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Thursday Apr 09, 2015

Implementing Executive Actions to Further Improve our Patent System

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

We’ve been working on a number of exciting initiatives at the USPTO that will benefit most of you. These programs all support White House executive actions designed to strengthen the patent system. They focus on making information more accessible to the public, generating ideas through crowdsourcing, assisting under-resourced inventors, and offering more robust technical training to patent examiners. Here is an update on our progress.

Patent Assignment Search

In furtherance of our goal to increase transparency of patent ownership information, we have improved our Assignment Search database to make it simpler for the public to locate patent assignment information. The new Assignment Search database has several improved features. First, it uses faster technology and features a modernized user interface that quickly and easily displays patent ownership results. Second, it offers more searchable fields. Using multiple search terms, a user can now search by a patent application number and by the entity that submitted the assignment information. After getting initial search results, the user can use filters to narrow the results to a more manageable subset and print search results.

The USPTO has maintained an assignment database for patent ownership information since 1980. Because recording in the database is voluntary, it is not a comprehensive source for all patent or patent application ownership information, but it is an excellent source of much information that is free to the public and updated daily. In preparation for our next phase of improvements, more than 50,000 public users accessed our Assignment Search database, and many offered valuable feedback that we will incorporate into future enhancements of the tool.

Patent Examiner Technical Training Program in 2015

Next, the USPTO’s Patent Examiner Technical Training Program (PETTP) has announced dates for Technology Center Technical Fairs in 2015, and we’re looking for scientists, engineers, professors, and industrial designers to participate as volunteer guest lecturers. PETTP improves the patent process by ensuring patent examiners are aware of emerging trends, maturing technologies, and recent innovation. Presentation formats are flexible, and training sessions typically last up to one hour, followed by questions and answers. Speakers are welcome to visit the USPTO Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, or our satellite offices in Denver or Detroit for in-person presentations. Alternatively, they may present by webcast from their own locations. Read the Commerce blog post from December 2014 to learn more about the success of the most recent PETTP training, and visit the PETTP page on the USPTO website to sign up to volunteer your time and expertise as a guest lecturer.

Patent Pro Bono Program Expansion

Finally, we continue to expand our Patent Pro Bono Program that provides free legal assistance to under-resourced inventors and small businesses interested in securing patent protection for their inventions. The program now operates in 47 states, with nationwide coverage coming soon.

Recently, we have supported new program launches as well as expansions. The New York Patent Pro Bono Program has expanded to include New Jersey and Connecticut. In February, the Georgia Patent Pro Bono Program held its launch event, and the Missouri Patent Pro Bono Program—covering the states of Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma—also held its launch event. On April 20, the Minnesota Patent Pro Bono Program will launch an expansion into North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, and on April 30, the Massachusetts Patent Pro Bono Program will launch an expansion into Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine.

The Patent Pro Bono Program serves a vital role in the marketplace of innovation, and we are pleased with its success so far. Visit the Patent Pro Bono Program page of our website for more information on how to volunteer to represent an under-resourced inventor or small business or secure assistance from a volunteer attorney.

We look forward to updating you on many more programs and initiatives this year that support implementation of the White House executive actions, which remain a priority for the USPTO.


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