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Thursday Aug 22, 2019

Dog Days of Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Morrison patent for flying disc toy 

Morrison patent for "flying disc toy."

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

 

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

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

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

 

Carl Creamer patent for dog sling

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

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

 

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

Tuesday Aug 20, 2019

Apollo 50: The role of intellectual property in space commerce

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

 Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu addresses the audience at the Apollo 50 event.
Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu addresses the audience at the July 23, 2019 Apollo 50 event. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

On July 20, 1969, an estimated 530 million people watched from around the world as Apollo’s lunar module touched down in the Sea of Tranquility and Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the surface of the moon. It’s hard to believe that it took less than 65 years from the Wright brothers’ patent to the first step on the moon, and the fact is the pace of innovation just keeps accelerating. On July 23, the USPTO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and its significance on invention, space commerce, and intellectual property (IP). The program’s two major themes quickly became evident: innovation and inspiration. 

In an overflowing auditorium full of employees, students, and members of the public, we were honored to be joined by many special guests including: Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross; NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; astronauts Kathy Sullivan and Paul Richards; Director of the Office of Space Commerce Kevin O’Connell; NASA Associate Director, Satellite Servicing Capacities Office Frank Cepollina; and several CEOs of aerospace companies. If you missed it, watch the recording.

 Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross discusses administration goals on space commerce.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross discusses administration goals on space commerce. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

In his remarks, Secretary Ross spoke about the importance of space commerce, stating that “protecting the intellectual property of new space companies, entrepreneurs, inventors, and individuals is essential for U.S. success.” He also acknowledge the important role of USPTO examiners and employees who “provide inventors with the protections they need to commercialize their technologies, create companies, hire employees, and put people, satellites, manufacturing plants, and tourists into space.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine discusses the importance of intellectual property in continuing NASA’s mission.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine discusses the importance of intellectual property in continuing NASA’s mission. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Administrator Bridenstine explained how NASA obtains patents for many reasons, including its continuing mission to elevate the human condition. Part of the reason that NASA has more than 1200 patents in its current portfolio is to drive down the costs of technology, allow it to scale faster, and minimize the risk. He described how a number of essential, pioneering NASA technologies directly impact life on earth, from our food production, water conversation, banking, and telecommunications systems.

From left: Kevin O’Connell, Jeffrey Manber, Melanie Stricklan, Christopher Ingraham, and Mary Lynne Ditmarr. 
From left: Kevin O’Connell, Jeffrey Manber, Melanie Stricklan, Christopher Ingraham, and Mary Lynne Ditmarr. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Kevin O’Connell, Director of the Office of Space Commerce at the Department of Commerce, led our panel discussing the rapid growth of the global space economy, and the role of the private sector plays in commercializing space. Panelists included Jeffrey Manber, CEO of NanoRacks; Melanie Stricklan, founder and chief strategy officer of Slingshot Aerospace; Christopher Ingraham, Manager of Stakeholder Communications at International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory; and Dr. Mary Lynne Ditmarr, President and CEO of Coalition for Deep Space Exploration and member of the U.S. Space Council.

From left: Laura Peter, Paul Richards, Kathryn Sullivan, and Frank Ceppolina. 
From left: Laura Peter, Paul Richards, Kathryn Sullivan, and Frank Ceppolina. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

The highlight for many was hearing from the panel moderated by Deputy Under Secretary and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter on NASA’s innovation policies, featuring true rock stars of space: Doctor Kathryn Sullivan, astronaut on three space shuttle missions and the first American woman to walk in space (in 1984); Paul Richards, astronaut on the eighth shuttle mission to the international space station; and Frank Ceppolina, pioneering engineer on the Hubble space telescope and National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee and patented inventor.

 Astronaut and first woman to walk in space Dr. Kathryn Sullivan meets children of Ian Steff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing, International Trade Administration.
Astronaut and first woman to walk in space Dr. Kathryn Sullivan meets children of Ian Steff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing, International Trade Administration
. (Photo by Michael Cleveland/USPTO)

 The discussion focused on the role of technology transfer policies and IP that have contributed to improving life for all of us here on earth. Deputy Peter walked through a number of NASA-related patents whose technologies have become everyday household items, including scratch proof lenses, Invisalign™ braces, video game systems, insulated rescue blankets, and more. Cepollina described how the repair mission work on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) advanced fields like photo lithography, and noted that our current cell phones are 260,000 times more powerful than the Apollo guidance system controller. After the event, the astronauts signed autographs for children and other fans.

