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Thursday Oct 22, 2020

2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition

Guest blog by Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld 

2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition logo

The 2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition has kicked off! The competition, which began as a regional competition led by our Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit in 2014, has expanded into a nationwide competition, with participation from law school teams from across the country and all of our USPTO regional offices.

The competition challenges the teams on the fundamentals of patent prosecution, including by drafting a patent application and arguing its patentability. It consists of two rounds: a preliminary regional round where teams compete and the National Finals where the winners of the regional competitions compete against each other at an event hosted at USPTO headquarters. Team registrations are being accepted until November 7, 2020, and regional and final rounds will take place virtually in Spring 2021.

The competition replicates the experience of prosecuting a patent application before the USPTO. Students are given a hypothetical invention statement and are asked to perform a prior art search, write a specification, prepare drawings, and write a brief memo explaining their drafting choices. They present their applications and the rationale for patentability and argue claim scope to a panel of judges. The judges consist of senior USPTO officials and patent attorneys from the local communities with extensive experience in patent prosecution and enforcement, who provide feedback and advice to help competitors improve their arguments and legal reasoning. Because the competition assesses the strength of contestants’ reasoning and patent drafting skills over technical knowledge, it is accessible to law students from all technical fields and interests.

Participating in the competition is an excellent opportunity to gain practical and indispensable experience drafting and prosecuting patents and to hone public speaking and communication skills. Last year‘s competition hosted a record 34 teams. Learn more about the 2020 finalists and winners. According to Mark Landauer, a member of last year’s winning team from the University of St. Thomas School of Law: 

“This competition is a great way to build practical patent skills that are otherwise outside the scope of a traditional legal education. We learned not just the administrative side of patent filing, but the strategies which go into the practice, the history, the rationale for certain strategies and the ways to draft claims. Overall, we were given a glimpse into patent drafting and litigation strategies that is nearly unrivaled.”

The National Patent Application Drafting Competition has been successful due to the overwhelming support from the intellectual property (IP) law community. The USPTO works closely with the American Intellectual Property Law Association in organizing the competition, as well as with local attorneys, local bar associations, local Inns of Court, and law school faculty mentors. Interacting with practitioners provides students with useful feedback from experienced attorneys and promotes connections with future colleagues. This year, students will be able to build vital connections by hosting virtual networking events throughout the competition.

In addition, the USPTO is expanding the competition’s contestant pool to include law students traditionally underrepresented in patent prosecution, including those students enrolled in law schools located outside the major IP markets. Virtual information sessions will instruct students in the fundamentals of patent drafting, patent searching, and conducting examiner interviews. The USPTO will also regularly reach out to law schools to inform students of registration deadlines and competition dates.

The USPTO looks forward to the participation of law school teams from across the country in this year’s competition and to this opportunity to assist students as they pursue future careers in IP law.

Visit the 2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition page of the USPTO website for further information on deadlines, competition dates, details and rules about the competition or contact with any questions.

Thursday Oct 15, 2020

Legal Experience and Advancement Program conducts virtual mock arguments

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Scott Boalick, Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board

LEAP mock argumentPractitioners in the Legal Experience and Advancement Program participate in a mock argument practicum on August 7, 2020.

In May 2020, the USPTO launched the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP). LEAP was established to help develop the next generation of patent practitioners by creating opportunities to gain oral argument experience before the Board. To qualify for LEAP, a patent agent or attorney must have three or fewer substantive oral arguments in any federal tribunal, including the PTAB, and seven or fewer years of experience as a licensed attorney or agent. The USPTO recognizes that oral argument opportunities before tribunals are limited and that gaining courtroom experience is valuable for newer practitioners’ career development. Developing strong oral advocacy skills in such patent practitioners benefits clients, the USPTO, the courts, and the whole IP system.

A key component of LEAP is training, and the USPTO has initiated a variety of opportunities with sessions taught by PTAB judges. We have provided three types of training so far. The first is a one-hour classroom-style lecture where PTAB judges explain the basics of an oral hearing.  In particular, judges orient participants to PTAB hearing rooms, discuss how to handle virtual hearings as well as in-person hearings where one or more judges appear remotely, and share best practices for navigating the flow of a hearing. Additionally, judges offer tips for managing argument time and demonstratives.

The second type of LEAP training is an interactive discussion focused on viewing and evaluating actual recorded court presentations. By assessing what works and does not work in an argument, judges aim to mentor practitioners into adopting effective techniques and avoiding ineffective ones. Also, practitioners can witness first-hand the ramifications on the case of making missteps during the argument.   

The third type of LEAP training we have provided is a live mock argument practicum in front of a panel of three judges. Practitioners are grouped in pairs and must determine how to argue multiple issues in a mock inter partes review case. The mock argument is 30 minutes per side and simulates the oral argument in an actual case. After the argument, the panel gives individual feedback to each practitioner, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the presentation. The mock argument practicum is closed to the public to foster an open and honest coaching opportunity.

PTAB held the first LEAP mock argument practicum on August 7, and the second took place October 9. 40 practitioners from a variety of different law firms argued before a total of 30 administrative patent judges, including the Director, Chief Judge, and executive management team of the Board. The arguments were conducted virtually, and all judge panels were extremely active in probing the issues. The practitioners did an excellent job in making their cases and handling judge questions. In fact, Deputy Chief Judge Jackie Bonilla commented, “If I did not know it, I would have thought I was sitting in an actual hearing as the practitioners were steeped in the mock record and well versed in the case law.”

