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.