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Monday Jun 07, 2021

Global protection and local outreach: How the USPTO’s IP attachés are helping U.S. business interests abroad

Guest blog by Molly Kocialski, Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and Damian Porcari, Director of the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office  

IP attaches

The USPTO IP attachés posted to China, Belgium, Mexico, Switzerland, India, and Thailand shown here, along with their colleagues in seven other posts around the world, work to support the interests of U.S. IP rights holders.

During the past several months, we were pleased to welcome the USPTO’s intellectual property (IP) attachés to a series of virtual events in our respective regions covering the Midwest and the Rocky Mountain states.

Who are the IP attachés? They are U.S. diplomats with expertise in intellectual property. Their prior experience includes work in government, industry, major trade associations, and some of the best law firms in the country. They are currently assigned to 12 embassies, consulates or missions around the world, where they advocate U.S. positions on IP matters for the benefit of U.S. businesses. Three attachés cover China, two focus on multilateral issues in Geneva, and the others cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Eurasia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Aside from their diplomatic duties, the IP attachés also provide information to U.S. businesses entering foreign markets, including how to navigate foreign laws and protect their IP abroad. One way they do that is through the kinds of outreach efforts they conducted recently with stakeholders located in our two regions. These included a series of virtual meetings held with Utah stakeholders in October 2020 and another round of meetings held in April 2021 with stakeholders in Ohio and Kentucky.

The virtual visit with stakeholders in Utah included discussions with the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the World Trade Center Utah. These meetings consisted of a series of wide-ranging discussions on global IP protection and gave attendees—who represented established businesses, startup companies, government, academia, and IP law firms—answers to their questions about IP challenges abroad. Topics included counterfeit goods, patents, trademarks, and trade secret protection. Our other virtual meetings included conversations with a number of Utah based companies, as well as the IP Law Section of the Utah State Bar. Likewise, in Ohio and Kentucky, the IP attachés’ virtual visits led to engaging conversations about international developments in patent, trademark, and trade secret protection. In these sessions, we were joined by a diverse group of inventors, law school students from throughout the Midwest, attorneys, and more than 45 businesses located in the two states.

Both of these series of meetings made clear to us what a tremendous service the IP attachés provide to our country and to American businesses and inventors. Over the past 15 months alone, the IP attachés helped more than 8,000 U.S. stakeholders, held more than 2,500 meetings with foreign government officials, conducted more than 80 training programs (with more than 4,400 foreign government officials), and reported over 60 significant IP successes.

Examples of the IP attachés’ recent work on behalf of U.S interests include:

• Conducting training programs on patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets for officials from U.S. trading partners—including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, El Salvador, Ukraine, China, and Thailand—so that they can better protect and enforce IP in their countries.
• Organizing two international leadership programs for officials of the European Union who are responsible for IP enforcement.
• In China, in response to the pandemic, a focus by the three IP attachés on sourcing and shipping Chinese-made personal protective equipment and medical devices to the United States, while remaining vigilant against counterfeit or substandard medical products.
• Shutting down, in the Middle East and North Africa region, a major broadcasting operation that carried pirated satellite signals—a collaborative effort by the IP attaché for that region and local authorities.

“Successes like these show the important role our IP attachés play,” notes Dominic Keating, the director of the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program. “Each attaché brings an average of more than 15 years of IP experience to the table to help secure the highest of standards in international agreements and host country laws.”

These virtual visits drove home to us, and to the many participants in all three states, the importance of protecting IP globally. Our economy benefits greatly from strong IP protections here at home. It also depends on our international counterparts to take the same approach in protecting rights holders’ interests overseas. The IP attachés play an important role in making that a reality.

The next series of IP attaché outreach events will be taking place in early June 2021 in Kansas and Nebraska, with programs on June 8 and June 9. If you are a Kansas or Nebraska company that wants to learn more, please contact the Rocky Mountain U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. For further details on the work of the IP attachés, or to learn about upcoming visits to other states and regions, view the IP Attaché Program page of the USPTO website.

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