And in the “real world,” the Board has heard 18 arguments by LEAP practitioners in actual pending cases, 30 percent in appeals, and the rest in AIA trials. Feedback from judges who heard cases with LEAP practitioners has been positive and encouraging.

One judge shared, “It is good to hear from newer attorneys because they are usually more intimately involved in the prosecution of an application. They know what the specification says and can answer detailed questions about claim construction issues.”

Another judge offered words of reassurance to future LEAP practitioners: “No matter how intimidating it is to stand up and argue before judges, the more you do it, the more comfortable you will be. The ability to stand up and argue is paramount to progressing your career.” 

The USPTO created LEAP not only to advance the careers of less experienced practitioners, but also to further the USPTO’s goal to ensure America’s continued economic strength and technological leadership. A well-trained, inclusive patent bar is a critical element of this effort.

Learn more about LEAP or submit your feedback to

Tuesday Sep 29, 2020

Fall 2020 brings exciting changes to the Patents organization

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

Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners for PatentsCommissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld, and Deputy Commissioners Bob Bahr, Robin Evans, Andy Faile, Valencia Martin Wallace, and Rick Seidel.

It has been our privilege to lead a continuous effort that empowers “America’s innovation agency” to better meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. Improved collaboration is critical to that effort, particularly within our Patents organization, which is why we recently reorganized our senior Patents management team. Among the benefits of the new, improved management structure is a work culture that encourages, debates, and embraces new ideas—ideas that will allow us to more nimbly serve our stakeholders and employees.   

The primary objective of the reorganization was to integrate examination and non-examination groups across Patents. Traditionally, these groups have been in five separate reporting chains, but, as the organization has grown, this structure has resulted in one of the reporting chains in Patents having more than 9,000 of the approximately 10,000 Patents employees. This integration of examining and non-examining functions helps accomplish several goals, including: 1) fostering improved teamwork and the sharing of diverse perspectives, 2) facilitating cross-training of the management staff, 3) providing enhanced developmental opportunities, and 4) better balancing the number of employees within the deputy commissioners’ reporting chains.

An important part of the reorganization includes the recent selection of Robin Evans to serve as a Deputy Commissioner. Prior to her selection, Robin was the Acting Associate Commissioner for Patent Quality and had prior experience serving as the Director of Technology Center 2800, the interim Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Denver, and the first regional manager of the Elijah J. McCoy Regional Office in Detroit. Robin brings a wealth of experience to the job and is a fantastic addition to the current deputy commissioner team that also includes Bob Bahr, Andy Faile, Valencia Martin Wallace, and Rick Seidel.

As you can see on the organizational charts before and after the reorganization, deputy commissioners will no longer have unique titles. We have not, however, diminished any of their responsibilities. Rather, the broader and shared responsibilities of each deputy commissioner enable us to be more effective as a team. For example, while there is no longer a deputy commissioner with the title “Deputy Commissioner for Patent Quality,” the responsibility for ensuring patent quality is shared by all, enabling a more expansive focus on patent quality that is directly integrated with those having oversight of patent examiners.

We are confident these changes will improve our collaborative abilities and enhance the operations of the senior Patents management team. We look forward to announcing the assistant commissioners and the assignment of technology centers to deputy commissioners in the coming weeks. Above all, we remain committed, through these improvements and others, to providing the best customer service possible and to fostering ever greater American innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth.

Friday Sep 18, 2020

A seamless transition to all-virtual hearings

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Scott Boalick, Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO 

hearing image

Remote PTAB hearing on July 27, 2020.

As the coronavirus pandemic began in early March, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) held its first all-virtual hearing, seamlessly adjusting to the new format and showcasing yet another example of our state-of-the-art efforts to support America’s “innovation agency.”

In the 60 days after this transition, the PTAB has held 263 virtual hearings. Of note, 95 of these hearings were AIA trials, 100% of which were all virtual. By comparison, in the 60 days prior to the transition, there were 99 AIA trials and only one of those trials had counsel appear remotely. Despite the sudden switch in format, PTAB work has continued unabated.  

PTAB table image

Past innovations allowed this transition to be possible. For example, PTAB has long permitted counsel to appear remotely in ex parte appeals to save travel-related costs and time for applicants. Likewise, up to two of the three judges assigned to any PTAB proceeding (ex parte appeal or AIA trial) have appeared remotely, supporting the USPTO’s well-known hotel programing where judges and examiners are recruited throughout the United States and permitted to work outside the DC metro area. And just this year, PTAB allowed parties in all proceedings to request to appear from a USPTO regional office.

Still, transitioning all PTAB hearings to a complete virtual environment required the PTAB and its support staff to work efficiently and creatively as they addressed everything from court reporting to virtual public access.

We continue our work to improve the user experience and welcome any suggestions parties and practitioners might have. Please send us a note at  We also realize that for many practitioners, appearing remotely is a new experience that poses some challenges. To that end, we have identified some best practices that we share with counsel in advance.

On a related note, the USPTO launched the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) during this time of remote hearings, and it has shown tremendous interest so far. LEAP fosters the development of the next generation of patent practitioners by creating opportunities for them to gain skills and experience in oral arguments before the PTAB.

