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 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.
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 email@example.com.
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
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.
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. (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.
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
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.
New report on underrepresented groups in patenting
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu
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.
Collegiate Inventors Competition winners announced
Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter
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.
Spotlight on Commerce: Megan Miller, Plain Language Writer/Editor
Megan Miller, Plain Language Writer/Editor, USPTO. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
After earning my engineering degree and serving in the Navy for seven years, the next logical step in my career was to take a position as a writer-editor. Sounds disjointed? It's a more natural progression than you might think.
Growing up, I loved math and science. Math homework was my favorite! It was so satisfying to start with a few numbers and a question, then figure out what to do with those numbers to find the answer. In science classes, I asked enough questions to try the patience of both my teachers and fellow students. Predictably, I went to college to be an engineer. I studied biomedical engineering at the University of Rochester. It was fascinating to learn about how the human body works and how the biomedical field uses technology to make it work better. I couldn't wait to graduate and use my skills to build things that would solve real-world problems.
As graduation grew closer, though, I decided I wanted to explore the world of engineering from a different perspective. So, I joined the Navy to study and work in nuclear propulsion. In my training, I learned how the Navy harnesses fission to move ships. It was staggering to learn about a system that starts with a few neutrons zooming around and ends with an aircraft carrier zooming through the ocean. Again, I was awestruck at how engineering gives us systems that are cohesive, despite their complexity, to elegantly solve the world's problems.
During my time in the Navy, in addition to studying nuclear power, I was also a division officer. That meant that I bridged the gap between the command's leadership and the sailors in my division. Despite being on the same ship, those two groups had dramatically different needs and perspectives. Leadership focused on accomplishing the ship's mission and keeping the ship and crew safe. My sailors, on the other hand, were concerned about maintaining and operating a complicated weapon system. When those priorities were at odds, fulfilling my role as a liaison could be quite challenging. I quickly learned that in any form of communication, it's vitally important to start by understanding the needs and perspectives of the other person. The only way to reach them is to shape your message with those needs in mind. Ignore those needs, and you'll fail. For me, a few big failures helped me learn the lesson. Seven years of smaller failures helped me hone the skill, which is fundamental to effective communication.
These experiences laid the groundwork for my career as a writer-editor at the USPTO. My focus in writing and editing is plain language. That doesn't mean that I dumb things down or that I make every piece of content understandable to the general public. It means that I write and edit so my audience can easily find, understand, and use the information they need.
It's all about audience; understanding their needs is the cornerstone of writing in plain language. For me, writing in plain language requires employing the communication skills I developed and refined in the Navy. So, my plain language savvy is a direct result of my service.
Even if you have a clear understanding of your audience, though, writing clearly can still be quite challenging. There are many obstacles to overcome. Sometimes, you're writing to multiple audiences who have vastly different needs. Sometimes, your organization's needs conflict with your audience's needs. Legal topics add another layer of obstacles. Sometimes, when you explain legal concept in the most straightforward way, you get a statement that's only true 99% of the time, making it legally inaccurate. Communicating clearly despite these roadblocks can be difficult, but it's possible. My job is to do just that, and it's my favorite part of writing and editing. Thinking outside the box to find ways to communicate clearly within these constraints is, dare I say, fun. I never expected words to be my medium for solving problems as an adult, but it's just as satisfying as the problem sets I loved as a kid.
My job is to serve Americans by making the information they need more accessible, using words to solve problems along the way. Though I thought I'd grow up to be a distinguished scientist or brilliant inventor, now I know that it's just as fulfilling to be a word engineer.
Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce military veterans in honor of Veterans Day.
USPTO issues second Federal Register Notice on artificial intelligence and innovation
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu and Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter
Director Iancu visits exhibits showcasing AI technologies at the “Artificial Intelligence: Intellectual Property Considerations” conference on January 31, 2019 at the USPTO. Shown above: a team from University of California, Berkeley demonstrates their patent visualization system, which enables a user to see and manipulate a three-dimensional landscape of similar patents. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution states that Congress has the power “[t]o promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” As artificial intelligence technologies (AI) quickly advance, the concepts of “authors and inventors” may not necessarily be confined to the human realm. From creating paintings and symphonies to generating advertising copy and recommending products to consumers, AI has already produced impressive artistic and commercial output. What impact will this have on our constitutionally founded IP system?
