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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.

Monday Feb 03, 2020

Innovations that change the world – apply for Patents for Humanity (P4H) by February 15, 2020

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

Patents for Humanity logo

Patents for Humanity is now accepting applications for the 2020 annual awards. This USPTO award recognizes outstanding innovators who use game changing technologies to meet global humanitarian challenges, emphasizing their synergies with business interests and strong patent rights. Winners are recognized in the fields of medicine, nutrition, sanitation, energy, and living standards, and will receive an acceleration certificate to expedite patent application proceedings at the USPTO, as well as public recognition. Any individual, corporation, nonprofit, small business, academic institution, or government agency who has applied for, owns, or licenses a U.S. patent is eligible to apply.

Awardees from the past four years have proven that they can effectively contribute to the global good, while maintaining commercial markets for their innovative products.

For example, Because International received a 2018 Patents for Humanity award and created The Shoe That Grows. Its shoe, which can “grow” up to five sizes, helps prevent soil-transmitted illnesses that affect billions of people worldwide, many of whom are children and living in poverty. Because International has progressed to distribute more than 225,000 pairs of its patented shoes across 100 countries. They are also the producer of Bednet Buddy, a mobile pop-up bed treated with insecticide to help protect against malaria, especially in locations where dwellings are commonly roofless. Because International believes that innovation is key to fighting poverty, and that by preventing barriers to opportunity, their team can help lift people out of destitution. 

The Shoe that Grows

Photo courtesy of Because International.

The Global Good Fund, a 2016 winner, helped combat the 2014 Ebola outbreak with donations of its patented Arktek cooler. The passive vaccine storage device enables vaccines to be kept cold for over 30 days without power, making it possible for vaccines to be transferred to remote areas and lessening the annual percent of vaccine waste due to refrigeration failures. The cooler has been used to store vaccines for tuberculosis, polio, influenza, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis B, and diphtheria, providing great aid to areas where power is unreliable. The technology has been licensed to a leading refrigeration company to manufacture the device at an affordable price.

If your organization has patented technology and is using it to help address global humanitarian challenges in unique and creative ways, we invite you to apply. The USPTO will accept applications through February 15, 2020. Please submit your completed application online through the Patents for Humanity page of the USPTO website. Send any questions to

Wednesday Jan 29, 2020

In New Orleans and throughout the world: USPTO’s IP attachés and the restorative impact of intellectual property

Guest blog by Director of the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program Dominic Keating

IP attachés in New Orleans

On December 4, 2019, several of the USPTO’s intellectual property attachés visited the New Orleans BioInnovation Center as part of a three-day visit to the area to hear the concerns of stakeholders and businesses in the region. L to R: Conrad Wong (Guangzhou, China), Susan Wilson (Brussels, Belgium), Kitsri Sukhapinda (Bangkok, Thailand), Ann Chaitovitz (Lima, Peru), Cynthia Henderson Mexico City, Mexico), and Dominic Keating. (IP Attaché Program Director). Photo by Amando Carigo/USPTO.

Innovation has long been recognized as a critical component of economic growth. Many cities and regions in the United States seek to foster the development of innovative new companies and to help them commercialize their products as a way of spurring growth and investment. The protection of intellectual property (IP) underlying these innovations — such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights — goes hand-in-hand with these economic development efforts, particularly when companies move into markets overseas. It is a dynamic I saw recently when I joined five of the USPTO’s intellectual property attachés in New Orleans, Louisiana, this past December.

The IP attachés are diplomats posted to U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world who work to improve foreign IP systems to benefit U.S. stakeholders. They are posted in 12 locations: Brazil, China (Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai), Europe (Brussels and Geneva), India, Kuwait, Mexico, Peru, Thailand, and Ukraine. In each of these locations, the attachés meet with foreign government officials to explain U.S. views on IP and to advocate for improvements to IP systems. They also conduct training and public awareness programs on IP protection and enforcement, and they provide information and assistance to U.S. stakeholders who are experiencing problems protecting their IP abroad.

The attachés’ visit to New Orleans was part of their ongoing domestic outreach efforts to hear first-hand about the problems and challenges faced by inventors and businesses. Previous visits have brought them to areas such as Boston, Seattle, and Dallas. This time, they had the opportunity to meet with a wide variety of businesses, educational institutions, government officials, and IP stakeholders in Louisiana to learn about some extraordinary developments in innovation and entrepreneurship.

New Orleans is an iconic city, known for its distinctive architecture, food, and culture. However, the city and state have recently undertaken several initiatives to encourage creators and innovators to return to the region. One of these initiatives funded the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, a biotech incubator with state-of-the-art lab space in downtown New Orleans.