Finally, with the expansion of remote hearings, we are also able to offer stakeholders opportunity to listen to hearings remotely. For more information, please visit the PTAB page of the USPTO website for schedules and further instructions.

The USPTO’s top priority is to maintain the health and safety of our employees, contractors, and the American public, while continuing to provide valuable services, programs, and resources at the highest level. The option to appear remotely before the PTAB is one of the many ways that we have met, and will continue to meet, the needs and priorities of those who appear before the Board.

Tuesday Jul 28, 2020

Successful failover test ensures the stability of patent system applications at the USPTO

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Jamie Holcombe, Chief Information Officer of the USPTO

Image text says as director of the united states of patent and trademark office

Illuminating the corridors of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) data center in Alexandria, Virginia, are countless routers, switches, wires, and storage systems neatly organized on rows of server racks. 

The blinking LED lights and soft whirring of cooling fans form an essential part of the USPTO’s digital backbone—one that supports ongoing patent and trademark examinations and daily business operations throughout the United States. Through this system, thousands of vital computer processes are executed every second of every day to enable the work done at America’s “Innovation Agency.”

Until recently, most of this capability lay within the walls of USPTO headquarters in Alexandria. However, we determined in 2018 that this potential single point of failure was no longer tenable.

In August of 2018 we experienced a multi-day outage of the Patent Application Locating and Monitoring (PALM) database. Afterwards, we committed to stabilize and modernize the USPTO’s IT infrastructure, which was long overdue. Significant portions of our infrastructure were antiquated and prone to failure under stress, and we lacked meaningful redundancies to mitigate the consequences of such failures.

We began the upgrading process by conducting a top-to-bottom review and mapping of all IT systems. This included engaging outside experts to assess the infrastructure, processes, and organization. We then prioritized the needed improvements, and we set to work. For example, last year we upgraded to a new server platform for the main patent processing system. This new platform is 1,000 times faster, 20 times more efficient, far more stable, and less prone to failure.

Critical to our stabilization effort is our team’s addition of redundancies – standby systems that enable “failover.” In a failover setup, redundant systems at offsite locations run simultaneously alongside the primary system. If the primary system fails, the standby system takes over, providing virtually uninterrupted support to system users.  In addition to adding failover servers, we activated at the alternate site a second 10 gigabit-per-second (10G) Ethernet computer networking circuit, deployed additional active and stand-by databases for key processing systems, and automated our deployment process for the primary and backup locations.

To test the USPTO’s failover capabilities, on July 2nd and 3rd of this year, our IT team executed a planned outage of the servers housing the Official Correspondence and the Docket and Application Viewer. The files contained in this system are some of the largest, most important, and most accessed IT applications at the USPTO, used for reviewing, filing, and prosecuting patent applications.

The outage test went as planned, with no issues. The USPTO’s new standby system at the offsite location remained fully operational during the test, with a rapid and seamless transition of the applications from the primary data center. All data was updated in real time and remained secure.

Following this failover test, we then switched back to the primary data center, again with no issues.

Our IT team is now moving forward to fully automate the failover system, and we plan to execute similar failover tests several times throughout the year. All along, of course, we continue to upgrade various other hardware and data infrastructure.

USPTO has come a long way since the PALM outage, but we know there is still much more work to be done. We also understand that these upgrades will take time and require additional resources, and that we will encounter more hurdles along the way. We will stay the course.

Most importantly, we are committed to ensuring these essential IT systems are reliable for the examiners and users working to further the vital role that innovation, entrepreneurship, and intellectual property play in meeting the great challenges of our time.

Thursday Jul 16, 2020

First-rate information technology infrastructure supports USPTO teleworkers nationwide

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO and Jamie Holcombe, Chief Information Officer of the USPTO

server image

Remember that old U.S. Post Office creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds?”

That’s how we feel about our work at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Granted, we’ve faced much worse in the past three months than just inclement weather. Even so, the USPTO’s 13,000 employees have endured the historic challenges and, through an efficient teleworking system, have kept America’s engine of innovation moving forward.

Today, so much of what we do at the USPTO relies on our information technology (IT) systems. And there’s no doubt that the pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders have tested the limits of these systems. But, after the intensive IT stabilization and modernization efforts of the past two years, the USPTO was well prepared when our physical offices closed in March.

We transitioned to a remote workforce with virtually no disruption, despite having an unprecedented number of employees accessing our IT systems from home. We now have, on average, over 13,000 secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections to our campus every day. This is a 75 percent increase over our daily average prior to the pandemic.

We also now have over 1,200 virtual meetings each day using our secure video teleconferencing tools, connecting an average of 6,000 participants from among our workforce, our contractors, and the public at large. Our teleconferencing systems allow employees to conduct a variety of meetings and applicant interviews, and even hold virtual hearings before the Patent and Trademark Trial and Appeal Boards. To fully leverage these collaboration tools, we undertook five system upgrades and configuration enhancements to our teleconferencing infrastructure.

In addition, we planned, staged, and executed the procurement and shipment of 2,000 monitors and 3,200 printers to teleworking employees in the first few weeks after the stay-at-home order was issued. We also deployed over 400 broadband routers to recently hired examiners to provide better connectivity to the USPTO systems.

As we noted last year, fully modernizing the USPTO’s technology systems to industry standards is a large-scale project that will require significant time and effort. Much work remains to be done, and there will undoubtedly be hurdles along the way. Even so, our success in transitioning to almost an entire work-from-home workforce demonstrates that we’ve made remarkable progress in a short period of time.

