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Monday Jul 02, 2012

USPTO on the Hill: Supporting U.S. Innovators in Global Markets

Guest blog by Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea

Last week, I had the distinct honor to testify in front of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet at a hearing titled: “International IP Enforcement: Protecting Patents, Trade Secrets and Market Access.” This was my first opportunity, since joining the USPTO, to talk about the great successes we have had at this agency in front of Congress. I was pleased to be asked to share our experiences and successes with members of Congress and it was a positive experience.

In my testimony I highlighted the work we do at the USPTO to help our stakeholders protect their patents abroad. These efforts include Technical Assistance and Capacity Building for foreign officials who are responsible for enforcing intellectual property rights in their country. The USPTO has developed rigorous capacity-building programs in key countries and regions targeting foreign enforcement officials, such as police, prosecutors, customs officials, as well as the judiciary. 

I also highlighted one of our most successful programs, the Intellectual Property Attaché program, wherein our IP Attachés work directly with our stakeholders on the ground in countries such as China, India, Russia, Brazil, Thailand and Egypt. Our IP Attachés work to promote U.S. government IP policy internationally, help secure strong IP provisions in international agreements and host country laws, and encourage strong IP protection and enforcement by U.S. trading partners for the benefit of U.S. rights holders. They also assist U.S. businesses with IP protection and enforcement and conduct training activities with host governments. The USPTO now has five years of experience building this successful program and the work our Attachés do has gotten praise from U.S. companies and others in the Federal government alike. I have also had the opportunity to meet several of our IP Attachés at their station in country as well as here at the USPTO and have been very impressed with their hard work and accomplishments. I am pleased that their efforts have gotten so much attention by Congress in this hearing and look forward to continuing to build this program.

I was also asked some questions during my testimony and want to take this opportunity to clarify my responses relative to data protection for biologics and compulsory licensing under TRIPS. Although compulsory licensing can be permissible under the TRIPS Agreement, we encourage our trading partners to consider ways to address their public health challenges while maintaining intellectual property rights systems that promote investment, research, and innovation. The broad interpretation of Indian law in a recent decision by the Controller General of Patents of India regarding compulsory licensing of patents, in my view, may undermine those goals.

I was also asked to comment on a twelve year period for data protection for biologics which is favored by the research-based pharmaceutical industry. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations are ongoing and the United States Government has not made a proposal for a longer term of data protection for biologic medicines. We will continue to work with our colleagues in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative who are leading these negotiations as this process moves forward.

It was a great honor for me to represent the USPTO last week and I look forward to continuing to work with Director Kappos, Congress, colleagues within the Administration and our many stakeholders toward the goal of achieving IP protection and enforcement for U.S. innovators doing business in the global marketplace.


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