 Astronaut Paul Richards (right) discusses his patent with USPTO employee Keith Dixon (left), who prosecuted the patent while at NASA.
Astronaut Paul Richards (right) discusses his patent with USPTO employee Keith Dixon (left), who prosecuted the patent while at NASA. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

In addition to these space pioneers’ impressive contributions, Richards and Cepollina are also inventors and patent holders. Richards is the inventor of a pistol grip torque measuring power tool for which he received a patent in 1997. In fact, the NASA patent attorney who prosecuted that patent application, Keith Dixon, now works with at the USPTO. And Cepollina’s work at NASA and in patented technologies are not only important to space technology growth but have also been a springboard for developments in other industries including breast cancer detection and more powerful microchips for satellite optics.

 Secretary Ross and Director Iancu speak with the inventor of the Virtusphere, Ray Latypov
Secretary Ross and Director Iancu speak with the inventor of the Virtusphere, Ray Latypov. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO
)

Finally, before and after the event, participants had the chance to view an Apollo era spacesuit loaned from the Smithsonian, experience a virtual moon walk provided by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame® Museum's Apollo 11 exhibit.

As I said at the event, landing on the moon was the ultimate triumph of human ingenuity. The benefits of space innovation are astounding. Our IP system not only helped make this possible, it continues to promote and protect stunning advances in every field of human endeavor.

Wednesday Jul 31, 2019

USPTO proposes patent fee adjustments

Guest blog by Acting Chief Financial Officer of the USPTO Sean Mildrew

Image of two credit cards

At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), we continuously work to reinforce the predictability, reliability, and quality of patent rights. To meet this challenge, the USPTO requires a predictable and sufficient stream of funding, which means that we must continually review our fees and adjust them as appropriate.

Today’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding USPTO fees is the result of a comprehensive biennial fee review that began in 2017, when we analyzed the effects of proposed fee changes on our operating model. At that time, we concluded that fee adjustments would be necessary to provide the resources needed to improve patent operations, including implementing the USPTO 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. As part of our analysis, we also received feedback on an initial fee proposal via a Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) hearing conducted in September 2018 and a report issued by PPAC in October 2018. As a result, the proposed fee adjustments outlined in the NPRM increase certain patent fees where there are specific needs and increase the remaining fees at a set percentage to address rising expenses.  The significant percentage discounts for small and micro entities are maintained.

With this additional funding, we will:

  • Enhance the quality and timeliness of patent examination in order to produce more reliable and predictable patent rights.
  • Enhance the quality and timeliness of AIA trials by providing sufficient judicial and administrative resources to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
  • Replenish the patent operating reserve to further stabilize our finances, enabling us to deliver more reliable and predictable service levels, even in times of financial fluctuations.

We welcome feedback on the proposed changes. A 60-day public comment period is now open. After reviewing and considering the public comments, we expect to prepare a final rule for publication during the summer of 2020.

The NPRM can be accessed here. The preferred method for submitting comments is email addressed to fee.setting@uspto.gov. Comments are preferred to be submitted in plain text, but also may be submitted in portable document format (PDF) or a word processing format. Because comments will be made available for public inspection, information that the submitter does not desire to make public, such as an address or phone number, should not be included in the comments. Comments on the fee proposals are due by September 30, 2019.

Wednesday Jul 03, 2019

Camp Invention prepares tomorrow’s innovators

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

Director Iancu interacts with students at Camp Invention

Director Iancu meets Camp Invention students in Hyattsville, Maryland, as they work on their innovation force module (photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

For the United States to maintain our leadership role in key science and technology areas, we must harness the concerted efforts of industry, academia, and government to empower the next generation. The USPTO plays a critical role as we work to equip tomorrow’s inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed.

On June 26, I had the opportunity to visit Camp Invention in Hyattsville, Maryland. I was joined by Al Langer, inventor of the first automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

Camp Invention, an annual summer program hosted by the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF), in partnership with the USPTO, turns curious kindergarten through sixth grade students into innovative thinkers. Located in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, there are over 1,800 schools participating in NIHF’s educational programs nationwide. Inspired by National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, this program delivers a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and intellectual property based program to 160,000 students annually, taught by 13,000 local, certified teachers and 9,000 high-school and college-aged interns.

The students at Camp Invention in Hyattsville, Maryland, like more than 50,000 students nationwide, receive scholarships to attend NIHF’s education programs. Scholarships allow underrepresented students to learn the 21st century skills to prepare them for the future.

The theme of this year’s Camp Invention curriculum is “Supercharged,” and features four modules that incorporate concepts of inventing with activities on superheroes, sea adventures, farm tech, and robots. Dr. Langer and I met and spoke with students working on all four modules.