The USPTO remains committed to helping inventors and entrepreneurs weather this crisis and hit the ground running once it passes. And, in doing so, we will continue to enlist modern ways of doing business, including improving the performance and reliability of our IT infrastructure and other systems.

Our employees and our IT team continue to make us very proud. They work tirelessly to ensure that nothing stops our service to America’s innovators.

Wednesday May 20, 2020

Spotlight on Commerce: Thomas Hong, Primary Patent Examiner

Guest blog by Thomas Hong, Primary Patent Examiner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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

Thomas Hong and officers from the Korean-American IP Association

Thomas Hong (right) with officers from the Korean-American Intellectual Property Organization at the USPTO.

I am a primary patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I review patent applications within the mechanical engineering technology center, specializing in amusement and education devices. I also serve as president of the Korean-American Intellectual Property Organization (KAIPO), the USPTO’s youngest affinity group, which aims to promote and support the growth and development of Korean-American intellectual property professionals.

It took me more than a decade to reach where I am today. Upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Seoul National University in South Korea in 1999, I immigrated to America with my family in pursuit of new opportunities.

I continued my studies at Purdue University and obtained a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2004, and my thesis topic related to Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing. This led me to my first career as a software developer with government consulting firms. While it was a good job, I found that it was not the right career path for me. I felt that I rushed into the job and surrendered to the industry’s demands. I felt like I lost sight of my passions and interests and didn’t see myself growing in this field. I decided to change my career path and enrolled at the George Mason School of Law (now known as Antonin Scalia Law School).

As a first generation immigrant, law school was an eye-opening experience for me. I was one of only a few among my classmates holding a college degree from a non-English speaking country. I found myself not only having to develop my fluency in English, but also having to start learning a completely new language: law. While these years weren’t easy, I realized how fortunate I was to have a family and community that was incredibly supportive of me as I pursued my goals and ambitions. Many first-generation immigrants sacrifice these kinds of opportunities for their future generations.

Law school was a turning point for me. It was a time for self-reflection. It was during law school that my mindset began changing from a singular, self-serving view to a more encompassing community view. I looked not only at how I can better myself, but also at how I can better serve and contribute to my community and beyond. I started volunteering for communities I belonged to. I was a marshal at the PGA Tour Tournament, was on the board of directors in my neighborhood’s community group, and served as an officer for the Korean-American Intellectual Property Bar Association (KAIPBA).

I ultimately chose to work for the federal government because, to me, being a career civil servant is a privilege. This unique career gives me an opportunity to serve our biggest community, the public, while simultaneously developing my career and growing as a person.

One of my proudest moments of my time here at USPTO has been working with my colleagues to establish an affinity group for Korean-American professionals at the USPTO: KAIPO. The USPTO’s workforce encompasses multi-generation Asian immigrants, including Korean-Americans, who face unique challenges and have extraordinary knowledge and experiences to pass on. My hope for KAIPO is to connect these different generations so that we can share our unique experiences and help each other grow and develop in our professional and personal lives.

My advice for those who are interested in a federal government career is to continuously strive to learn and develop your competencies, and find your passions. When you find where these align, you begin to find how you can best contribute and serve the public.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a time for celebration and a time to recognize contributions of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in this country. It was a long journey, spanning two countries, for me to get to this point in my career, and I am proud and honored to be here at the USPTO working in public service alongside so many dedicated and hardworking individuals.

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

Tuesday May 05, 2020

Spotlight on Commerce: Elizabeth Chu, Social Media Specialist and Acting Website Editor-in-Chief

Guest blog by Elizabeth Chu, Social Media Specialist and Acting Website Editor-in-Chief, USPTO

Editorial Note: This post is part of a series in honor of Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), showcasing the vast and diverse work of Commerce employees collectively working together to deliver important services that are helping the American economy grow.

USPTO staff at “Apollo 50: The role of intellectual property in space commerce” event on July 23, 2019

Elizabeth Chu (pictured first row, center) and USPTO communications staff at the “Apollo 50: The role of intellectual property in space commerce” event on July 23, 2019.

As the Social Media Specialist for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I am responsible for planning, implementing, and monitoring the agency’s social media strategy to increase brand awareness and strengthen our digital presence. Recently, I stepped in as the Acting Website Editor-in-Chief, due to the recent departure of a colleague. Adding website responsibilities and new skills to my current role as Social Media Specialist—all during a pandemic—has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Luckily, I’m surrounded by generous, dedicated, and talented colleagues in the Office of the Chief Communications Officer who help and support me when I need it. It’s a privilege to work side-by-side with professional and expert communicators in a fast-paced work environment.

My parents and sisters immigrated to the United States from South Korea in the 1980s. I was born in North Carolina, but my family moved to Maryland when I was very young and raised me there. Growing up, my parents and sisters have always been my main influences. Like most first-generation immigrants, my parents worked hard, long days in blue-collar jobs. Watching them, I learned that diligence, honesty, and a good education were important for a successful career and life. I feel fortunate to have a family that’s supportive of all my passions and career pursuits.