The USPTO has been examining precisely these issues. One step in this process was the publication of our Request for Comments on Patenting Artificial Intelligence Inventions in the Federal Register on August 27. We have extended the comment period to November 8, so please submit your patent-related responses if you have not already done so.
The fields of copyright, trademark, database protections, and trade secret law, among others, may be similarly susceptible to the impacts of developments in AI. Accordingly, the USPTO is just as interested in gathering public feedback on these issues. To facilitate that process, we issued a second AI-related Federal Register Notice on October 30 and comments will be accepted until December 16, 2019. There are thirteen questions in this notice, including:
Should a work produced by an AI algorithm or process, without the involvement of a natural person contributing expression to the resulting work, qualify as a work of authorship protectable under U.S. copyright law? Why or why not?
- To the extent an AI algorithm or process learns its function(s) by ingesting large volumes of copyrighted material, does the existing statutory language (e.g., the fair use doctrine) and related case law adequately address the legality of making such use? Should authors be recognized for this type of use of their works? If so, how?
- Would the use of AI in trademark searching impact the registrability of trademarks? If so, how?
- How, if at all, does AI impact trade secret law? Is the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA), 18 U.S.C. § 1836 et seq., adequate to address the use of AI in the marketplace?
- How, if at all, does AI impact the need to protect databases and data sets? Are existing laws adequate to protect such data?
We have already gleaned compelling insights from the feedback we received to date on the patent-related Federal Register Notice. But the various types of intellectual property protections work together symbiotically to create a comprehensive IP legal system that promotes creativity, development, job creation, and economic growth. As such, we are eager to hear your views on the impacts that other non-patent IP fields are or may be experiencing in the wake of AI.
However fast the pace of AI development has been until now, we firmly believe that this will pale in comparison to advances yet to come. The USPTO is committed to keeping pace with this critical technology in order to accelerate American innovation.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to celebrate the immeasurable contributions Americans with disabilities make to the workplace and society. Individuals with disabilities create and innovate in numerous and diverse technologies. They own registered trademarks and hold patents. They are our colleagues and our loved ones, and they are a vital thread in our American tapestry.
Our work at the USPTO is enhanced by the spirit of inclusion and accessibility. Many of our employees—7% of whom self-identify as disabled—are able to perform their duties at the highest levels thanks to many of the same adaptive technologies that receive our IP protections.
Diversity has been an essential component to America’s long and successful history of innovation. This is true not only of our inventors themselves, but also the diversity in the inventing process and the technologies we bring forward. One only needs to look as far as our National Inventors Hall of Fame to see several examples of remarkable inventors who work to enhance the lives of persons with disabilities while also experiencing their own physical challenges.
Inducted in 2019, Chieko Asakawa used her personal experience to invent the Home Page Reader (HPR). The HPR provides internet access for users who are blind or visually impaired. Asakawa, who is herself visually impaired, has worked continually to ease communication for visually disabled users through many other inventions focused on accessibility.
Bill Warner, another 2019 inductee, changed film editing forever through his invention of a digital, nonlinear editor. A true testament to innovation, Warner has also invented a telephone-based, voice-activated virtual assistant and worked to improve hand pedaled cycles. Warner’s own condition requires him to use devices such as these cycles.
Left to right: John Kaplan, Director of Technology Transfer for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Andrei Iancu, Director of the USPTO, and Alois (Al) Langer, inductee to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, view and discuss technologies at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh with Dr. Garrett Grindle (right), Assistant Director of Engineering at HERL.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh. A joint center supported by the university and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, HERL was established in 1994 by inventor, bioengineer, and professor Rory Cooper. Cooper is a distinguished professor of rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh and a senior career scientist for Veterans Affairs. In addition, Professor Cooper himself is a competitive para-athlete and winner of a bronze medal at the 1988 Paralympic Games in Seoul.
