A seamless transition to all-virtual hearings
Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Scott Boalick, Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO
Remote PTAB hearing on July 27, 2020.
As the coronavirus pandemic began in early March, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) held its first all-virtual hearing, seamlessly adjusting to the new format and showcasing yet another example of our state-of-the-art efforts to support America’s “innovation agency.”
In the 60 days after this transition, the PTAB has held 263 virtual hearings. Of note, 95 of these hearings were AIA trials, 100% of which were all virtual. By comparison, in the 60 days prior to the transition, there were 99 AIA trials and only one of those trials had counsel appear remotely. Despite the sudden switch in format, PTAB work has continued unabated.
Past innovations allowed this transition to be possible. For example, PTAB has long permitted counsel to appear remotely in ex parte appeals to save travel-related costs and time for applicants. Likewise, up to two of the three judges assigned to any PTAB proceeding (ex parte appeal or AIA trial) have appeared remotely, supporting the USPTO’s well-known hotel programing where judges and examiners are recruited throughout the United States and permitted to work outside the DC metro area. And just this year, PTAB allowed parties in all proceedings to request to appear from a USPTO regional office.
Still, transitioning all PTAB hearings to a complete virtual environment required the PTAB and its support staff to work efficiently and creatively as they addressed everything from court reporting to virtual public access.
We continue our work to improve the user experience and welcome any suggestions parties and practitioners might have. Please send us a note at PTABhearings@uspto.gov. We also realize that for many practitioners, appearing remotely is a new experience that poses some challenges. To that end, we have identified some best practices that we share with counsel in advance.
On a related note, the USPTO launched the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) during this time of remote hearings, and it has shown tremendous interest so far. LEAP fosters the development of the next generation of patent practitioners by creating opportunities for them to gain skills and experience in oral arguments before the PTAB.
Finally, with the expansion of remote hearings, we are also able to offer stakeholders opportunity to listen to hearings remotely. For more information, please visit the PTAB page of the USPTO website for schedules and further instructions.
The USPTO’s top priority is to maintain the health and safety of our employees, contractors, and the American public,
while continuing to provide valuable services, programs, and resources at the highest level. The option to appear
remotely before the PTAB is one of the many ways that we have met, and will continue to meet, the needs and
priorities of those who appear before the Board.
Successful failover test ensures the stability of patent system applications at the USPTO
Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Jamie Holcombe, Chief Information Officer of the USPTO
Illuminating the corridors of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) data center in Alexandria, Virginia, are countless routers, switches, wires, and storage systems neatly organized on rows of server racks.
The blinking LED lights and soft whirring of cooling fans form an essential part of the USPTO’s digital backbone—one that supports ongoing patent and trademark examinations and daily business operations throughout the United States. Through this system, thousands of vital computer processes are executed every second of every day to enable the work done at America’s “Innovation Agency.”
Until recently, most of this capability lay within the walls of USPTO headquarters in Alexandria. However, we determined in 2018 that this potential single point of failure was no longer tenable.
In August of 2018 we experienced a multi-day outage of the Patent Application Locating and Monitoring (PALM) database. Afterwards, we committed to stabilize and modernize the USPTO’s IT infrastructure, which was long overdue. Significant portions of our infrastructure were antiquated and prone to failure under stress, and we lacked meaningful redundancies to mitigate the consequences of such failures.
We began the upgrading process by conducting a top-to-bottom review and mapping of all IT systems. This included engaging outside experts to assess the infrastructure, processes, and organization. We then prioritized the needed improvements, and we set to work. For example, last year we upgraded to a new server platform for the main patent processing system. This new platform is 1,000 times faster, 20 times more efficient, far more stable, and less prone to failure.
Critical to our stabilization effort is our team’s addition of redundancies – standby systems that enable “failover.” In a failover setup, redundant systems at offsite locations run simultaneously alongside the primary system. If the primary system fails, the standby system takes over, providing virtually uninterrupted support to system users. In addition to adding failover servers, we activated at the alternate site a second 10 gigabit-per-second (10G) Ethernet computer networking circuit, deployed additional active and stand-by databases for key processing systems, and automated our deployment process for the primary and backup locations.
