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Thursday Sep 12, 2019

Spotlight on Commerce: Tariq Hafiz, Group Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

Ed. note: This post is part of the very first Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees who are First Generation Professionals. First Generation Professionals are one of the first in their immediate families to enter the professional work environment. They are professionals with varying socio-economic backgrounds, life experiences, skills and talents that diversify our workforce.

Blog post by Tariq Hafiz, Group Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Tariq Hafiz, Group Director at the USPTO

Tariq Hafiz, Group Director, USPTO

My name is Tariq and I am a first generation professional. I came to the United States of America at the age of 10 and immediately attended elementary school without knowing a word of English. I learned the English alphabet in the 4th grade. I was the only immigrant in the whole school.

While growing up being an immigrant and eventually being the first in my family to attend college was not an easy road, it also was extremely fulfilling. Although my parents could not provide me with guidance on how to access and navigate college or give me career advice, they were supportive of my goals. My mother did not speak English and had not even completed grade school, while my father had only completed high school. One of the traits that I acquired from my father was an ethic for hard work. Even though he had a non-professional job, he always went to work, and I rarely saw him take a sick day. In fact, I don’t ever remember him taking a day off except for one week of vacation every August.

When I landed my first professional job after graduation, I was extremely grateful. I knew that I had to work extra hard to show my gratitude and ensure that there was nothing that would jeopardize my job, due to a lack of effort.  After a few years with a defense contractor, I came to work at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) where I began my career as a patent examiner. As a patent examiner, my performance was based on objective goals, which was an environment in which I thrived. Thus, I moved up the ladder quickly. I worked my way up to management positions, and after successfully completing the Department of Commerce's Candidate Development Program, I became a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES).

Throughout my career, I have mentored many employees–both professional and non-professional staff–helping them with their career development. Growing up without role models made me appreciate how important they are in a person’s career development. I hope that through mentoring employees, I can be a role model for others in their lives.

On September 12, the Department of Commerce hosted the inaugural First Generation Professionals 2019 Summit, and Tariq participated as a guest speaker. Learn more about the First Generation Professionals Initiative.

Monday Sep 09, 2019

Appeal board hearing availability in the regional offices

Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Laura Peter and Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Office Molly Kocialski

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) have been making significant strides improving access to hearings, ensuring transparency in proceedings, and providing an effective alternative to district court litigation. The USPTO’s four regional offices in Dallas, San Jose, Denver, and Detroit augment these improvements by offering regional hearing facilities for PTAB and TTAB matters.

At the USPTO, we understand that when an attorney advocates on behalf of a client, or when entrepreneurs or small businesses want to protect their investments, there are many IP-related concerns to consider, including the costs of appeals and trials and ease of access to proceedings. This is why we have worked, and will continue to work, to provide local and regional innovators with the tools, information and resources they need to succeed and ultimately, protect their innovations.

As an example of how we are improving our services for stakeholders of PTAB and TTAB services, after a year-long renovation process recently completed in our Rocky Mountain Regional Office (RMRO), the layout now allows for better participation by stakeholders in hearings, and public viewing when available. The RMRO hearing room has been reconfigured for better space utilization, and to have increased capacity. Upgrades such as these will continue in all USPTO offices (including Alexandria Hearing Room D) to, for example, increase the occupancy size to accommodate viewers of public hearings. Along with the space renovations, the audiovisual equipment is also being updated in all of the USPTO offices, as budget allows, to ensure that each and every hearing room continues to provide the dignity the proceedings deserve. This will ensure that every regional office can reach their growing stakeholder needs for such services to the best of their ability.

Previous configuration of the hearing room at the Rocky Mountain Regional Office

The hearing room at the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, before construction with a capacity of 12.

Updated hearing room in the Rocky Mountain Regional Office

The hearing room at the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, newly redesigned, with a capacity of 70.

TTAB allows practitioners to make use of the hearing rooms in the regional offices in their practice before the TTAB. Since time and cost constraints can frequently pose a hurdle to a client’s attendance at TTAB hearings, the regional offices can provide a more convenient and cost-effective venue, so that clients can stay attuned to and be present for proceedings that can significantly affect their trademark interests. The facilities present at the USPTO regional offices in Detroit, Denver, San Jose and Dallas now enable clients the opportunity to now be able to attend the hearings that affect the protection of their brand investments.

With regard to PTAB, Notices of Hearing will now include a QR code printed on the notice to allow recipients to more easily access the recently published PTAB Hearings Guide. The PTAB Hearing Guide provides an easy reference guide for any hearings-related questions including scheduling for both ex parte appeals and American Invents Act (AIA) trials. The Hearings Guide also includes instructions on how to exercise the option to attend or view hearings not only at headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, but also at any of the regional offices. This allows stakeholders across the country the ability to be more active in the protection of their intellectual property rights, and also to stay more acutely attuned to recent Board proceedings and decisions.

