Call for collaboration with stakeholders
Blog by Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO
We are working across our great agency to improve our processes, technology, and training. Each and every one of us is committed to providing the best service possible for all innovators and entrepreneurs, from pro se to experienced. Our goal is to issue and maintain robust and reliable intellectual property (IP) rights that strengthen our economy, provide jobs, and create opportunity.
Over the last four months, I’ve held numerous listening sessions with USPTO employees, including patent examiners, trademark examining attorneys, and Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board judges, both in Alexandria, Virginia, and across the country. I’ve met with hundreds of our team members, new and experienced, and heard their ideas on ways we can improve. Based on feedback I received, last week I met with the entire utility patent examiner corps. Patents management and I announced several key initiatives to improve the work we do. We are collaborating, including with the unions, to improve every aspect of our work. We have already extended work hours, implemented process improvements to make patent application classification and routing even more efficient and accurate, and announced numerous other agency-wide initiatives. I also met with many of our design patent examiners, and given the importance of design to our economy, we are currently focusing not only on additional and expanded training, but also on many more initiatives. It is one of my top priorities to improve the USPTO, for the benefit of all those who serve it as well as all those we serve, including the American public.
Deputy Director Derrick Brent, Director Kathi Vidal, and Acting Commissioner for Patents Andrew Faile met with the patent examining corps on August 23, 2022. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
In meeting with many of you, I have appreciated that you, our stakeholders, also want to know how you can help. In addition to sharing all your great ideas through our meetings, in response to our requests for comments (more to come!), as part of notice-and-comment rulemaking (stay tuned!), and via the new Engage with the Director webpage, we hope you will work with us to provide opportunities for our patent examiners, those in the PTAB, and those across our agency to learn about your technology.
To that end, the USPTO has developed several successful programs to keep patent examiners up to date on the latest technological developments, emerging trends, and recent innovations. The programs provide our patent examiners, both in utility and design, opportunities to hear from experts who work in the various technologies examined throughout the USPTO. We are also opening up these opportunities so our PTAB employees, those in Trademarks, and others at the USPTO can likewise benefit. Engaging with scientists, engineers, and other experts from corporations, universities, and innovative organizations allows us to continually enhance the quality of the work we do.
We encourage all of you who can contribute to our learning, to open your doors and collaborate with us. You can do so through the Patent Examiner Technical Training Program (PETTP), the Site Experience Education (SEE) program, and Customer Partnership Meetings (CPMs), all of which provide examiners and others at the USPTO with the chance to interact with our stakeholders while enhancing their technical expertise.
Patent Examiner Technical Training Program
Patent examiners participate in technical training, including on designs, through courses provided by the PETTP. These courses were originally devised as in-person training sessions, but the USPTO has recently held them virtually. The sessions cover a vast variety of topics, such as next-generation tools for spatial genomics, additive manufacturing, machine learning, and chemistry for mitigating climate change, just to name a few. In fiscal year 2022 alone, the PETTP held 327 events with 1,770 total participants. Technology experts volunteer their time to speak with USPTO employees as guest lecturers. More information on the PETTP, including past guest speakers, is available on our website. Please contribute to the body of knowledge of our examining corps, and others at the USPTO, by volunteering as a guest lecturer for this program and filling out the PETTP sign-up form. If you have any questions, you can also contact PETTP@uspto.gov or view our PETTP flyer.
Site Experience Education program
One of the most direct engagement initiatives between stakeholders and patent examiners, the SEE program connects innovators, scientists, designers, and engineers with patent examiners right where innovation is happening. Participating organizations have a chance to communicate directly with patent examiners and gain a greater understanding of the importance of the patent system and how it works. In fiscal year 2019, the program provided 98 site visit experiences to 322 examiners. Due to the pandemic, we also now work with organizations virtually. The new virtual format provides examiners with live videos, live demos, and pre-recorded product demos with live narration on a variety of topics curated by the host organization.
Through this program, examiners and others at the USPTO can visit organizations within the continental U.S., learn about new and evolving technologies, and experience how these technologies are developed and operate in the field. More information on the SEE program, including past trips, is available on our website. Please volunteer as a host organization by filling out the SEE program interest form. If you have any questions or comments regarding the SEE program, please email us at SEE@uspto.gov or view our SEE flyer.
Customer Partnership Meeting led by Technology Center 2600, which oversees the technology of communications. (Photo by the USPTO)
Patents Customer Partnership Meetings
Patents CPMs provide a valuable opportunity for our stakeholders to meet directly with USPTO employees in a collaborative forum. Recent topics of discussion have included statutory provisions governing patent infringement, the Deferred Subject Matter Eligibility Response pilot program, the provision of explicit rationale under 35 U.S.C. 103(a), and searches for biological sequences, to name a few. Over 460 people participated in a recent virtual CPM. At these meetings, we share plans and operational efforts to better educate and inform our stakeholders. These meetings also enable the patent community to share ideas, experiences, and insights as well as discuss examination policies and procedures, and solutions for improvement. More information on CPMs is available on our Patents CPM page. Please participate as a guest speaker for a CPM by filling out the Partnership Meetings speaker interest form. For general questions or comments about CPMs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For specific questions regarding a certain topic or technology, please contact our CPM specialists.
We all have a role to play in the IP system, to ensure that robust and reliable IP promotes innovation, investment, and economic prosperity. Please provide training by participating in one or more of these programs—either in person or virtually—in your area of expertise. You can also sign up for email updates to get the latest news from the USPTO and information on upcoming events, and you can connect with me through the Engage with the Director webpage. We look forward to the progress we will make together, as drivers of America’s economic engine, to further strengthen our world-class IP system.