I studied art history at the University of Maryland and, after graduation, started my first full-time job in Washington, D.C. Halfway through my three years at the National Gallery of Art, I applied to an arts management program at American University. After receiving a Master of Arts in arts management, I began working for the Washington Ballet in the marketing and communications department where I gained a lot of marketing and communications experience. Nonprofit arts organizations are fast-paced, hardworking entities with limited budgets. Supporting the arts was a fulfilling experience because I could share my passion for the arts every day with others. Although I no longer work for arts organizations, I still seek volunteer opportunities with museums or studio arts classes.

Transitioning from a small, nonprofit arts organization to a federal agency with over 13,000 employees was initially nerve-racking, but it’s been one of the most rewarding changes of my life. Not only do I have the pleasure of working with a creative and talented team of communicators at the USPTO, but I have also had the unique opportunity to work on award-winning projects such as 10 Million Patents and the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The former is a significant milestone that we planned for and executed over a multi-month timeline with a detailed communications plan. The campaign culminated with an official signing ceremony at the White House and a special event at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The moon landing event was significant to me because I led and coordinated the communications plan for that project. Our focus was on space innovation, technology transfer from the Apollo missions, and an overview of the current Administration policy on space exploration and space commerce. This communications plan culminated in one of the biggest events in recent USPTO history and featured the NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. These projects were successful because of the extremely talented and knowledgeable communicators on my team.

Working on major, successful campaigns that help educate the public about the importance of intellectual property is an honor and privilege. It is especially rewarding that I get to do this work with over 13,000 other colleagues dedicated to American innovation and who work hard every day on behalf of inventors, makers, and creators across the United States.

I am proud to work in public service at the U.S Patent and Trademark Office because I know that my efforts to educate the public and raise public awareness support innovators of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.

Tuesday Apr 28, 2020

PTAB launches the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) for the next generation of patent practitioners

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Scott Boalick, Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO

A female law clerk makes a mock argument before the PTAB.

(Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Today, the USPTO officially launches the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP). LEAP is designed to foster development of the next generation of patent practitioners by creating opportunities to gain the proper skills and experience in oral arguments before the Board. The USPTO understands that “stand up” speaking opportunities before tribunals are limited and that gaining courtroom experience is advantageous for practitioners in their career development. Additionally, having a patent bar with strong oral advocacy skills benefits clients, the USPTO, the courts, and the whole IP system.

A LEAP practitioner is defined as someone who is new to the practice of law or new to practice before the PTAB. To qualify as a LEAP practitioner, a patent agent or attorney must have three or fewer substantive oral arguments in any federal tribunal, including PTAB, and seven or fewer years of experience as a licensed attorney or agent. By arguing before the PTAB, LEAP practitioners gain oral advocacy skills that will benefit them when appearing before any tribunal in the future. Likewise, they may reap the reward of drafting or contributing significantly to an underlying motion, brief, oral argument, or client position.

In exchange for giving a LEAP practitioner the opportunity to present argument as part of the program, the Board will grant additional argument time to the party, typically up to fifteen minutes depending on the length of the proceeding and the PTAB’s hearing schedule. The extra argument time is intended to incentivize appellants and parties to support LEAP practitioners. This plays a key role in helping the USPTO achieve its goal of offering legal experience and advancement to a diverse group of practitioners.

A law clerk presenting a mock oral hearing before the PTAB from the Alexandria headquarters

(Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

A LEAP practitioner may conduct the entire oral argument or may share time with other counsel, provided that the LEAP practitioner is offered a meaningful and substantive opportunity to argue. For example, a LEAP practitioner may argue claim construction, a motion to exclude evidence, or a patentability issue. More experienced counsel may assist a LEAP practitioner, if necessary, during oral argument and may clarify any statements on the record.

It is easy to participate in LEAP. For an appeal, an appellant should send an email to at least five business days before the hearing. Similarly, for an AIA proceeding, a party should send an email to at least five business days before the hearing. The program becomes effective on May 15, 2020, and LEAP practitioners may begin filing requests to participate in this program starting on that day.

The USPTO will also provide training to familiarize LEAP practitioners with oral argument procedures before the PTAB. The training will address the flow of a hearing, effective use of hearing time, use of demonstratives during a hearing, and other oral advocacy tips. This training will provide an added measure of confidence in the preparation of LEAP practitioners for both the PTAB case at hand, as well as any IP litigation down the road.

Innovation and the intellectual property system behind it form the engine of economic growth and development. Expanding this ecosystem is critically important to ensuring America’s continued economic strength and technological leadership. New practitioners are a key element of this effort, and it is important to expand their participation. LEAP is one step in that direction. For more information on the USPTO’s resources on expanding innovation, please visit our newly launched webpage at

We look forward to working with our stakeholders and the bar to further develop this and similar programs.  

Monday Apr 27, 2020

Recognizing World IP Day

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

World IP Day 2020

Twenty years ago, the World Intellectual Property Organization designated April 26 as World Intellectual Property Day to recognize the importance of innovation, creativity, and the positive role of intellectual property. “Innovate for a Green Future” is the theme for 2020’s World Intellectual Property Day, encouraging the world to build on “green tech” ideas to improve our health, well-being, and economy.

There is a long history of inventions that have enhanced our quality of life, from reducing air pollution to keeping food fresh. Consider the example of the catalytic converter. In response to studies about the growing dangers of smog in Los Angeles, French-American engineer Eugene Houdry pioneered catalytic converter devices for industrial factory smokestacks. He subsequently developed catalytic converters for gasoline engines. These devices convert pollutants from the exhaust gas into less toxic substances. Today, the device is standard on all American cars. In 1956, Houdry was awarded U.S. Patent No. 2,742,437 for Catalytic Structures. In 1990, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for Catalytic Cracking.

