection and yes, determination. Anxiety would sometimes set in and I would wonder, “What do the reviewers think of my invention? I should have explained things better. Sigh…What now?” Fast forward to today, five patents later, and numerous publications including a book. I am delighted that these experiences contributed to my interest in serving as an employee and representative of the USPTO. Now I sit on the other side - one of the best choices of my career!

Pam Isom holds standing meeting with her team
Pam Isom holds a standing meeting with her team

Women’s History Month is a great time to reflect on the influence of women around the globe. In college, I remember being the only African American woman in computer classes and early in my career, the only one in many job assignments. I wasn’t surprised since many of my peers chose alternate fields of study. I once asked a manager of an all-male computer programming team how she felt about being the minority. She expressed that she doesn’t dwell on it, that she focuses on the job at hand.  That stuck with me. I decided that my circumstances were attributes of a trail blazer. So while it didn’t matter to me then that I was the minority, it’s nice to see more women in technology each day and I hope that I have, in some way, been of influence.

My role model is my mom. She taught me so much. She is the one that encouraged me to believe in myself and to value others. She lived “it will be alright in a minute.” As a young girl, growing up in Oklahoma, I was quite the curious one, inspired to study math, science and music. In the summer months I eagerly attended youth programs so as not to become idle. I am also grateful for the support my husband, who is also my best friend, has provided me along the way and throughout my career.

I respect my leaders and admire the representation of women at the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the USPTO -- a diverse group with many talents -- and it is no surprise to find leaders in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) here. I was invited and remain a board member of the Network of Executive Women (NEW) affinity group since its inception in 2015, supporting the mission of inspiring women executives and promoting STEM. I was grateful yet humbled to serve as a panelist at the DOC’s Hidden Figures event this month, and also to be recognized in the Women of Innovation exhibit at the USPTO.

There are significant opportunities at the USPTO and in particular the Office of the Chief Information Officer and AED. To the rising and the more experienced women who may have faced some challenges and/or who may tempted to second guess yourself, I have some advice for you that I apply to my own life. Purpose is important. Your purpose in life will open doors. When that happens, be ready and cross the threshold. Go Forward. Keep the passion. Obstacles may get in the way but not in your way.

Wednesday Mar 22, 2017

Celebrating Women of Innovation

A post about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

Women inventors and scientists have made lasting contributions to our nation’s history, but why is it that many people are unable to name one female inventor, but can easily recall male inventors and scientists such as Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein?

Take one woman inventor for example. Actress Hedy Lamarr was best known for her work in Hollywood during MGM's Golden Age, starring in such films as Ziegfeld Girl (1941), White Cargo (1942), and Samson and Delilah (1949). But Lamarr also worked with Hollywood composer George Antheil to invent and patent a frequency hopping technique that today is referenced as an important development in the field of wireless communications. Lamarr and Antheil's frequency hopping reduced the risk of detection or jamming of radio-controlled torpedoes.

Commemorating Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme of “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business,” the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF), the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) long-time private sector partner, has developed an impressive display featuring women inventors in the atrium of the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, VA. The colorful pictorial exhibit highlights the accomplishments of ten innovative women for their breakthrough contributions and inspiration, empowering current and future generations of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

 Women of Innovation exhibit at the USPTO

Display featuring women inventors in the atrium of the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, VA

In addition to inventors such as Hedy Lamar, the exhibit showcases women innovators of all ages, from Made by Girls Scholar Landri Drude, who participated in Camp Invention, to Elizabeth Hunter, who was a finalist in the Collegiate Inventors Competition. These women are vital role models and contributors to the fabric of American innovation and technology.

In today’s innovation-based economy, it is important to remove barriers and expand opportunities for women in STEM.  Through the All in STEM Initiative, the USPTO is encouraging women at all stages of their lives to pursue STEM degrees and work in STEM careers for the benefit of our economy and society. Follow the USPTO on Twitter and keep up with our efforts through #AllinSTEM and #PeopleofPTO.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame is dedicated to ensuring American ingenuity continues to thrive in the hands of coming generations through its national, hands-on educational programming and challenging collegiate competitions focused on the exploration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. NIHF has served more than one million children and 125,000 educators and interns, and awarded more than $1 million to college students for their innovative work and scientific achievement through the help of its sponsors. Visit the NIHF Museum located at the USPTO in Alexandria, VA, renovated last year, and discover more inspirational stories of invention.