The Center operates in the city’s biomedical district and is dedicated to supporting economic development benefitting life sciences. To date, it has helped more than 225 new biotechnology companies in Louisiana, providing them with lab space, connecting them with other entrepreneurs and regional research institutions, and helping them to commercialize their technologies. According to the Center, its efforts have resulted in the creation of more than 480 high-wage jobs and has attracted millions of dollars of new investment to the region.

The Center’s cooperative approach was notable during our visit. Among the individuals we met were representatives from several of New Orleans’ institutions — including Tulane University and Louisiana State University — who work with the Center on technology transfer and commercialization.

The interconnectedness of today’s marketplace has increasingly made commercialization a global endeavor. An important prerequisite to commercialization, however, is ensuring the protection of an enterprise’s IP. That issue was at the forefront of the IP attachés’ discussions with the stakeholders and innovators that they met in New Orleans.

This is a sentiment that I’ve heard before in other U.S. cities the IP attachés have visited. In Boston this spring, for example, the president of the Inventors Association of New England, George Peters, expressed: “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.”

Our visit to New Orleans made clear the importance of protecting and enforcing IP, particularly in a rebuilding economy such as New Orleans. From spurring biomedical research that can generate breakthroughs such as new cures to attracting investment and the subsequent creation of new jobs in an economically disadvantaged region, IP matters. Whether in New Orleans or New Delhi, USPTO’s IP attachés ensure that U.S. stakeholders understand and have a voice in improving IP policies, laws, and regulations around the world.

Learn more about the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program.

Thursday Dec 12, 2019

Reflections of John Cabeca, USPTO Silicon Valley Regional Director

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

Deputy Director Laura Peter speaks with Silicon Valley Regional Director John Cabeca.

Deputy Director Laura Peter speaks with Silicon Valley Regional Director John Cabeca. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Recently, I spoke with John Cabeca, USPTO Silicon Valley Regional Director in San Jose, California, about his experience at the USPTO and what’s next for him. John is a 30-plus-year veteran of the USPTO. He served in numerous key leadership roles throughout his tenure and has dedicated much of his career to working with significant customers of the USPTO on IP matters and through outreach and education programs to help small and large businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. Over the years, he served the USPTO in important roles, including in the Office of Patent Legal Administration, the Office of Governmental Affairs, and most recently in the Office of the Under Secretary. 

LP: How long has the USPTO had a Silicon Valley Regional Office (SV USPTO) and what is its purpose?

JC: The Silicon Valley office formally opened in October 2015 in the San Jose, California City Hall building. The purpose of the USPTO Silicon Valley Regional Office, and, in fact, all of our regional offices, including Detroit, Denver, and Dallas — is to foster and protect innovation. The regional offices carry out the strategic direction of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and are responsible for leading the USPTO's regional efforts in their designated regions of the United States. As Regional Director, I actively engage the western region’s unique network of industries and entrepreneurs, and tailor the USPTO’s initiatives and programs to their needs. The regional office serves as a hub of outreach and education and offers services and programs readily accessible to inventors, entrepreneurs, and businesses. We also work closely with IP practitioners, community and business leaders, and academic institutions, as well as with federal, state and local governments, to advance the IP needs of the innovation ecosystem throughout the region at all levels.

LP: What states does the SV USPTO cover?

JC: The west coast region includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State. Comprising seven states, this is the largest region covering over 1.1 million square miles, as well as some of the most innovative businesses and innovators in the country. In 2019, the west coast region originated more than 37% of all domestic patent applications and 28% of all trademark registrations by U.S. registrants.

LP: How does the public at-large including inventors, entrepreneurs, and brand owners benefit from the SV USPTO?

JC: We are here to help them. We hold events from learning the basics about patents and trademarks, to patent and trademark search workshops, to drafting patent claims, to protecting your IP abroad, to even more advanced IP programs as a CLE provider in the State of California. We welcome walk-ins to our office, will come and speak and educate the public any chance we get about IP, and also have the ability to hold virtual examiner interviews and trial and appeal board hearings in our space. The regional office pages of the USPTO website are constantly updated with new opportunities to visit our offices.

LP: What makes serving the Silicon Valley region different than the rest of the country?

JC: As you probably know, there is a huge amount of innovation and entrepreneurship in this region, not only in Silicon Valley, the rest of California, but all across the western region. Like many communities across the country, the western region has a lot of innovation activity. We strive to provide assistance to all types of innovators, from the small inventor, to the new startup, to the more established tech company. Each one is unique and has different needs. But, we work hard to make sure they have the information and resources they need to incorporate IP into their business strategy and to help navigate any hurdles they may face in the process. It has truly been a rewarding experience serving as the regional director for this critically important region to the U.S. economy. 