More recently, horticulturist Sylvia Blankenship and biochemist Edward Sisler developed a novel compound that significantly extends the freshness and storage life of fruits and vegetables by mitigating the effects of ethylene, which ripens produce. Their invention enables year-round access to fresh food and reduces food waste. This year, Blankenship and Sisler will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for their invention, U.S. Patent No. 5,518,988 for 1-MCP for Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Freshness.

You can learn more about these inventors and other pioneers of technology through the National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee database.

The USPTO and IP communities are working together to empower inventors, entrepreneurs, and pioneers in the green tech space and beyond through Patents for Humanity, an annual awards competition recognizing innovators who use game-changing technology to meet global humanitarian challenges. The program provides business incentives for reaching those in need. Winners receive an acceleration certificate to expedite select proceedings at the USPTO as well as public recognition for their work. The awards showcase how patent holders with vision are pioneering innovative ways to provide affordable, scalable, and sustainable solutions to improve the human condition.

We currently live in the midst of a global pandemic. As always, inventors will create new technologies that will help us overcome these unprecedented challenges. On this World IP Day, please take a moment to recognize all inventors and entrepreneurs and to appreciate the innovations all around us that make our lives happier and healthier.

Please view our World IP Day 2020 video message.

Tuesday Mar 31, 2020

Spotlight on Commerce: Allison Bourke, Supervisory Patent Examiner

Guest blog post by Allison Bourke, Supervisory Patent Examiner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Allison Bourke, Supervisory Patent Examiner

Allison Bourke, Supervisory Patent Examiner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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

I am a supervisory patent examiner at the Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in electrochemistry technology, specifically solar cells, thermoelectrics, fuel cells, and batteries. I support 15 patent examiners and provide assistance so they can get their patent applications reviewed in a timely manner.

I started at the USPTO as a patent examiner in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2009, after attending the University of Arizona and University of Michigan for degrees in chemical engineering, and I absolutely loved my experience in the D.C. metro area. I grew up in the mountains of northern Arizona, so when the opportunity to work in the USPTO office in Denver arose (the Rocky Mountain Regional Office opened in 2014), I packed up my stuff and cats and headed west! I have really enjoyed the small office experience in Denver (100 employees vs. thousands of employees in Alexandria), and the outdoor opportunities in the area are endless. In Denver, I have become a mentor to a young elementary school girl who is attempting to conquer her multiplication tables.

One of my proudest accomplishments at the USPTO has been helping found, with other like-minded colleagues, two women’s organizations: Women in Science and Engineering at the Alexandria campus and Women in Technology and Science at the Rocky Mountain Regional Office. Both organizations have a mission to promote STEM/intellectual property (IP) for K-12 and college students and support members through social and enrichment activities. We have organized, given talks to local college Society of Women Engineers sections about careers in IP, and, with the Rocky Mountain Office’s Outreach team, assisted with Girl Scout IP Patch days and women’s IP networking events with outside organizations. Both organizations celebrate women all year long but focus on Women’s History Month with numerous activities, such as hosting inspirational talks, tea parties, and strong women movie-viewing parties.

I look forward to March each year so we can remind everyone of all the awesome accomplishments of women throughout history and inspire those for the future!

Monday Mar 23, 2020

USPTO launches the Expanding Innovation Hub, a new online platform to encourage greater participation in the patent system

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

Red, yellow, and blue silhouettes of heads look left and right.

“To maintain our technological leadership, the United States must broaden our innovation ecosphere demographically, geographically, and economically.”---USPTO Director Andrei Iancu

Today, as part of Women’s History Month, the USPTO has officially launched the Expanding Innovation Hub (“the Hub”), an online platform available on the USPTO website that provides resources for inventors and practitioners to encourage greater participation in the patent system. The new platform is yet another step the USPTO has taken to broaden the innovation ecosphere, to inspire novel inventions, to accelerate growth, and to drive America’s global competitive edge. It builds on our SUCCESS Act report to Congress of 2019, as well as our Progress and Potential report on women inventors.

“Expanding Innovation” is part of the USPTO’s effort to inspire more women, minorities, veterans, and geographically and socioeconomically diverse applicants to join the innovation economy. Important pillars of that effort include education and mentorship. On the Hub, you will find the new Demystifying the Patent System Toolkit, designed to help innovators understand the process of obtaining a patent. Additional resources on the Hub include the Mentoring Toolkit, intended to assist organizations in establishing an infrastructure to connect experienced innovators with the next generation in their organization; and Community Group Resources, designed to help organizations establish an infrastructure to connect groups of employees with shared characteristics, interests, and goals.

These new tools are in addition to many other efforts at the USPTO to help expand the innovation ecosystem. We will continue to host a wide variety of events to amplify this message, such as Invention-Con and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium. We have a pro se assistance program to help inventors who are not represented by counsel apply for patents. We have a pro bono network, and we also work with 60 participating law school clinics, all to help inventors and entrepreneurs secure free or discounted legal services. We provide a host of other online resources to help guide and educate inventors as well. 

We also continue to expand our reach geographically. In addition to our headquarters in Alexandria, we have four regional offices in Detroit, Denver, San Jose, and Dallas, and 83 Patent and Trademark Resource Centers located in public, state, and academic libraries across the country. These centers not only offer a physical connection to valuable government resources, but they also offer regular programming, office hours, and staff trained to assist inventors and entrepreneurs with intellectual property (IP) research.