Monday Mar 13, 2017

2017 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

Guest blog by Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld

Recently, the National Inventors Hall of Fame, in partnership with the USPTO, announced the 2017 National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees. These visionary inventors each patented inventions that revolutionized their industries and changed people’s lives. Of the fifteen new inductees, eight will be honored posthumously.

The criteria for induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame requires candidates to hold a U.S. patent that has contributed significantly to the nation's welfare and the advancement of science and the useful arts.

This year’s class of inductees includes Earl Dickson, inventor of the Band-Aid® Adhesive Bandage, Augustine Sackatt, inventor of drywall, Marshall G. Jones, responsible for laser welding aluminum to copper, and Carolyn Bertozzi, a pioneer in DNA-cell conjugates. Read more about the inspiring work of all the inductees.

Both the new and previous inductees will be honored in a two-day event series. It will kick off with an illumination ceremony at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia on May 3, 2017 followed by the 45th Annual National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on May 4 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.

Illuminated wall of icons

Illuminated wall of icons at the National Inventors Hall of Fame

The National Inventors Hall of Fame, located in the Madison Building on the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia, was established in 1973 and honors monumental individuals who have contributed great technological and scientific achievements and helped stimulate growth for our nation and beyond. The museum reopened last year to the public after renovations, with some new interactive installations. These include the chance to take a seat in a one-of-a-kind ride, a 1965 Ford Mustang merged with a 2015 Ford Mustang, plug into the story of Qualcomm’s smartphone technology, powered by the patent system, see the progression and development of the camera, courtesy of the George Eastman Museum, and discover the inspirational stories of past inductees on the illuminated gallery of icons.

Thursday Jan 12, 2017

More New Ways to Explore Patent Data

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

Making patent data accessible to the public has been a cornerstone of this agency’s policy since its inception. I’m pleased to announce yet another step we’ve taken at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make such data even easier for the public to understand and use, namely the addition of new features to our patent data visualization and analysis tool, PatentsView. First launched in 2014, PatentsView provides the public a variety of ways to interactively engage, through a web-based platform, the highest-quality patent data available. The underlying database connects 40 years’ worth of information about inventors, their organizations, and their locations in unprecedented ways. PatentsView is a key component of our open data efforts to improve the accessibility, usability, and transparency of U.S. patent data.

PatentsView’s newly revamped interface presents three new user-friendly starting points:

  • The Relationship visualization depicts the most cited inventions that propel innovation. Users can explore the network of inventors on these patents and the companies, universities, or other organizations that may employ them and invest in their research. For example, the network visualization shows that Californians invented 44 of the top 100 most cited U.S. patents granted since 2001, including, for example, TiVo’s patent for a multimedia time warping system.

relationship visual

  • The Locations visualization displays an interactive worldwide map of the cities where innovation originates. The map highlights regional innovation hubs such as Atlanta, home to more than 5,500 inventors and 1,000 innovating companies since 1976.

screenshot of the locations visualization

  • The Comparison visualization depicts patterns in innovation across locations and technologies over time, showing, for example, that over the past two decades there have been more inventors on patents for computer hardware, data processing, and information storage technology than in any other technical field.

screenshot of the comparison visualization

From these starting points, users can further explore comprehensive detail views for each patent, inventor, firm, and location. These interactive detail pages emphasize the interconnectedness of inventions, people, and firms. You can also access the data directly through an intuitive search and download system, via an application programming interface (API), or through bulk downloads.

You could argue that the innovations documented in our records may very well, collectively, constitute the world’s largest repository of scientific and technological knowledge. But the larger a data set, the more challenging it is to find useful information or trends or, put another way, to separate the signal from the noise. This collaborative tool, developed by the USPTO’s Office of the Chief Economist in conjunction with the American Institutes for Research, New York University, the University of California at Berkeley, Twin Arch Technologies, and Periscopic, aims to make that sorting and separation possible. The shared public and private effort in creating and improving the platform is symbolized in the “.org” domain of http://www.PatentsView.org.

By providing new tools and data to the public, PatentsView demonstrates this agency’s continuing commitment to open data, open government, and evidence-based policymaking.

Monday Jan 09, 2017

MyUSPTO: Your Personalized Homepage for USPTO Tasks

Guest blog by Chief Information Officer John B. Owens II

The USPTO recently launched a new tool to improve how you manage your intellectual property portfolio. With one single sign on, you can now track your patent and trademark applications, receive alerts when they are updated, and get other news from the USPTO. 