LP: What does an average week on the job entail? What traits make a regional officer director successful?

JC: Every day is different and exciting. I could be meeting with entrepreneurs, seeing the latest technologies, doing a STEM activity with kids, or giving a keynote on IP policy.  In essence, the USPTO regional director serves as an emissary for the USPTO in the region and as a conduit for policy recommendations. Often, we meet with stakeholders from some of the most innovative companies in the world and help address their needs and priorities. I also travel quite a bit to all the states in the region, to make sure I understand stakeholder’s needs and concerns. I’m also fortunate to work alongside a talented, dedicated and hard-working team at the USPTO Silicon Valley Regional Office, that enable us to stay on top of everything! I’d say some important traits for a USPTO regional office director are in-depth knowledge of intellectual property, good listening skills, adaptability, the ability to think outside the box, as well as being a relentless advocate for our IP stakeholders.

LP: Can you share some of your accomplishments that you are most proud of during your time as a regional director of the SV office?

JC: Looking back over the past six years, it’s been amazing to be at the forefront of new technologies and see how rapidly they are being developed, including artificial intelligence, driverless cars, 5G, and more. To be able to see these firsthand and help those innovators get those products protected and to market has been really fulfilling. Every day is different, and it energized me to know that every day I was going to learn something. In addition, I’m proud to have led the design, build-out and opening of the USPTO Silicon Valley office facilities. We built an educational component throughout our space, and the office has become a destination for a wide range of visitors, including many international IP delegations coming to meet with us. Our staff works tirelessly to provide resources to the public, reviews applications thoroughly and quickly, and increases the understanding of IP rights. As for the Silicon Valley team, they have been an absolute treasure to work with. I am so very proud of the culture we created together, and honored to work alongside the amazing, talented, hard-working workforce of over 100 employees working out of the USPTO Silicon Valley office and to get to know many of the nearly 500 USPTO employees working from their homes across the region.

LP: What’s next for you?

JC: In early 2020, I will be transitioning into a diplomatic post as the IP attaché for South Asia. I will be based out of the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India and will serve U.S. industries doing business in South Asia and advocate for effective IP policies to support a strong and vibrant IP system globally.  I will remain in service to the USPTO and the IP community. I’m so excited to build from the great relationships and tremendous experiences here in the western region and look forward to serving U.S. industries in my new capacity. 

The USPTO is currently looking to hire a new regional office director to lead and manage the Silicon Valley Regional Office in San Jose, California. This person will be an innovation ambassador in the region, provide stakeholder outreach and education to the public on the importance of IP, and support the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem for the entire Western Region, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Apply by January 6, 2020.

Tuesday Dec 10, 2019

USPTO recognizes Nobel Prize in Chemistry winners and inventors

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

John Goodenough shown with his inventor card.

Nobel Prize winner John Goodenough with his inventor collectible card presented to him by the USPTO in 2018.

December 10 is Nobel Prize Day, the day on which Nobel Prize laureates are awarded their medals by the Royal Swedish Academy in Stockholm, Sweden. On behalf of the USPTO, I congratulate this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry winners John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino. These inventors have made valuable contributions in the field of electro-chemistry, leading to the development of lithium-ion batteries.

This year’s Nobel Prize winners are truly among the most deserving giants of the scientific and inventive worlds. Their journeys of innovation inspire and awe us. By unlocking some of the fundamental mysteries of electro-chemistry over the past decades, they have transformed and improved our world by empowering us as well as many of the things we rely on every day, including our smartphones, pacemakers, and even orbital satellites.

As the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences stated in its press release for this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the invention of lithium-ion batteries has created the conditions for a “wireless and fossil fuel-free society” and thus provided a significant benefit to humankind. And we look forward to even more innovations in the future that build on the foundations that Goodenough, Whittingham, and Yoshino have laid.

The 2019 Nobel Prize recipients hold prominent academic and corporate positions. Goodenough is the Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. To commemorate his extraordinary career, the USPTO honored him with an inventor collectible card in 2018. Whittingham is a distinguished professor at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York. Yoshino is a fellow of the Ashahi Kasei Corporation and a professor at Meijo University in Nagoya, Japan.

Each of the three winners are also accomplished inventors and owners of U.S. and international patents. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, cited U.S. patent nos. 4,357,215 (fast ion conductors) and 4,668,595 (secondary battery) in the Scientific Background on the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019. Goodenough was the primary inventor on the former patent, and Yoshino on the latter. In total, Goodenough is listed as an inventor on 27 U.S. patents, Whittingham on 17 U.S. patents, and Yoshino on 83 U.S. patents.