Starting with just Professor Cooper and two graduate students, HERL has grown to a team of about 70 researchers and innovators around the world. His team has developed more than 100 life-changing inventions and holds multiple patents related to wheelchairs, robotics, and wearable instruments designed to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
HERL’s work has led to such patented technologies as the Surge and NaturalFit Handrims, which helped to reduce injury rates of wheelchair users from approximately 80% of patients to about 20% overall. HERL’s other inventions include the Robotic-assisted Transfer Device, and the NextHealth Bed and Wheelchair to reduce strain on caregivers. HERL’s patented joystick and algorithms have made it possible for hundreds of thousands of older adults and people with disabilities to have independent mobility.
USPTO inventor collectible card for Rory Cooper
The inventive spirit of people like Chieko Asakawa, Bill Warner, and Professor Rory Cooper set inventors apart and lead to the tremendous growth of technology through innovation in America. Role models like them serve as beacons of invention to inspire us all. To learn more, read the USPTO’s latest Journeys of Innovation story on Rory Cooper, see his USPTO inventor collectible card and other USPTO inventor collectable cards on the USPTO kids pages, and read about National Disability Awareness Employment Month.
Your feedback is driving improvements to trademark filings and login user experience
Guest blog by Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Denison
MyUSPTO landing page
As we work to strengthen security and enhance the trademarks filing experience, we continue to listen to your ideas and feedback. Among these efforts is an upcoming enhancement you should prepare for now. Beginning October 26, 2019, you'll need to log in with two-factor authentication to your USPTO.gov account to access TEAS or TEASi forms. If you haven’t yet created your account, set up your USPTO.gov account today.
Filing features through MyUSPTO
By logging in to MyUSPTO for your trademark filings, you have a personalized homepage for managing your trademarks portfolios using widgets to meet your needs. MyUSPTO provides the Trademark Application Docket and Trademark Post-Registration Docket, which allow trademark owners or practitioners to create an unlimited number of trademark portfolios (or “collections”) of up to 1,000 trademarks per collection. You can also set up notifications of changes to your applications or registrations, such as to the owner address, attorney address, or voluntary amendments.
The trademarks widgets on MyUSPTO also include the Trademarks Form Finder, which allows users to quickly search for a trademark form by name or locate it by action or response needed. You can stay current with the Trademark Official Gazette Watch by saving search queries as well.
There are also two MyUSPTO widgets for making sure you have access to the resources and latest trademarks news. The Trademark Alerts widget provides a list of recent emails from the USPTO relevant to trademark customers. Using the Favorites widget, you can bookmark USPTO webpages and systems. This means the pages you need most often are there regardless of the device or browser you use to log in.
Preventing fraud with two-factor authentication
We need to improve the security of your information by preventing fraudulent attempts to alter your information or file documents. Adding two-factor authentication to the login process will admittedly add another step to your workflow by requiring a unique six-digit code, but it is necessary. Two-factor authentication significantly reduces the chance these malicious attempts to impersonate you will succeed because knowing your password alone is not enough to pass the authentication check.
Other USPTO applications have already implemented this technology in the customer workflow. Through those efforts, we heard your feedback that the authentication code takes too long to arrive, so we’re reducing your wait time by improving the underlying email infrastructure and changing the email service we currently use. Further, the authentication code can be provided via two alternate methods — either a voice call or an authentication app. Beginning October 26, you will also have the option to receive the authentication code via text message.
Improving security with shorter timeout on TEAS and TEASi forms
You will encounter another change when you use the TEAS and TEASi forms. To comply with NIST Special Publication 800-63B (June 2017) and the statutory requirements under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) of 2014, 44 U.S.C. § 3551 et seq. Public Law (P.L.) 113-283, “… [r]eauthentication of the subscriber SHALL be repeated following any period of inactivity lasting 30 minutes or longer.” After 30 minutes of inactivity, “[t]he session SHALL be terminated (i.e., logged out)…” As a result, your TEAS and TEASi sessions will timeout after 30 minutes of inactivity on a form, a reduction from the current 60-minute period.
We recognize this likely affects some of your filing processes, such as when selecting a lengthy identification of goods and services or writing an argument in response to a substantive refusal. This is necessary to improve the security of your information and to prevent fraudulent attempts to impersonate you in a trademark filing.