The USPTO also supports dozens of STEM-related programs that provide education about IP to young men and women. These include programs in partnership with the National Inventors Hall of Fame, such as Camp Invention, which is offered in school districts in every state, and the Collegiate Inventors Competition, which takes place each year at the USPTO; the National Summer Teacher Institute, which brings invention and IP into the nation’s classrooms; collaborations with historically black colleges and universities; the Girl Scout IP patch, which is available to Girl Scout troops across the nation; and so much more. 

Now, with the new Expanding Innovation Hub on our website, inventors will have a central location to find information about all of our programs and resources.

America’s economic prosperity and technological leadership depend on a strong and inclusive innovation ecosystem. That is why it is so important to make sure all Americans have the opportunity to develop and protect their inventions, build thriving businesses, and succeed. It is therefore critical that industry, academia, and government work together to broaden our innovation ecosphere demographically, geographically, and economically. Please visit the Expanding Innovation Hub and check back often to engage with us in this critical endeavor.

Wednesday Feb 26, 2020

Spotlight on Commerce: Davetta Goins, Supervisory Patent Examiner

Guest blog post by Davetta Goins, Supervisory Patent Examiner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Davetta Goins, Supervisory Patent Examiner, USPTO

Davetta Goins, Supervisory Patent Examiner (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce African Americans during Black History Month.

Growing up in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, where my family, neighbors, and close friends were scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers, I was surrounded by professionals. My parents were very active in community organizations that helped encourage teens in local high schools to enter the fields of science, math, and technology. These programs introduced me to a vast array of career paths, and paved the way for my decision to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.

After graduating from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a Historically Black College or University, I became a patent examiner at the Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When I started working for the agency, I was one of only a few black women working in a Technology Center (TC) of around 200 examiners. This was disconcerting, especially because the first black patent clerk, Anthony Bowen, had been an employee in the 1830's. That was well over 160 years prior to me joining the USPTO. However, I have seen the agency become extremely diverse over the past 20 years. Today, nearly one-fifth of the USPTO’s employees are African American. I attribute this increase in number to various recruiting programs and affinity groups that promote science and engineering to local communities and historically black universities--like the one I attended.

After examining patents in the field of electrical communications for 15 years, I became a Supervisory Patent Examiner. I now oversee a group of employees who review applications related to electrical audio signal processing systems and devices. Aside from assisting examiners with their work product, I also support various projects in the agency. I mentor as well as provide mock interviews to employees who aspire to become managers, travel to various universities to inform students of job opportunities the USPTO has to offer, and co-lead an engagement team that helps foster initiatives centered around the agency’s mission and strategic plan. I also lead a work-life team, which organizes activities for TC employees in hopes of creating a balance of work and life.

I’m proud to work for an agency that strives for the inclusion of all backgrounds while providing ample opportunities to employees as they further their careers.

Tuesday Feb 25, 2020

Nominations now open for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation

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

NMTI laureates Joseph DeSimone, Cato Laurencin, and Mark Humayun after the White House medal ceremony. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Nominations are now open for the 2020 National Medal of Technology and Innovation (NMTI) and will remain open until May 1, 2020. The NMTI is the nation’s highest honor to recognize those who have made great strides in advancing America’s competitiveness and quality of life and who have strengthened the nation’s workforce through technological innovations. Past winners include renowned inventors Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, whose imprint on modern technology is unmistakable.

The President of the United States presents this award annually to America’s leading technological honorees. As President Reagan expressed in 1985 during the first NMTI ceremony, each of the recipients of this award is recognized as a hero “just as surely as were Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.” This sentiment holds as true today as it did then. President Reagan went on to explain:

“The story of American technology is long and proud. It might be said to have begun with a blacksmith at his bellows, hammering out fine tools, and the Yankee craftsman using simple wood planes, saws, and mallets to fashion the fastest sailing ships on the ocean. And then came the railroad men, driving spikes across our country.

And today the story continues with the workers who built the computer in a child’s room; the engineers who designed the communications satellite that silently rotates with the Earth, shining in the sunlight against the blackness of space; and the men and women of skill and determination who helped to put American footprints on the Moon.”

The USPTO strives to share the stories of these NMTI laureates and others. As a part of the USPTO Speaker Series, for example, we recently welcomed to our headquarters Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway® and founder of FIRST®, an organization inspiring young people to participate in STEM fields. Vint Cerf and Robert Metcalfe, two internet pioneers, also joined us for events like the Speaker Series and the Patent 10 Million unveiling. Jim West, inventor of the electret (modern) microphone, Cherry Murray, inventor of an optical data storage system for telecommunications, and Nobel Prize winner Frances Arnold, whose work focuses on making fuel and chemicals from renewable sources, have been featured in the USPTO Journeys of Innovation series. The role that intellectual property (IP) plays in these inventors’ transformative innovations underscores the importance of a strong IP system to our nation’s prosperity.

NMTI laureate Edith Flanigen received the award for her innovations in molecular sieves, which are used to purify petroleum, water, and countless other compounds. (Photo by Amando Carigo/USPTO)

If you are interested in submitting a nomination and would like more information, please watch the recorded webinar. We accept nominations for individuals, teams (up to four individuals), companies, and divisions of companies for their outstanding contributions to America’s economic, environmental, and social well-being. We invite a wide range of submissions that will demonstrate the incredible breadth of innovation taking place throughout all corners of the United States. Nominations of those from traditionally underrepresented groups are highly encouraged. Any nominee will remain under consideration for up to three consecutive years.