Hearings in AIA trials are scheduled as set forth in an order issued by the adjudicating panel. The scheduling order generally will indicate if a panel is available to hold a final hearing in a regional office or location outside of Alexandria, Virginia, and will provide guidance on how a party may request a location preference. If a location preference is requested, the hearing date choice will take into account a judge’s schedule in the requested regional office.

In both TTAB and PTAB hearings, including for ex parte appeals and AIA trials, the client can request to view the hearing in the regional office, regardless of whether their legal counsel is presenting arguments at USPTO headquarters or at a different regional office–meaning the client can view the hearing at the office most convenient for the client. In addition, for oral hearings open to the public, the regional offices hearings facilities allow for increased opportunity for practitioners and law students to attend and observe oral arguments to further their own education and skillsets. Patent Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) hearings will also be streamed from headquarters to the regional offices for public viewing in the hearing rooms.
If you are interested in attending a public hearing at a regional office, the information is available in the Hearings Guide, or you may contact our regional offices directly through the information found on their respective sections of the USPTO website. For further questions about any of these improvements, please contact your local USPTO regional office.

Wednesday Aug 28, 2019

Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – 5 years supporting innovation

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu, and Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Office Molly Kocialski

Five years ago this summer, we opened our Rocky Mountain Regional Office (RMRO) in the Byron G. Rogers Building in downtown Denver. It was a huge day for both the USPTO and the people of Denver, whose great city is home to 24 federally funded research laboratories, four major research universities, and a creative and innovative environment full of start-ups. It also helped fulfill a key promise of the America Invents Act, to better connect inventors and entrepreneurs around the country with the resources of the USPTO.

Since that day in 2014, the RMRO has engaged with more than 90,000 regional stakeholders through over 1,260 outreach and education events in Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado.

The Byron G. Rogers Federal Building in downtown Denver- home of the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

The RMRO is paving the way on regular educational programming like our quarterly Trademark Tuesday and Path-to-a-Patent programs. These are broadcast region-wide through the help of our very engaged Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. Another way we have removed obstacles and increased access to IP resources is by encouraging more personal interactions with the USPTO. Today, inventors and entrepreneurs can walk into the RMRO, use the public search facility, and easily obtain answers to their questions. Additionally, IP practitioners and their clients can conduct examiner interviews, participate in Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) hearings, or view other public hearings, all from our office.

Recruiting and retaining local talent is a key goal for the USPTO, with the added benefit of providing jobs for the local community. The last two classes of examiner recruits had 425 applicants for 25 jobs in 2018 and 317 applicants for 17 jobs in 2019, respectively. Such demand for our available positions is impressive for a state with approximately a 2.5 percent unemployment rate in each of those years, and we hope to answer more of that demand as we grow in the years to come. In addition, there are 94 employees in the Rocky Mountain Regional Office plus 246 examiners hoteling throughout the region—quite a change from 49 hoteling examiners prior to the regional office opening in 2014.

The RMRO is the first USPTO regional office to have representation from all technology centers, allowing for improved communication and sharing of resources between examiners and stakeholders. We also have seven classes of new patent examiners as well as 10 PTAB judges, an outreach officer, and support staff. In addition, our physical space in the Byron Rogers Federal Building has grown, with updates and improvements to a public search facility, interview room, and newly redesigned hearing room.

People truly want to be in Denver, and if you are here for even a short time you will understand why. We are proud of the role the USPTO is playing in the “Mile High City” and the connection with the local community that we have built in such a short time. We look forward to continued growth, partnership, and innovation here and throughout the Rocky Mountain region in the next five years and beyond.

Monday Aug 26, 2019

USPTO announces Federal Register Notice on artificial intelligence patent issues

Guest blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter 

Image showing the text "Artificial intelligence: intellectual property policy considerations"

As a former Silicon Valley intellectual property attorney for more than 20 years, the potential of disruptive technology has long been of special interest to me. Artificial intelligence (AI) promises to be one of the most important innovations that powers many disruptive ventures and brings exciting changes to our legal system. AI is already influencing the way we work, travel, shop, and play.

From autonomous vehicles to improved medical diagnostics to voice assistants, AI is increasingly at the forefront of innovation. As a continuation of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) policy leadership in the field of AI, the USPTO convened a conference on Artificial Intelligence: Intellectual Property Policy Considerations on January 31 this year. With six panels featuring IP specialists from around the world, the USPTO considered AI’s impact on our innovation ecosystem.