MyUSPTO is your personalized homepage and gateway to all your USPTO business needs, and there is no cost to sign up and use the site. MyUSPTO allows you to access your patent and trademark applications in one central location, and also receive email notifications when the status changes on those applications. The site also allows you to save USPTO webpages as bookmarks, so you won’t need to save them separately in your own browser. Additionally, you can learn about current news, upcoming events, and connect with our Facebook and Twitter accounts on the MyUSPTO homepage. The site uses “widgets,” which are small applications that display snippets of important information; aka shortcuts to larger USPTO applications and affiliated sites. The entire site is fully customizable so you can add a little or as much as you prefer.

MyUSPTO simplifies, personalizes, and streamlines the public’s interactions with the USPTO. Future releases will gradually replace many of the credentials you use to sign in to our other systems with one secure, consolidated sign-in. The accounts are designed for individuals; however, future updates will add the ability for organizations to share information between colleagues.

Let us know your suggestions on how we can further improve the site through our MyUSPTO feedback forum on IdeaScale. I invite you to visit MyUSPTO, create an account, and check it out for yourself.  I’m positive that it will be useful for your business needs. You can also visit our “What’s New” page to find out about future updates and improvements.

Wednesday Jan 04, 2017

USPTO Releases its 2016 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) 2016.  The PAR serves as the USPTO’s annual report, similar to what private sector companies prepare for their shareholders.  Each year the USPTO publishes this report to update the public on our performance and financial health.

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

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

On the issue of financial performance, FY 2016 marks the 24th consecutive year that the USPTO’s financial statements have received an unmodified audit opinion.  Our clean audit opinion gives the public independent assurance that the information presented in the agency’s financial statements is fairly presented and follows generally accepted accounting principles.  In addition, the auditors reported no material weaknesses in the USPTO’s internal controls, and no instances of non-compliance with laws and regulations affecting the financial statements.

While the PAR is a record of our achievements, it is also an honest discussion of the challenges we face as an agency moving forward in FY 2017.  We will continue efforts in the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, which is a multifaceted initiative that builds on past efforts and includes future programs aimed at improving the accuracy, clarity, and consistency of patents; continue implementation of the patent dispute resolution portions of the AIA; meet the wave of legal challenges to the USPTO’s interpretation of the AIA and its regulations implementing the statute; develop outreach at both headquarters and regional offices; expand on dissemination of data; attain and maintain full sustainable funding; and provide IT support for a nationwide workforce with a “24/7/365” operational capability.

The PAR is a faithful snapshot of the USPTO’s FY 2016 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.

Tuesday Dec 27, 2016

Better Protection for Industrial Designs through International Cooperation

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

Representatives from the USPTO and the intellectual property offices of the European Union, Japan, Korea, and China—which together account for more than 90 percent of the world’s design patent filings—convened in Beijing, China, November 1–2, 2016, for the second annual meeting of the Industrial Design Forum, or ID5.

The ID5 was formed in December 2015, with its inaugural meeting held at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Its goal is to improve consistency in registration policies for industrial designs and to facilitate progress on a range of matters that stakeholders around the world would like to see addressed. These include grace periods, partial designs, graphical user interfaces and icon designs, implementation of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Digital Access Service, and the standardization of design representations.

Because these offices handle such a large proportion of global industrial design filings, the ID5 forum can serve as an incubator for developing innovative responses to existing or future developments in the design area. Its work will promote greater efficiency, consistency, and effectiveness across the globe—both for applicants seeking protection for their industrial designs and for the offices tasked with administering the system.

The ID5 partners took an important step forward in November when they approved 12 projects aimed at studying key aspects of industrial design practice in each of their jurisdictions and coming up with concrete, user-friendly deliverables. The USPTO is co-leading four of the projects, including those on grace periods, partial designs, emerging technological designs, and the implementation of the WIPO’s Digital Access Service.

The ID5 partners also signed a joint statement affirming their commitment to further the development of improved industrial design protection systems, and unveiled the ID5 website, which will serve as a source of information for the public on ID5 projects, statistics, and events.

Since its launch a year ago, the ID5 forum has already proven to be a successful vehicle for enhancing the global industrial design framework. With industrial design having an ever-increasing importance in innovation, business, and trade, the USPTO’s work with its ID5 partners will enable a coordinated effort to address whatever challenges that owners and users of designs may confront.