Al Langer assists students at Camp Invention

Inventor Al Langer assists students with their deep sea mystery module at Camp Invention in Hyattsville, Maryland (photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

One week of Camp Invention is comprised of programming that presents children with real-world, hands-on challenges that emphasize STEM proficiencies, creative problem solving, collaboration, and entrepreneurship through innovation. Participants are led through the process of invention, learning that failure is a necessary point on the path to success. Teachers are provided with new ways to incorporate STEM skills into their classrooms, and each year Camp Invention introduces a new, cutting-edge curriculum to ensure that the program continues to be an engaging and memorable experience for everyone involved.

At the USPTO, we recognize that the next generation needs to gain a strong understanding of intellectual property and problem solving. Programs like Camp Invention introduce young people to important STEM and IP skills in a fun environment, and help build a robust pipeline of talent, ready to meet the expanding needs of a highly technical workforce. These future inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs will play a crucial role in helping the U.S. compete and succeed in a global economy.

Tuesday Jul 02, 2019

For U.S. businesses, the USPTO’s IP attachés are there to help

Guest blog by Shira Perlmutter, Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs at the USPTO

I recently had the pleasure of joining five of the USPTO’s IP attachés at a series of meetings with U.S. innovators and stakeholders, including the annual meeting of the International Trademark Association (INTA) in Boston.

The IP attachés are intellectual property (IP) experts posted to U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world. They meet with government officials to explain U.S. perspectives and policies and advocate for improvements to IP systems. They also provide training on effective IP enforcement, monitor IP-related developments, and conduct programs to educate the public on the value and importance of IP. This work is ever more important in an increasingly global marketplace.

IP attaches meet with New England Inventors Association

A group of the USPTO’s IP attachés meet with members of the New England Inventors Association in North Andover, Massachusetts. The meeting was part of the IP Attaché Program’s outreach activities in the Philadelphia and Boston areas this past May.

At least once a year, the attachés return to the United States to meet with American innovators and businesses, learn about their IP-related concerns, and share information about IP developments in their regions. This spring, their destinations were Boston and Philadelphia.

IP legal counsel Luciano Marchione, based in Brussels, speaks with member of the New England Inventors Association

IP legal counsel Luciano Marchione, who is based in Brussels, Belgium, as part of the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program, speaks with a member of the Inventors Association of New England in North Andover, Massachusetts. He joined a group of several IP attachés to conduct meetings with stakeholders in the Boston and Philadelphia areas this past May.

In Boston, in addition to INTA, the IP attachés met with members of the Inventors Association of New England (IANE), one of the nation’s oldest inventor clubs. The group expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet with the IP attachés and learn about how to protect their IP in foreign jurisdictions. “As independent inventors and entrepreneurs, our members often feel like it’s ‘you against the world.’ ” said George Peters of the IANE, the co-inventor and founder of KettlePizza,® a cooking accessory that can convert an outdoor grill into a pizza oven. “It’s an incredible feeling to know that the IP attachés are in our corner. They place very high value on the independent inventor, work to promote our interests and are available as a resource to answer questions about foreign markets.”

IP Attaches visit KettlePizza in Boston

L to R: IP specialist Komal Kahla and IP attachés Duncan Willson and Laura Hammel speak with KettlePizza co-founder George Peters during their meeting with members of the New England Inventors Association in North Andover, Massachusetts. The meeting was part of the IP Attaché Program’s outreach activities in the Philadelphia and Boston areas this past May.

Business accelerators and incubator programs have been established in many areas of the country to help innovators and start-up companies overcome early-stage growth obstacles. In Philadelphia, the IP attachés visited one such establishment, the University City Science Center, a nonprofit business accelerator in the life sciences field. They also met with representatives of several larger, established companies.

In all of these meetings, a common theme presented itself — that while there is worldwide demand for products of American innovation, foreign demand brings additional risks. The IP systems of other countries can be quite different from our own. And even if a business currently manufactures or sells its product only in the United States, it is important to have a plan to protect its IP rights not only at home but abroad.

That is where the USPTO’s IP attachés can be a valuable resource. They can assist U.S. stakeholders who are experiencing problems with IP rights abroad or who are considering entering a foreign market. And they are effective advocates in their respective regions for policies and laws that benefit U.S. businesses.

Learn more about the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program, including where the attachés are based and how to contact them.