The USPTO celebrates the accomplishments of these three remarkable inventors, as well as all inventors who, thorough their creativity and persistence, make the world a better place.

Monday Nov 25, 2019

New report on underrepresented groups in patenting

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

PeritoneX Collegiate Inventors Competition finalist team.

Undergraduate students from Johns Hopkins University, and Finalists in the Collegiate Inventors Competition, work on their award winning invention, PeritoneX, a mechanism that disinfects at-home peritoneal dialysis systems to prevent infection. (Photo courtesy of PeritoneX)

America’s long-standing economic prosperity and global technological leadership depend on a strong and vibrant innovation ecosystem. To maximize the nation’s potential, it’s more important than ever that all Americans who are willing to work hard, persevere and take risks have the opportunity to innovate, to start new companies, to succeed in established companies, and ultimately, to achieve the American dream. To maintain our technological leadership, the United States must seek to broaden our innovation, entrepreneurship and intellectual property ecosystems demographically, geographically, and economically.

The USPTO is at the forefront of this effort. The Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success Act of 2018, also known as the “SUCCESS Act,” directed the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), in consultation with the Small Business Administration, to identify publicly available data on the number of patents annually applied for and obtained by women, minorities, and veterans, and the benefits of increasing these numbers. The Act also asked for legislative recommendations on how to encourage and increase the participation by these groups as inventor-patentees and entrepreneurs. On October 31, we released our SUCCESS Act report.

As detailed in our report, after reviewing literature and data sources, we found that there is a limited amount of publicly available information regarding the participation rates of women, minorities, and veterans in the patent system. One of the most comprehensive studies on women inventors was published by the USPTO earlier this year, “Progress and Potential: a profile of women inventors on U.S. patents,” which found that only about 12% of inventors named on U.S. patents are women.

As an agency, we have undertaken a proactive approach to encourage women, minorities, and veterans to innovate and secure patents to protect their innovations. We provide guidance and assistance to inventors, host annual events such as the annual Invention-Con and Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium, support pro bono networks around the country, offer pro se assistance to make navigating the patent process more accessible, especially to first-time applicants, and have free legal services through 60 participating law school clinics. Plus, our four regional offices serve inventors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses throughout the country, and our Patent and Trademark Resource Centers are located in more than 80 public, state, and academic libraries—many in minority and underserved communities. These centers offer regular programming, virtual office hours with USPTO subject matter experts, and librarians trained to assist with intellectual property research.

In our SUCCESS Act report, we identified ways to build on existing USPTO programs by undertaking even more initiatives, some of which include:

Council for innovation inclusiveness: The USPTO plans to establish a council to develop a national strategy for promoting and increasing the participation of underrepresented groups as inventor-patentees, entrepreneurs, and innovation leaders.
Workforce development: The USPTO will work with other government agencies to help develop workforce training materials that include information on how to obtain a patent, and the importance of invention and IP protections.
Increased development of IP training for educators: The USPTO will work with other federal agencies to develop training materials to help elementary, middle, and high school teachers incorporate the concepts of invention and IP creation and protection into classroom instruction.

Our report also includes a number of legislative recommendations for Congress, such as:

Enhance USPTO authority to gather information: Congress could authorize a streamlined mechanism for the USPTO to undertake a voluntary, confidential, biennial survey of individuals named in patent applications that have been filed with the USPTO.
Expand the purposes/scopes of relevant federal grant programs: Congress could expand the authorized uses of grants and funds in appropriate federal programs to include activities that promote invention and entrepreneurship, as well as the protection of inventions and innovations using intellectual property among underrepresented groups.
Support exhibits at national museums featuring inventors/entrepreneurs: Congress could encourage national museums to feature exhibits that highlight the contributions to U.S. invention and entrepreneurship by individuals from underrepresented groups.

In addition, the USPTO plays a critical role to equip tomorrow’s inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed. That is why we support dozens of STEM-related programs and events that provide basic education about intellectual property to young men and women. These include the Girl Scout IP patch, which is available to Girl Scout troops across the nation; 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 incorporates invention and IP into classrooms; collaborations with historically black colleges and universities; and so much more.

Broadening the innovation ecosphere to include more women, minorities, and veterans is critical to inspiring novel inventions, driving economic growth, and maintaining America’s global competitiveness. We will continue to work with our stakeholders, other government agencies, Congress, and the public to maximize the potential for all individuals—regardless of background or status—to invent, protect their inventions, and succeed.

Wednesday Nov 06, 2019

Collegiate Inventors Competition winners announced

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

Deputy Peter meets CIC finalist at CIC expo.

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

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

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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