To help you manage your work with the reduced timeout, you'll receive a pop-up warning after 25 minutes of inactivity on a form. When you see this, select the “Yes, keep me signed in” button to reset your activity for another 30 minutes. Activity on a TEAS form that will extend your session includes uploading or attaching files and using the buttons on the forms, such as “Go Back,” “Continue,” and “Validate.” For sections of forms that take you longer than 30 minutes to complete, we also recommend gathering information and writing responses prior to logging in to a TEAS or TEASi form.
Increasing system availability and responsiveness
Since customers first started using USPTO.gov accounts to log in to USPTO systems, we as an agency have heard loud and clear the need to improve both system availability and performance. System availability is improving as a result of recent work to upgrade and stabilize our external applications’ infrastructure, and performance will continue to improve based on the addition of high-availability capacity and increased automated system monitoring.
Please continue to share your feedback with us so we can integrate it into our development process and improve your experience.
Prepare for the login requirement
Along with creating your USPTO.gov account before October 26, 2019, we also recommend that you bookmark the Log in to TEAS and TEASi page. From here, you can access the resources and contact information for technical assistance. This is also where you can watch the How to prepare for the new TEAS login requirement recorded webinar.
Expansion of prioritized examination
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu, and Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld
Innovation and the protection of it are hallmarks of America’s competitive edge. To help businesses and innovators move through the patent process quickly so they can make informed decisions on developing and marketing more of their products and services, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) established the Track One program. This program provides for the prioritized examination of patent applications.
The program works extremely well. As shown on our Patents Dashboard, the average pendency from filing a Track One request to a first office action has been 3.0 months in fiscal year 2019. Customers who took advantage of the program during the same period received, on average, final disposition within 7.8 months. For businesses and inventors who need to have their applications examined quickly, the Track One program offers a great solution.
The AIA originally stipulated that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) could not grant more than 10,000 requests for Track One prioritized examinations in any fiscal year. To meet the needs of our stakeholders, we recently issued regulations to increase the number of Track One requests that we could grant. Effective September 3, we increased the limit to 12,000 each fiscal year, as detailed in our Federal Register Notice.
Shortly after issuing that notice, the USPTO granted its 10,000th Track One request for fiscal year 2019 and continued processing additional requests throughout the remainder of the fiscal year. The higher limit provides the opportunity for more interested stakeholders to participate in, and benefit from, prioritized examination in the cases they deem appropriate. With respect to the Patent Office as a whole, as we recently announced, the USPTO improved overall pendency to an average of 14.7 months for first office actions and 23.8 months total. This program allows even faster action in cases applicants select based on their own needs.
Applicants have embraced the Track One program due to the speed with which the applications are handled and the high-quality examinations that they receive. The USPTO remains committed to meeting the needs of our applicants through innovative programs such as this, and will continue its work to improve the experience of those who come before us.
Posted at 09:17AM Oct 11, 2019 in patents |
USPTO meets critical goals to reduce patent examination pendency
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu and Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld
For many years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been working to reduce patent pendency times. And since 2018, the agency has had specific goals of under 15 months for first office actions and under 24 months for total pendency, on average.
We have now achieved these goals! As of September 30, 2019, which is the end of our 2019 fiscal year (FY), the averages are 14.7 months for first action pendency and 23.8 months for total pendency. All along, we have maintained and indeed improved the quality of our examination. This achievement marks the USPTO’s lowest first action pendency since January 2002, despite total application filings nearly doubling in that time, from 353,000 in FY 2002 to 667,000 in FY 2019.
Our success in meeting these goals is the direct result of the efforts of our employees, at all levels, to drastically improve analyses, streamline processes, and clarify approaches that benefit all applications. At the patent examining level, supervisors and examiners undertook and implemented complex data analyses to better prioritize applications and balance workloads without sacrificing quality. At the application processing level, the team focused on increasing efficiencies to accelerate the overall patent examination process. These actions led, for example, to a decrease in the average processing time for an amendment filed in a patent application from 26.2 days to 6.8 days. And, of course, we increased the examiner ranks and we improved examiner training so that today the USPTO boasts the best examining corps anywhere in the world.
But our work does not stop here. We will in fact redouble our efforts to optimize pendency using considered analytics that make sense. Among other changes, we are improving how cases are routed to the right examiner and how time is allocated to each examiner based on a number of factors. And we will focus on areas that need most attention and strive to meet in as many cases as possible the time frames outlined by the patent term adjustment statute (35 U.S.C. 154b). This means, for example, issuing a first office action in as many applications as possible in no more than 14 months.