Initial selections will be made by the NMTI Nomination Evaluation Committee, which reviews nominations and makes recommendations to the Secretary of Commerce. The committee will then make recommendations to the President for final selection. Please contact the NMTI program staff for additional information. To receive announcements about NMTI, sign up for the USPTO Awards newsletter.

Monday Feb 24, 2020

USPTO in the game at CES

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

Iancu, Ross, and Kratsios visit booth at CESFrom left: U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross visit the joint government booth at CES. (Photo by Jeff Isaacs/USPTO)

In January, Las Vegas turned its attention from the bright lights, shows, and casinos to leading consumer technology innovations in robotics, transportation, electronics, and more. Thousands of technology enthusiasts, including representatives from the Department of Commerce, the USPTO, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Small Business Administration (SBA), descended upon the bustling metropolis for CES to take part in what has been billed as the “Global Stage for Innovation.” Now in its 52nd year, CES is the place to be for those in the consumer technology industry. It is also one of the largest consumer shows in the world with more than 180,000 attendees and thousands of exhibitors. This year’s show featured an incredible array of products, including foldable tablets, smart home devices, plant-based substitutes for pork, emotional support robots, and flying taxis. These are not only the technologies of the distant future – many are available in the marketplace today.

USPTO Gets in the Game

Joint government booth at CES

Joint federal government booth at CES. (Photo by Jeff Isaacs/USPTO)

Through our annual participation in CES, the USPTO is able to reach many current and future entrepreneurs to drive home the importance of securing intellectual property (IP) both domestically and abroad.

The theme of the USPTO booth at CES’s Eureka Park startup village was “Get in the (intellectual property) Game.” The booth was co-located with a National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) exhibit highlighting the work of Stan Honey, inventor of the electronic football first down line. At the booth, staff from the USPTO provided resources on securing patent, trademark, and other IP rights. We were also joined by representatives from NSF, SBA, and SelectUSA who provided assistance to startups to help them navigate opportunities offered by the federal government.

Pascale Faure at USPTO booth

Director General of the French Patent Office (Institut National de la Propriété, INPI), Pascal Faure visits with Director Iancu at CES. (Photo by Jeff Isaacs/USPTO)

Visitors to our CES booth included U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and U.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Michael Kratsios. The Director General of the French Patent Office (Institut National de la Propriété, INPI), Pascal Faure, also joined us briefly, and he even got a quick lesson on American football!

NIHF Inductee Announcement

NIHF inductee announcement

From left: Director Iancu and NIHF Executive Vice President Rini Paiva announced the 2020 class of inductees on the CTA Tech stage on January 7. They were joined by two of the new inductees, Mick Mountz and Raffaello D’Andrea, co-founders of robotics company Kiva Systems. (Photo by Jeff Isaacs/USPTO)

During CES, I also had the great pleasure of announcing the 2020 inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) along with NIHF Executive Vice President Rini Paiva. This year’s class of inductees featured a tie for the highest number of women inventors from the past years. Technologies from the inductees ranged from the modern parachute to medical devices and software. I was delighted to be joined live during the announcement by two of the 2020 inductees – Mick Mountz and Raffaello D'Andrea – the co-founders of the robotics company, Kiva Systems. We look forward to further celebrating the entire class of the 2020 living and historic inventor-inductees and their societal contributions. The NIHF 2020 class will be officially inducted in May at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. View the entire list of the 2020 class of inductees, or watch the induction announcement from CES.

Artificial Intelligence and Innovation Policy

Petricone interviews Iancu at CES

Consumer Technology Association’s Michael Petricone interviews Director Iancu at CES. Their discussion centered around artificial intelligence and intellectual property. (Photo by Jeff Isaacs/USPTO)

Innovation is at the heart of CES’s annual agenda. This year’s show emphasized artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and the numerous innovative products grounded in AI. 

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the Consumer Technology Association’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Michael Petricone on the topic of U.S. IP and innovation policy. Watch the recording of the interview. Michael remarked that “the USPTO is the world’s greatest and most pro-innovation patent system.” During our discussion, I summarized some of the USPTO’s current thoughts on AI innovation and patent issues. More public discussion on this topic can be expected in the near future.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios, who visited the USPTO booth, also spoke about AI policy. His focus was on the newly released White House Executive Order and principles promoting the need for a more balanced regulatory approach on safety in the innovation space. An overarching theme of these regulations is a focus on potential risks related to the government’s over-regulation of AI. As he explained during an interview, “If we’re too heavy-handed with artificial intelligence, we will end up stifling entire industries, and we want to make sure to [instead] foster the generation [of these industries] in the United States.”

I also met with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao. Secretary Chao spoke at length about AI regulation as it relates to the transportation industry. In prepared remarks, she stressed the critical importance of “protecting American innovation and creativity – by protecting intellectual property.”

CES made abundantly clear, once again, that innovation is driving the next generation and the future. IP is the necessary ingredient that fuels such innovation at accelerating rates. As the guardian of our intellectual property system, the USPTO looks forward to helping entrepreneurs and inventors protect these exciting new technologies.