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.