Wednesday Dec 21, 2016

USPTO Fights Fraudulent Trademark Solicitations

Guest blog by Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Boney Denison

The USPTO has worked hard to fight solicitations from companies fraudulently promising to protect trademarks, and we have taken a number of steps to help raise awareness of these schemes in an attempt to limit the number of victims defrauded. Our agency works closely with federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the United States Postal Inspection Service to combat the problem.

The Department of Justice announced last week that two California men pled guilty in a mass-mailing scam that targeted owners of U.S. trademark applications. The men, Artashes Darbinyan and Orbel Hakobyan, admitted to stealing approximately $1.66 million from registrants and applicants of U.S. trademarks through companies called Trademark Compliance Center (TCC) and Trademark Compliance Office (TCO). The USPTO is proud to have cooperated with law enforcement agencies in the California case.

Trademark solicitations have been a global problem for decades, including for USPTO customers, and we have implemented several measures to protect our customers against them.

First, the USPTO includes a warning and a link to our Non-USPTO Solicitations page in each office action, urging our customers to carefully review all correspondence regarding their application to ensure that they are responding to an official document from the USPTO rather than a private company solicitation. 

Second, a similar warning, on bright orange paper, is sent to every registrant when the USPTO mails the paper registration certificate to the registrant. 

Third, the USPTO has several online resources alerting the public to these non-USPTO solicitations on our Non-USPTO Solicitations page, including a frequently updated list of fraudulent entities we’ve already identified. If you receive an invoice from a company not appearing on this list, we encourage you to email us copies of the notice and the envelope it came in at TMFeedback@uspto.gov so that we may assess whether to add it to the list.

A registered trademark is a valuable asset, and where there’s money, unfortunately, there are bound to be criminal elements lurking. The USPTO continues to provide its ongoing full support to U.S. law enforcement officials working on this issue.

Thursday Dec 08, 2016

Trademarks Coast to Coast

Guest blog by Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Boney Denison

USPTO regional offices support the agency’s mission of fostering innovation by serving their regions’ intellectual property (IP) communities, assisting local businesses, and educating the public about the importance of IP. Regional office staff, in addition to USPTO trademark staff from headquarters, provide the public with full access to trademark information and resources in their local communities. This year, I visited all four regional offices: Denver and Silicon Valley in the fall, and Dallas and Detroit earlier in the year. During these visits, I had the chance to meet with USPTO employees, hear from local businesses, inventors, and IP practitioners about their concerns, and hold events on the importance of trademarks.

In September, I visited the Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Denver, where I got to see firsthand the vibrant IP community in the region, as well as the tireless work done by Director Molly Kocialski and the Denver office staff. I was excited to host the first interactive webcast trademark session in the Rocky Mountain region with USPTO trademark experts. With the help of representatives from the USPTO’s Trademark Assistance Center, we provided an overview of the trademark registration process and answered participants’ trademark questions. I also led an American Intellectual Property Association (AIPLA) Practitioner Roundtable, participated in a company listening tour, and provided important USPTO updates to area businesses.

I then visited the Silicon Valley Office in San Jose, California. Led by Director John Cabeca, the office has been busy supporting the active IP community and holding a variety of trademark events, from monthly lunch and learns to lectures on how to file international trademark applications under the Madrid Protocol. While in San Jose, I led an International Trademark Association (INTA) roundtable with Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) judge Francie Gorowitz, designed to offer insights into USPTO operations and help us better understand the needs of those using our services. I also spoke at World Congress’ Corporate IP Counsel Forum conference on updates to trademark law, and met with Playstation,® Visa,® and Carbon3D, a cutting edge 3-D printing company. 

In February, I visited the Texas Regional Office in Dallas, led by Director Hope Shimabuku. The office has already been holding monthly “Meet the Trademark Experts” to address trademark questions from the community. With Director Shimabuku, I participated in the office’s first all-day trademark workshop for the public, where we discussed Trademarks 101, filing options, the petitions process, and recent Trademark Office developments. Over the summer, the Texas Regional Office also held an all-day conference in San Antonio for independent inventors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. Trademark’s Managing Attorney for Educational Outreach Craig Morris and several other USPTO representatives participated in the event, where they discussed the trademark process, what happens after a trademark registers, and pitfalls to avoid when filing for a trademark registration.