Monday Jun 24, 2019

Intellectual property resources in your area

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

Providing entrepreneurs, small businesses, and independent inventors with access to intellectual property (IP) resources is one of the major priorities for the USPTO. These entities are vital to our country’s economy, but they often don’t have the same resources that larger entities can leverage to protect their innovations. Because of that, the USPTO oversees several programs to assist with free or reduced-cost help in applying for patents, including the Patent Pro Bono Program, the Pro Se Assistance Program, the Certified Law School Clinic Program, and Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. That’s all in addition to the reduced filing fees we charge to small and micro entities.

Recently, we updated our website to make many of these resources easier to find. Take a look! The “Find help in your area” link under the “New to IP?” area at the top of the USPTO homepage takes users to a map of the United States where they can select state-specific resource pages and regional USPTO office pages. From free legal assistance to listings of local inventor clubs, there’s a large array of helpful programs. In addition, we’ve added regional event filters to our main USPTO events calendar so you can easily find upcoming events in your local area. Overall, we updated more than 60 pages, and over the next few months, we will be gathering public feedback in order to continue making even more helpful changes to our website. Send us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Image of the USPTO website

Recent USPTO website updates make finding local resources and events easier

Under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses may be particularly interested in securing free legal representation to help them protect their inventions using the Patent Pro Bono Program. Located across the country, each of the 21 local nonprofit pro bono programs matches inventors with volunteer patent attorneys to help them navigate the process for obtaining a patent. Since the program began, over 1,900 inventors have been matched with registered patent practitioners, and currently more than 1,500 attorneys are available to volunteer through the program.

Another way for inventors and entrepreneurs to secure free legal services is through the Law School Clinic Certification Program. Currently, there are 60 participating law school clinics where law students draft and file patent or trademark applications for clients under the supervision of their law school faculty. Since its inception, over 4,000 law students have participated in the program and have filed more than 850 patent applications and more than 3,300 trademark applications for clients.

Some independent inventors and small businesses choose to file patent applications without the assistance of a registered patent attorney or agent—also known as "pro se" filing. We have tools to assist pro se filers, as well as a dedicated USPTO team available to answer filing questions and explain the process. To learn more, visit the Pro Se Assistance Program page of the USPTO website.

We also offer independent inventors and small businesses reduced patent filing fees for “micro entities” and “small entities.” Entities that meet the micro-entity requirements are eligible for a 75 percent reduction on most fees, and small entity status offers a 50 percent fee reduction. View the full USPTO fee schedule.

Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) are another great way to get IP help. This nationwide network consists of public, state, and academic libraries designated by the USPTO to support the public with trademark and patent assistance. They provide the human touch in helping inventors and small businesses find the information they need to protect their IP. Please note that PTRC representatives are not attorneys, and they cannot provide legal advice. Find a PTRC in your state.

These are only some examples of the various services we offer to help inventors and entrepreneurs protect their IP. Visit the USPTO website to learn about even more resources.

American history is filled with remarkable stories of inventors and entrepreneurs who worked hard, took risks, persevered, dared to go where others would not, and ultimately overcame tremendous odds to succeed. We will continue to encourage the sparks of inventors’ ideas to grow into the flames of world-changing innovation.

Friday Jun 07, 2019

Continuing to improve our IT infrastructure

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

One of our chief goals at the United States Patent and Trademark Office is to provide consistent, reliable, and high-quality services to all of our stakeholders, in every aspect of their engagement with our office. A major component of providing these services is the ease-of-use and availability of the USPTO’s information technology systems.

In the past several months, we have committed personnel and resources to increasing the stability and availability of our IT infrastructure, and deploying state-of-the-art technology throughout our entire enterprise.

Close up photo of the front side of the old PALM server, informally called T-REX, and no longer in use.

USPTO’s previous PALM server, currently no longer in use. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Over the most recent Memorial Day weekend, we reached an important milestone in that effort. Thanks to the hard work of our IT team and the assistance of an expert outside technology firm, we successfully transitioned a critical part of our Patent Application Locating and Monitoring (PALM) application to a new, more modern, stable and resilient server platform. The previous IT platform was almost two decades old. It was difficult to maintain given the age of its hardware and coding, and risked failing without notice. We are proud to announce that we have a new PALM server platform that is 1,000 times faster, 20 times more efficient, and far more stable and less prone to failure.

As many of our regular users are aware, last August, the USPTO suffered a database corruption issue in a portion of the PALM application that impacted some of our other servers. Those servers were also old, so we immediately replaced them at that time.

Unfortunately, the PALM-related systems failure caused parts of our electronic filing system to be offline for several days last summer.

We decided to take a fresh look at our entire IT systems, from top to bottom.