Processing and examining patent applications in a high quality and timely manner, a primary tenet of our 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, advances economic prosperity and supports a business environment that protects, cultivates and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship. In turn, this helps grow the economy, create jobs, and ultimately improve the way we all live.
Born of the Constitution and steeped in our history, the American patent system is a crown jewel, a gold standard. The USPTO’s more than 12,000 employees come to work every day dedicated to ensuring its continued success. Timely and quality patent examination are key components. We are proud of our achievements as stewards of this treasured system.
Posted at 12:21PM Oct 09, 2019 in patents |
Spotlight on Commerce: Jim Alstrum-Acevedo, Supervisory Patent Examiner, USPTO
Guest blog by Supervisory Patent Examiner Jim H. Alstrum-Acevedo
Jim Alstrum-Acevedo, Supervisory Patent Examiner at the USPTO. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
I am a Supervisory Patent Examiner (SPE), whose team examines pharmaceutical and biotechnology patent applications. My skilled team of fifteen examiners evaluates patents concerning short polypeptides having less than 100 amino acids, compositions containing these polypeptides, and methods of making and using these compounds. Examples of polypeptides examined by my team include insulin derivatives used to improve the treatment of diabetes mellitus as well as polypeptides with uses as antibiotics effective against antibiotic resistant bacteria, immunosuppresants useful in organ transplantation, and polypeptides to control blood clotting for the treatment of clotting disorders, such as, hemophilia. In short, the patents issued by my team help promote the well-being and health of people all over the country by facilitating intellectual property protection for new peptidic drugs, pharmaceutical compositions, and treatments for chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes) and public health concerns, such as bacterial infections caused by methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA).
I was born in Bogotá, Colombia to a Connecticut yankee, who was a former Peace Corps volunteer and an aspiring literature and Spanish language professor, and his smart Colombian wife, who was a high school English teacher. My family moved first from the high mesa of Bogotá to Laramie, Wyoming and Oxford, Mississippi, before settling down in Normal, Illinois, where my father was a Spanish language and Colombian literature professor, and my mom was a family counselor, after finishing a master’s degree in counseling. I grew up in an environment that emphasized education, learning, and helping others. My parents set a great example for me and my three siblings by their love of books, teaching, and service to others through their chosen professions, and work helping out the local Latino community in central Illinois.
Unlike patent examiners in many other areas of patents at the USPTO, I’m not an engineer. I have a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry from UNC Chapel Hill. For my dissertation, I worked on the synthesis of photoactive inorganic coordination compounds that I appended to organic polymers to obtain an “artificial photosynthetic system.” I did a short post-doc and was hired to be a patent examiner in Technical Center 1600 in 2005. After a few years of patent examining, I decided to get a juris doctor (JD) in the part-time program at The George Washington University and passed the Virginia bar in 2012. Having a law degree has helped me better understand case law, the positions advocated by applicants’ attorneys during patent prosecution, and to facilitate communication between examiners and applicants.
I am a people person and helping others is something I really enjoy and find rewarding in my job as a SPE and in other interests that I have. For example, I am a member and president of the USPTO professional chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, an affinity/employee resource group, which seeks to promote STEM education at all levels, provide a sense of family to SHPE members at the USPTO, and help with recruitment of talented Hispanics into STEM-based positions at the USPTO. I’m also involved in a local non-profit called Asian American Success (AASuccess), which provides life skills training to Asian American youth, especially from the local Vietnamese community and remotely to a community in Vietnam. AASuccess tries to inspire youth to make giving back a key facet of their lives as they acquire life skills that will help them succeed in their chosen careers.
Hispanic Heritage Month runs each year from September 15 through October 15 and highlights the many contributions Hispanics have made and continue to make to our great nation in various areas ranging from science and technology, to service in the armed services, and enriching our culture through new creative works, such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s recent musical, Hamilton. This yearly celebration is also a great opportunity to inspire Hispanic youth, who are under-represented in STEM fields, to strive for careers in STEM so they can become tomorrow’s innovators, physicians, and educators who will continue to improve the lives of people all across the world.