In March, I visited the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit, which regularly holds trademark-focused lunch and learn events, and workshops on the basics of trademarks, trademark searching, and the Madrid Protocol. The office has also frequently held outreach events with representatives from the TTAB, including Chief Judge Rogers. During my visit, I joined Detroit’s Regional Director Dr. Christal Sheppard at the State Bar of Michigan’s Spring IP Seminar at Michigan State University. While in East Lansing, I spoke with students and professors at the Michigan State College of Law, and then held a Trademark Lunch and Learn in Detroit with sixty entrepreneurs.

Just like USPTO staff here at headquarters, regional office staff are dedicated, hard-working employees committed to the mission of the USPTO. During my trips this year, I’ve met with a number of USPTO trademark employees in the Telework Enhancement Act Pilot Program (TEAPP), learned about their day-to-day work to help the public, and also heard their valuable suggestions on improving  the services the USPTO provides. Meeting with inventors, businesses, and IP practitioners in innovation communities across the country, I have gained a better understanding of the issues and challenges they face. I look forward to another great year working with the USPTO regional offices to support innovators even further.

Tuesday Dec 06, 2016

Providing Clear and Transparent Patent Quality Metrics

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

It is critically important that the USPTO issue patents that are of the highest quality possible, and to accomplish this, we are taking measures to achieve greater accuracy, clarity, and consistency in examination and prosecution. One important component of this effort is providing metrics that are more clear and understandable to all our stakeholders. Based on public feedback, we established the Quality Metrics program, part of the USPTO’s ongoing Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, designed to enhance the assessment of our work products and to more clearly communicate our quality measurements.

Early in the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, we received feedback that the Quality Composite Score we use to assess our examiners’ work was not sufficiently precise because it combined indicators of both work product quality as well as process quality into a single score. Therefore, we discontinued the Quality Composite Score and proposed a new approach to quality metrics in a Federal Register Notice in March 2016. Our new process, which is further explained on the Quality Metrics page of the USPTO website, will allow us to accurately measure quality by differentiating between work product metrics and efficiency of the examination process.

When assessing work products, the USPTO considers a quality patent to be one that is correctly issued in compliance with all the requirements of Title 35 as well as the relevant case law at the time of issuance. By analyzing work product indicators and by conducting reviews, we have developed new statutory compliance metrics, which we have published on the Correctness Indicator page of the USPTO website, along with information on how we developed these metrics. The webpage contains breakdowns, such as by office action type, allowing the general public to explore the data at varying levels of granularity. We also recently enhanced how clarity is evaluated during office action reviews, which you can read about in a recent blog by Director Lee.

To accurately assess the efficiency of the examination process, we are analyzing reopenings of prosecution and rework of office actions, as well as focusing on improving consistency of decision making. Using data from our Patent Application Location and Monitoring (PALM) system, we are able to identify trends in examiner behavior to determine where the process is working well and where there may be potential quality concerns. We can then determine which areas of the process can be streamlined, and what areas may require additional training, as well as identify best practices.

Our stakeholder feedback is of utmost importance to us, and we will continue to administer internal and external surveys on quality. We will continue to publish the results of the surveys, and will incorporate what we find into our training and continuing quality improvement efforts. As always, we are open to your suggestions on ways to improve our patent quality metrics, as we push to find new and innovative ways to improve patent quality at the USPTO.

Monday Dec 05, 2016

Patents for Humanity Award Recipients Honored for Work in Providing Global Disease Health Care Solutions

A post about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

This year’s winners of the Patents for Humanity Award found new and innovative ways to administer and provide health care solutions in some of the most disadvantaged and underserved regions of the world. On November 16, four entities – a university, a federal agency, a business and a nonprofit– were recognized at the National Press Club for their work in tackling the global burden of disease and changing the world for the better.

Winners included Case Western Reserve University for a low-cost malaria detection device, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an improved meningitis vaccine, GestVision, Inc. for a quick diagnostic test for preeclampsia, and Global Good Fund at Intellectual Ventures for a cooler which can preserve vaccines for over a month with no outside power source. Read more about each of the award recipients.

Launched by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in February 2012 as part of an Obama administration initiative, the Patents for Humanity program promotes game-changing innovations that solve long-standing development challenges. The award is the USPTO’s top honor for recognizing patent owners and licensees who use game-changing technology to meet global humanitarian challenges. In addition to being recognized for their work, winners also receive accelerated processing of select matters at the USPTO.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro spoke at the awards ceremony, stating: “There is no greater effort that the federal government can be involved in than the opportunity to save lives. Borders are irrelevant to disease, and projects like these help get a discovery to market where it can make a difference.”

