Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and the USPTO’s Council for Inclusive Innovation expand innovation to promote jobs and U.S. prosperity
Blog by Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO
From left: USPTO staff worked with second graders on their science and engineering projects at Cora Kelly School for Math, Science, and Technology in Alexandria, VA on April 26, 2022; Secretary Raimondo and Director Vidal met with Urban Alliance interns at the USPTO on July 11, 2022; Legal Experience and Advancement Program proceedings at the USPTO; inventor Lonnie Johnson at a ceremony at the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) on May 4, 2022. (Photos by the USPTO and courtesy of the National Inventors Hall of Fame)
The key to unlocking the potential of every American, creating jobs, and promoting economic prosperity is expanding access to the innovation ecosystem in every corner of our country. We must not only promote and protect more innovation, we must tap into communities traditionally underrepresented in the innovation ecosystem. If we address these disparities, we could quadruple the number of American inventors, and increase the GDP per capita by as much as 4%, or by about $1 trillion. This is a national imperative.
That’s why the USPTO’s Council for Inclusive Innovation (CI2), which Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and I Chair and Vice Chair respectively, has been hard at work on new initiatives to bolster participation in innovation, including invention, entrepreneurship and creativity. CI2 council members—which include leaders in industry, academia, government and non-profit organizations—worked with CI2 working group members to develop initiatives to improve our innovation economy and strengthen American competitiveness.
In addition to launching our newly rolled out inclusive innovation page, which offers those new to the innovation ecosystem resources and services to encourage and support their participation, we are launching a first set of initiatives to encourage, empower, and support the innovators of tomorrow.
These new initiatives include:
Innovation internship program
As a child of a career military family who grew up with limited resources, and as one of only three women in my entire electrical engineering class in college in the 1980s, I recognize the importance of providing those without traditional paths into our innovation ecosystem equal and equitable opportunities. To teach our youth the value of innovation and protecting innovation with intellectual property, and to encourage a more inclusive pipeline of talent, the USPTO is establishing paid internships at our agency to provide hands-on job training to community college and university students.
If you are or know of an interested student, please see our newly-posted announcement calling for candidates and apply by August 16. I hope to see you around the halls of the USPTO!
First-time filer expedited examination petition
The USPTO receives approximately 40,000 patent applications per year that name at least one inventor who is a first-time filer. For some first-time micro entity filers, speeding up the time to secure a patent could accelerate their ability to bring their ideas to impact – to start companies, secure investment and create jobs.
To support their journeys, we are announcing a new fast-track program that will provide expedited examination and early indication of patentability for first-time micro entity filers. The fast-track program will include additional support for filings in the program including training as a prerequisite to participation in the program. Look for our federal register notice (FRN) on this program soon, which we expect will launch in early fall. After the program launches, even those already in the system may be qualified to participate.
This program supplements the USPTO’s other expedited examination programs including those supporting COVID, cancer immunotherapy, and green technology. For a full listing of options, visit the initiatives page of the USPTO website.
Expansion of free legal services
By expanding access to free (or “pro bono”) legal services, we can assist more under-resourced innovators protect their ideas and bring them to market. The USPTO is expanding both its Law School Clinic Certification Program as well as its support of regional patent pro bono programs.
The USPTO’s Law School Clinic Certification Program includes over 60 participating law school clinics that provide legal services at no charge to inventors and small business owners. Expanding our program to more law schools and students means increasing opportunities for more innovators to receive important pro bono services to help bring their ideas to reality. It also provides for more opportunities for more students to explore the world of intellectual property and to be able to contribute more meaningfully upon graduation.
We are excited to welcome four new law schools this year as participants in the patent and/or trademark law school clinic programs: George Mason University, Case Western University, Wake Forest University, and Brigham Young University. We are grateful for their participation and their willingness to serve our nation’s innovators through their important work.
If you’re a law school interested in joining this innovative program, please email LawSchoolInformation@uspto.gov.
The USPTO also supports 21 pro bono regions across the country as part of the USPTO’s Patent Pro Bono Program. I have met with a number of participants from those regions as I visited with various communities across our country. We are working with participating regional patent pro bono programs on plans to expand their work, including by infusing more funding into their programs, so they can help even more innovators. We find that when we reach people where they are, we support a wider swath of Americans including more veterans, those having a lower socio-economic status, those outside of technology hubs, and those who have traditionally not had access to the innovation ecosystem.
Whereas approximately 13% of named inventors on U.S. patents are women, 41% of Patent Pro Bono Program applicants who responded to a survey in 2021 identified as women. In addition, 30% identified as African American, 14% as Hispanic, 5.6% as Asian American or Pacific Islander and 1.5% as Native American.
Community outreach campaign
The USPTO employs more than 9,000 patent examiners and trademark examining attorneys across the country. These are intellectual property (IP) experts whose work propels innovation forward and protects inventions and brands. Our employees have the experience and knowledge to help communities meaningfully pursue invention, entrepreneurship and creativity and to protect their ideas, brands and creations.
Later this year, the USPTO will pilot a volunteer program that will leverage the USPTO’s nationwide workforce as a powerful tool for educating local communities on the importance of IP, with the goal of increasing IP literacy and participation in the innovation ecosystem across our nation’s full population. Volunteer employees – or, as I like to think of them, USPTO IP champions – will engage with new audiences on the importance of protecting ideas and brands to help foster new businesses and economic activity. They will supplement the great work done through our East Coast regional coordinator and our four regional offices.
These are just a few of the initiatives we are launching as part of our CI2 mission to expand innovation. We look forward to developing and announcing more. I welcome your feedback on these and other ideas, along with potential ways to collaborate to help advance our mission. Please connect with me at our Engage with the Director page on the USPTO website. Further, we invite you to email CI2@uspto.gov if you’d like more information on CI2 or to share additional ideas.
As Secretary Raimondo has said, “America’s diversity is a competitive advantage for our economy, but only if we give everyone an opportunity to fulfill their potential and fully participate.” We must encourage Americans who have not traditionally participated in our innovation ecosystem to pursue STEM innovation education and careers, to patent their ideas, trademark their brands, seek investments to grow their enterprises, and engage in emerging new sectors of the economy that need their unique insights and perspectives.
I am excited to be on this journey with you.