My advice for today’s youth interested in a career as a patent examiner or in STEM generally is to follow your passions, believe in yourself, ask questions, and always try to keep learning something new, regardless of where your life path takes you.
Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce Hispanic employees in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15--October 15).
Posted at 04:13PM Oct 07, 2019 in USPTO |
Recent advances in ex parte appeals and hearings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board
Guest blog post by Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board Scott Boalick
While recent changes to Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) practices for America Invents Act (AIA) trials have garnered a significant amount of attention recently, the Board has also been making major strides in ex parte appeal pendency as well as improving accessibility to hearings in both types of matters.
The Board brought the ex parte appeal inventory down from a high of over 26,000 appeals in 2012 to less than 8,700 as of the end of the fiscal year. This is the lowest inventory in over a decade.
The Board’s significant reduction in ex parte appeal inventory means a corresponding significant reduction in ex parte appeal pendency. Judges obtain and decide cases faster, which translates to a shorter wait time for patent applicants to receive a decision regarding their patent applications. In fact, the average ex parte appeal pendency, which is measured from receipt at PTAB after completion of all appeal briefing through the mailing of a decision on appeal, has been cut by 50% from about 30 months in 2015 to about 15 months at the end of the fiscal year. And we are working to resolve pendency even more.
Chief Judge Boalick meets with his team. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
The Board has updated the notice of hearing in ex parte appeals. The updated notice allows the appellant to designate any regional office where they want to appear to argue their case. The updated notice also allows the appellant to request remote viewing of the hearing from any regional office. For example, an appellant may elect to appear for their hearing in Denver and request remote viewing for in-house counsel in San Jose.
Further, the Board has replaced its electronic docket management system for ex parte appeals to better assign, manage, and track cases and workloads. In December 2016, the USPTO deployed a new IT system called PTAB End-to-End (E2E) to receive and manage AIA trial filings. In July 2018, the USPTO expanded the functionality of PTAB E2E to manage ex parte appeal filings. Through this expansion of E2E for ex parte appeals, the USPTO retired its legacy IT system previously used for appeal management. While the public will continue to file appeals through EFS-Web, judges will use PTAB E2E to process appeal decisions in more streamlined way, which means better customer service for applicants.
Separately, the Board has been making hearings more accessible and transparent. Among other improvements, the Board recently published a Hearings Guide to help parties prepare for a hearing. While this document did not create any new rules or procedures, it brought together separate descriptions of existing procedures so that parties have a single easy reference guide for any hearings-related questions. Additionally, the Board recently renovated the hearing room in its Rocky Mountain regional office to reconfigure the layout for better space utilization, and we are about to begin renovating and expanding one of the hearing rooms at our headquarters in Alexandria so that more members of the public can attend important hearings in person, such as our new precedential opinion panel hearings. We likewise are planning to update the audiovisual equipment in the other hearing rooms over the next 24 months.
We are proud of the strides that we have made to lower the inventory and pendency in ex parte appeals to better serve our stakeholders. And we hope these updates will give stakeholders more information and options to enhance their appeals practice. We will continue to make improvements and welcome your suggestions, which can be emailed to PTAB_Appeals_Suggestions@uspto.gov.
Posted at 12:16PM Oct 02, 2019 in ip |
Inventors converge at Invention-Con 2019
Guest blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Laura Peter
Can a 16-year old young woman change the world? Grant her a patent and watch her! Recently, we were privileged to hear an inspiring keynote from Kavita Shukla—an innovator, entrepreneur, and CEO—who is the force behind Freshglow Co. and inventor of FreshPaper. Her patented technology prevents food spoilage and helps avert hunger around the world. After receiving her first patent at the age of 16 and selling FreshPaper at farmers markets, she built her business from the ground up and became an award winning and successful entrepreneur.
Invention-Con keynote speaker Kavita Shukla describes her journey as an inventor and entrepreneur. (photo by Cynthia Blancaflor/USPTO)
She joined other notable speakers Invention-Con 2019, hosted by the USPTO at our headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Invention-Con is an outstanding opportunity for inventors, makers, and entrepreneurs to meet and learn from each other, attend workshops, and hear from our officials and intellectual property (IP) experts. Agencies including the Small Business Administration and Copyright Office also presented useful educational materials during the conference.