“Altogether the work of our Patents for Humanity applicants and awardees proves that great things that can be accomplished when intellectual property rights and innovation work together to solve problems of a truly global scope, ” said Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Russ Slifer, who delivered remarks at the ceremony. “In addition to the very tangible benefits their inventions will deliver, they will also inspire others to bring the power of innovation to bear on more of the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges.” Read Deputy Director Slifer’s full remarks.

Programs like Patents for Humanity help scale and incentivize innovation by spurring more game-changing work by the innovation community. The winners’ technologies and solutions show tomorrow’s scientists and engineers how the power of innovation can change the world for the better.

See a Facebook album of photos from the ceremony.

Tuesday Nov 29, 2016

USPTO Attachés: A Valuable Resource for U.S. Intellectual Property Interests Abroad

A post about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

U.S. companies may understand how to handle their intellectual property (IP) interests within the United States, but selling products and being competitive in foreign markets with varied and unfamiliar local IP laws is a different ball game. Independent inventors and small and medium-sized entities may lack the in-house resources and expertise they need to deal with foreign IP regulations.

And today, looking after those IP assets is more important than ever: according to a recent estimate from the International Chamber of Commerce, the global value of counterfeit and pirated products could be as high as $1.8 trillion a year. This represents a huge loss of revenue.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) IP Attaché Program supports U.S. stakeholders that sell in foreign markets or want to enter them. These attachés are IP experts stationed at select U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, working directly with U.S. businesses on intellectual property issues—including helping to stop counterfeiting and piracy—while supporting U.S. efforts to improve IP laws internationally.

In addition, the attachés advocate for U.S. IP policies; coordinate training on IP protection matters; and work with judicial, administrative, legislative, and enforcement officers to assist U.S. businesses that own or use IP. Currently, the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program has 14 positions around the world.

Recently, one industry-leading furniture manufacturer from Tennessee with production capability in China learned the value of the assistance that the USPTO’s IP attachés can provide. The company ran into difficulties when one of its former original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) obtained 13 Chinese design patents and used them to block the company’s other OEMs from manufacturing and exporting products. Our IP attaché in Guangzhou met with the company’s CEO and provided information and guidance on patent invalidation proceedings and how to navigate China’s IP judicial system, and offered suggestions on working with local customs and government authorities. One week after the meeting, three containers of furniture were released for export by Chinese customs officers, and $3.5 million in orders were fulfilled.

Companies can also face dangers abroad even where their operations are exclusively domestic. For example Mabrey Products—a small U.S. company based in Chico, California, that designs and manufactures wooden urns for funeral homes—made the surprising discovery last year at a trade show in the United States that a Chinese vendor was displaying urns that were direct copies of Mabrey’s product line. The company’s owner turned to one of our IP attachés stationed in China, who was able to provide guidance on how the company could protect its IP against this Chinese vendor and other infringers.

Now, other countries and markets may operate differently, each having its own—and sometimes quite distinct—set of rules and regulations regarding IP. But these examples show that the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program is working throughout the world to help U.S. businesses and stakeholders. To find out more about the program and how it can help you, visit the IP Attaché Program page of the USPTO website. Additional information on how to protect or use IP abroad, including links to IP Toolkits for more than 20 countries and regions, can be found on the USPTO website.

Tuesday Nov 22, 2016

Results of the Post Grant Outcomes Pilot

Guest blog by Chief Judge for the Patent and Trial Appeal Board David Ruschke and Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld

As part of the USPTO’s ongoing Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, in April 2016 we launched the Post Grant Outcomes Pilot, focused on pending patent applications that are related to issued patents undergoing an America Invents Act (AIA) trial proceeding  before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). We’d like to report that the Post Grant Outcomes Pilot has succeeded in making examiners aware of patents related to applications they are examining that are involved in PTAB trials, and in turn has facilitated the timely and effective examination of applications.

AIA trial proceedings contain prior art and arguments that might be highly relevant to the patentability determination of related applications currently under examination. This pilot was intended to help examiners harness the art presented during AIA trials to enhance examination of a related application, so they could reach more expeditious decisions on patentability.

During the pilot, we notified examiners via email when they had an application related to an AIA trial, and we streamlined access to the contents of the trial by pinpointing for examiners the most relevant documents. We then surveyed the examiners to gain detailed feedback.