We performed an exhaustive analysis of our hardware and software systems. We hired a consulting firm that specializes in our types of complex IT systems. We hired a new Chief Information Officer who has extensive experience both in the private sector and in government. And we resolved to stabilize and modernize all of our IT systems. Our Memorial Day upgrade is a significant step in this multi-stage journey toward increased productivity, reliability and resiliency.

Needless to say, a fully modernized IT system that will remain operational per industry standards is a large-scale project that requires significantly more work. We have made the commitment to make the investments that are required to achieve that goal, and will not shy away from any of the challenges that lie ahead.

An improved IT infrastructure is critically important to help the USPTO better serve the inventors, entrepreneurs, and the rest of the public that comes before us. Their pioneering innovations and brands create jobs, improve the quality of life, and drive economic progress.

We will continue to work with our external partners, stakeholders, and employees to ensure that the U.S. Intellectual Property System leads the world in driving global innovation and entrepreneurship.

Thursday May 23, 2019

National Military Appreciation Month

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

During National Military Appreciation Month, we recognize the role that innovation has played in America’s military strength and honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

On May 2, we celebrated the 2019 National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) inductees at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Andrew Higgins, the inventor of the LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) known as the “Higgins Boat,” was among the notable inventors honored. Most people recognize the Higgins Boat as the amphibious craft used to land American troops and equipment on the beaches of Normandy and the shores of Iwo Jima. In partnership with the NIHF museum, here at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, we have an actual Higgins Boat on display until the end of July. Visitors are encouraged to board the craft and learn about the “boat that won the war.” The NIHF Museum, also located at the USPTO, offers American flags for visitors to plant near the exhibit to honor the service of our nation’s veterans.

Director Iancu and Deputy Director Peter with the Higgins boat

Director Andrei Iancu and Deputy Director Laura Peter plant flags by the Higgins boat on display outside the USPTO headquarters (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

The USPTO is strongly committed to hiring veterans. The qualities the military teaches, in addition to the diverse experiences service members have, means that veterans have a great deal to bring to any team. That is why the USPTO has a robust veterans hiring program. Since the program’s inception in 2012, the USPTO has hired about 800 veterans or transitioning service members, which accounts for 6% of our agency’s total workforce. Our veterans tell us how proud they are that by joining the USPTO after active duty, they can continue to serve their country by protecting American assets – in this case, intellectual property. Veterans contribute to our mission in the areas of science and engineering, information technology, contracts, procurement, finance, administration, project and program management, and customer support. Each day, I see these men and women bring to their work at the USPTO the same spirit of selfless service and love of country that led them to serve in uniform.

On May 23, I and other USPTO employees participated in our annual Memorial Day observance, organized by the USPTO Military Association, which includes the Walk of Thankful Recognition, from USPTO headquarters to the Alexandria National Cemetery. Each participant was provided a card describing the life of a veteran buried at the cemetery and encouraged to pay his or her respects at the gravesite. As always, this was an extremely meaningful and moving event.

This Memorial Day, we join with the rest of our citizenry to honor and remember those who have served and those who have sacrificed for our nation. On behalf of the USPTO, we thank the inventors whose ideas keep our military on the cutting edge, as well as the proud men and women who served in our armed forces.

Wednesday May 15, 2019

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

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

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

Charles Kim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday May 06, 2019

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

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

Secretary Ross at NIHF Induction Ceremony

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

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

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

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

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

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

In partnership with the USPTO, the National Inventors Hall of Fame has impacted 2.2 million children, educators, college students, and inventors since 1990, and 200,000 in 2018 alone. To be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, one must hold a U.S. patent, as well as contribute significantly to the nation's welfare and the advancement of science and the useful arts. NIHF was established in 1973 to honor U.S. patent holders whose inventions created new industries that employ millions of people and helped to stimulate economic growth for our nation and beyond.

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

Friday Apr 26, 2019

Celebrating World IP Day

World IP Day image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday Apr 16, 2019

USPTO employees give back through the Combined Federal Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your contributions and hard work.

Monday Mar 25, 2019

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

Blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

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

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

Deputy Director Laura Peter

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

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

Deputy Director Laura Peter swearing in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday Mar 08, 2019

International Women’s Day: Celebrating women in innovation

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

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

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

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

Frances Arnold receives the Nobel Prize

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

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

Inventor Sarah Breedlove

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

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

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

Wednesday Feb 06, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

USPTO IP attaches visit the United States in December 2018

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

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

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

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

Damian Porcari speaks to mUB

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

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

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

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

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