As it has been the last several years, the two-day event was completely sold out, with over 170 in-person attendees and over 4,000 unique online viewers. Many attendees were new to IP and wanted to learn whether it’s worth patenting their idea or registering a trademark for their product or business. IP professionals from the USPTO and other agencies were able to provide them with an introduction to IP and helped guide them to the resources they needed. Other attendees were already patented inventors who have a product ready for manufacture and wanted to know how to get it from the workshop to the marketplace. For them, we showcased entrepreneurs like Kavita to share their stories and offer hard-earned lessons.
We were lucky to hear from many speakers who shared their stories about obtaining IP protection, developing a business, and commercializing a product. Past Invention-Con favorite, Howie Busch, an inventor and entrepreneur, hosted a panel of Shark Tank contestants. These Shark Tank speakers had great advice to share with our attendees on how to stand out, develop, fund, and market their products.
Entrepreneur Howie Busch (right) moderates the panel “Swim with the Sharks: Learn how national exposure changes your business,” comprised of past Shark Tank contestants. (Photo by Cynthia Blancaflor/USPTO)
It is not uncommon for inventors to return to Invention-Con, year after year. One example is Ruth Young, who after attending in 2017 and 2018 took advantage of the USPTO’s Law School Clinic Certification, Pro Bono, and Pro Se programs. This year, she joined us as a panelist and shared her inspirational invention journey.
Prior to joining the USPTO, I worked with high-tech startups as an IP attorney in Silicon Valley. I know that launching a business can often be an overwhelming and intimidating experience, and the patent process is one more task that is added. The USPTO issues nearly 25% of patents to small and micro-entities, and the percentage of micro-entity patents has grown every year since the USPTO introduced that category for patent applications. In fact, the USPTO issues over 300,000 patents a year, and over 7,500 of those are to micro-entities, including to independent inventors.
It only takes one really good idea to launch a successful enterprise, and it is inspiring to see that many of them are also looking to help society. Consider, for example, the story of Alice Chun, whose company Solight Design was a winner of the 2018 Patents for Humanity award for the SolarPUFF™, a compact foldable light made of a flexible waterproof material with a solar panel on top. Alice was inspired after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to create a product that made light after dark available for the 1.6 billion people still living without electricity. Although the SolarPUFF™ was designed with developing countries in mind, this unique light has also found a market in camping and other outdoor uses. By issuing patents to independent inventors like Alice Chun, in addition to larger entities, the USPTO is helping sow the seeds of success for many other small companies that will continue to invigorate our thriving innovation economy.
History has shown that IP rights have been indispensable to our country’s prosperity and economic growth. In fact, our founders thought IP rights were so important, they had the foresight to enshrine them in our Constitution. In Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, they granted Congress the power “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
Since then, we have benefitted from the development of electric lighting, powered flight, DNA synthesis, the internet, and countless other transformational technologies. At the USPTO, we are seeing an increasing number of developing technologies that we will benefit from tomorrow, such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and biotechnology.
IP is of key importance to this progress. A 2016 report by the USPTO estimated that in 2014, IP-intensive industries supported 45.5 million jobs in the U.S. and contributed $6.6 trillion to the U.S. economy, equivalent to 38.2% of GDP. It is in our interest—in fact, it is our mission—to help all inventors achieve their goals by protecting the fruits of their imagination and determination. Every day, our patent examiners and trademark examiners work with inventors and businesspeople to secure and protect their IP rights for their innovations and brands.
Innovation is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from. It’s what you can do that gets you IP rights. And, the USPTO’s doors are open to everyone, from all walks of life. Inventors and entrepreneurs are the heart and soul of innovation in America. We at the USPTO remember that every day as we walk through these doors.
Together with Deputy Commissioner for Patents Andrew Faile and Commissioner for Trademarks Mary Boney Denison, it was a pleasure to meet so many innovative and creative entrepreneurs. If you missed Invention-Con, you can watch recordings of the sessions in the videos section of the USPTO Facebook page. The Invention-Con 2019 booklet also provides a valuable list of services we offer to support inventors, as well as who to contact to learn more. We hope you can join us next year for another incredibly educational and useful Invention-Con!
Posted at 08:38AM Sep 30, 2019 in USPTO |