The survey results showed that our examiners found the PTAB information—especially the initial petition (including the prior art citations), the PTAB’s institution decision, and any expert declarations—to be highly useful.  We also found that 46% of the examiners referred to at least one reference cited in the AIA trial petition during the examination of their own case, either by citing it in a rejection or as pertinent prior art.  If an examiner did not use or cite the prior art from the trial, it was most likely because the claims were different between the “parent” and the “child” case, the examiner disagreed with the AIA petitioner’s analysis of the prior art and/or claims, or the examiner was able to find better art. 

To further facilitate the process, in August 2016 we deployed an upgrade to examiners’ desktop application viewers which allows automated access to the contents of related AIA trials, including access to the entire file, and any cited prior art.  

Our next objective with regards to the post grant outcomes process is to identify examination best practices or deficiencies that we can address through additional examiner training.  To accomplish this, we are currently analyzing data gathered about the AIA trials with respect to prior art searching and claim interpretation, and are also working to thoroughly analyze how PTAB trials impact related applications.

Our final objective is to provide examiners with a periodic review of post-grant outcomes focused on Supreme Court, Federal Circuit, district court, and PTAB decisions that relate to their specific technological area.  It is our hope that by providing this information, examiners will gain a better understanding of the current state of the law and what happens to a patent after it leaves the USPTO. 

We are dedicated to ensuring examiners have all pertinent information, especially post grant outcomes information, easily and readily available, in order to issue the highest quality patents possible and enhance patent quality overall. Based on the program’s initial results, we can already see that our examiners are benefitting, and we will continue to identify additional ways to improve our processes.

Monday Nov 21, 2016

Optimizing Patent Examination Time

Guest Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director Russ Slifer

The USPTO is committed to issuing the highest quality patents possible, as evidenced by our Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative (EPQI). An important part of this effort is evaluating our patent examination time goals with the help of the public.

Examination time goals, which vary by technology, represent the average amount of time a patent examiner is expected to spend examining an application. Because examination time goals impact both patent pendency and quality, we want to ensure that our examination time goals accurately reflect the amount of time needed by examiners to conduct quality examination. A critical part of our efforts is obtaining stakeholder input. 

The last assignment of expectancies for examination time was over 40 years ago. Since then, circumstances have required occasional adjustments and establishment of new goals for emerging technologies. There has not been, however, a comprehensive reevaluation of examination time since those expectancies were established. Since the examination time goals were originally assigned, significant changes to the examination process have occurred, including increased use of electronic tools, changes in law due to court decisions, a growing volume of prior art, and progress in technology which results in increasingly complex subject matter in applications.

One of the most significant changes has been the USPTO’s transition from the United States Patent Classification (USPC) system, used to categorize patents to facilitate prior art searches by examiners, to the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system, an international, flexible and highly specific classification scheme. Because the current examination time goals were assigned based on the USPC system, implementation of the CPC system and the other significant changes to the examination process have caused us to reconsider and reassess the assignments of examination time goals.

As part of the EPQI, we are assessing the relationship between examination time and value-added examination activities, such as enhancing the clarity of the record with respect to claim interpretation, interview summaries, and reasons for allowance. All of these factors warrant a reevaluation of our examination time goals.

Internally at the USPTO, we’ve established teams to take a look at the impacts of both the transition to the Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) system and the EPQI programs on examination time. We are also developing, in collaboration with the examiners’ union, surveys on examination time that will be available for all Examiners and Supervisory Patent Examiners to complete in early 2017.

The public can provide us their input on examination time goals in several ways. On October 25, 2016, we published a Federal Register Notice to announce our effort, and we are accepting comments by email ExternalExaminationTimeStudy@USPTO.GOV or through our Ideascale site until January 30, 2017.

We are also holding roundtables in all of our offices across the country. We held our first roundtable on November 14 in Alexandria, VA. As a participant on the Alexandria panel, I had the opportunity to hear directly from many stakeholders about their interests and priorities with respect to examination time goals and quality, pendency, and cost for services.

Our next roundtable will take place on November 29 in Dallas, followed by roundtables in Detroit and Denver on December 15, and Silicon Valley on January 11. For more information on how to participate in these events, visit the Examination Time Analysis page of the USPTO website.

We look forward to hearing from you to help us guide the development and implementation of our new examination time goals.

This page is owned by Office of the Chief Communications Officer.