To test the USPTO’s failover capabilities, on July 2nd and 3rd of this year, our IT team executed a planned outage of the servers housing the Official Correspondence and the Docket and Application Viewer. The files contained in this system are some of the largest, most important, and most accessed IT applications at the USPTO, used for reviewing, filing, and prosecuting patent applications.
The outage test went as planned, with no issues. The USPTO’s new standby system at the offsite location remained fully operational during the test, with a rapid and seamless transition of the applications from the primary data center. All data was updated in real time and remained secure.
Following this failover test, we then switched back to the primary data center, again with no issues.
Our IT team is now moving forward to fully automate the failover system, and we plan to execute similar failover tests several times throughout the year. All along, of course, we continue to upgrade various other hardware and data infrastructure.
USPTO has come a long way since the PALM outage, but we know there is still much more work to be done. We also understand that these upgrades will take time and require additional resources, and that we will encounter more hurdles along the way. We will stay the course.
Most importantly, we are committed to ensuring these essential IT systems are reliable for the examiners and users working to further the vital role that innovation, entrepreneurship, and intellectual property play in meeting the great challenges of our time.
First-rate information technology infrastructure supports USPTO teleworkers nationwide
Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO and Jamie Holcombe, Chief Information Officer of the USPTO
Remember that old U.S. Post Office creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds?”
That’s how we feel about our work at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Granted, we’ve faced much worse in the past three months than just inclement weather. Even so, the USPTO’s 13,000 employees have endured the historic challenges and, through an efficient teleworking system, have kept America’s engine of innovation moving forward.
Today, so much of what we do at the USPTO relies on our information technology (IT) systems. And there’s no doubt that the pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders have tested the limits of these systems. But, after the intensive IT stabilization and modernization efforts of the past two years, the USPTO was well prepared when our physical offices closed in March.
We transitioned to a remote workforce with virtually no disruption, despite having an unprecedented number of employees accessing our IT systems from home. We now have, on average, over 13,000 secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections to our campus every day. This is a 75 percent increase over our daily average prior to the pandemic.
We also now have over 1,200 virtual meetings each day using our secure video teleconferencing tools, connecting an average of 6,000 participants from among our workforce, our contractors, and the public at large. Our teleconferencing systems allow employees to conduct a variety of meetings and applicant interviews, and even hold virtual hearings before the Patent and Trademark Trial and Appeal Boards. To fully leverage these collaboration tools, we undertook five system upgrades and configuration enhancements to our teleconferencing infrastructure.
In addition, we planned, staged, and executed the procurement and shipment of 2,000 monitors and 3,200 printers to teleworking employees in the first few weeks after the stay-at-home order was issued. We also deployed over 400 broadband routers to recently hired examiners to provide better connectivity to the USPTO systems.
As we noted last year, fully modernizing the USPTO’s technology systems to industry standards is a large-scale project that will require significant time and effort. Much work remains to be done, and there will undoubtedly be hurdles along the way. Even so, our success in transitioning to almost an entire work-from-home workforce demonstrates that we’ve made remarkable progress in a short period of time.
The USPTO remains committed to helping inventors and entrepreneurs weather this crisis and hit the ground running once it passes. And, in doing so, we will continue to enlist modern ways of doing business, including improving the performance and reliability of our IT infrastructure and other systems.
Our employees and our IT team continue to make us very proud. They work tirelessly to ensure that nothing stops our service to America’s innovators.
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 (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.
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.
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.
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
(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.
(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 PTABHearings@uspto.gov at least five business days before the hearing. Similarly, for an AIA proceeding, a party should send an email to Trials@uspto.gov 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 uspto.gov.
We look forward to working with our stakeholders and the bar to further develop this and similar programs.
Recognizing World IP Day
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu
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.
Posted at 09:51AM Apr 27, 2020 in ip |
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, 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!
Posted at 03:45PM Mar 31, 2020 in USPTO |
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
“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.
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 (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.
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.
USPTO in the game at CES
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu
From 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 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.
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
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
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.
Posted at 08:39AM Feb 24, 2020 in USPTO |
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.