The USPTO continues to promote and protect AI-technology innovations and entrepreneurship. With respect to AI inventions to date, the USPTO has issued thousands of patents on AI technologies, and the future grows more exciting every day as new AI technologies are developed. However, with excitement comes change and the potential for uncertainty. Therefore, the USPTO must continue to ensure the appropriate balance in the administration of our IP system.

With this in mind, the USPTO looks forward to working with the AI academic and industrial community. Working together, we will continuously improve the USPTO’s efforts to foster innovation, competitiveness, and job growth.

I am also excited to announce that we will be publishing a notice in the Federal Register that poses questions regarding the intersection of patent law with AI that the public may respond to. This first step will allow us to gather information on AI patent policy issues for purposes of evaluating whether further guidance is needed and informing the development of any such guidance. Questions the public is invited to reply to include:

  • Do current patent laws and regulations regarding inventorship need to be revised to take into account inventions where an entity or entities other than a natural person contributed to the conception of an AI invention or any other invention?
  • Are there any patent eligibility considerations unique to AI inventions?
  • Does AI impact the level of a person of ordinary skill in the art?
  • Do the disclosure rules (enablement, specification, etc.) need to be altered for AI-related patent applications?

This is just a sample of some of the issues on which the USPTO is seeking input regarding AI patent policy.  And this is only the first step. In addition to patents, in the coming months and beyond, the USPTO will examine the full spectrum of intellectual property policy issues that have arisen, or may arise, as AI technologies become more advanced. From AI’s impact on existing intellectual property rights, including copyright and trademarks, to considering if new legal rights are needed in the wake of more advanced AI, the USPTO will continue our thought leadership on AI-related intellectual property policy issues.

Thursday Aug 22, 2019

Dog Days of Summer

Guest blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter

“Sitting back in the evening, stargazing and stroking your dog, is an infallible remedy.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The “dog days of summer” have arrived! According to the Farmer’s Almanac, they traditionally take place from July 3rd to August 11th. You may be surprised to learn that the phrase “dog days of summer” originated with the Greeks and Romans and is derived from the “dog star” Sirius and its position in the sky during this time. These days may be the hottest days of the year, depending on your latitude on Earth.

Intellectual property (IP) rights power the U.S. economy across many industries, including the pet sector. Patents on technical innovations and trademarks on branding are critical assets in the pet industry. In fact, legal specialization to support the pet industry has taken off: a number of law firms have now launched practices around food, beverage, and pet issues, representing a wide array of industry leaders on matters ranging from litigation, regulatory, and IP rights. Similarly, government oversight over the pet industry has grown to agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Federal Trade Commission.

Growth in the pet sector has soared, and shows continued economic strength, even during times of recession. Currently, sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. Over 43 million of those households own dogs. In 2018, the pet industry in the United States was $72 billion; it is estimated to exceed $75 billion in 2019. The largest sector of this industry is pet health care, with $18 billion spent on vet care and $16 billion spent on supplies and over the counter medication. A close second is the pet food sector, which grossed $30 billion last year. Dog owners spend almost $1,300 a year on their pets.

Underpinning the powerful growth of the pet industry economy is strong IP protection. While we may be familiar with some of the big brand names in the pet retailer space, we are also seeing record-setting growth and entrepreneurial activity and inventions by new innovators. Entrepreneurs launching start-ups and building new businesses rely on patent protection and trademark registration as a means of differentiating their products and attracting customer loyalty. Also, IP protection wards off infringers and counterfeit goods. However, even though legally empowered with intellectual property rights, sadly, the threat of counterfeiting now requires the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators to post frequent warnings about the dangers of counterfeit pet medicines and/or pet food that can harm pets, as well as nascent businesses.

So let’s take a closer look at some examples of innovations driving this thriving industry.

  • The Frisbee™ is still one of the most beloved dog toy inventions. Fred Morrison created and sold the first flying disc toy, named the Pluto Platter in 1955. Morrison filed a design patent (U.S. Patent No. D183,626) in 1957. He then sold the rights to Wham-O, who renamed the toy and received a trademark registration for “Frisbee” in 1959, named after the pie tin sold by the Frisbie Pie Company in the late 1800s. While working for Wham-O, Edward Headrick designed an improved “Flying Saucer,” for which he was granted a patent in 1967. 

 

Morrison patent for flying disc toy 

Morrison patent for "flying disc toy."

  • The automotive market has expanded to cater to our pets. For example, Tesla has created a “dog mode” so you can leave your pet in the car with the air conditioning (or heat) on while you run a quick errand. The console informs people passing by: “My owner will be back soon. Don’t worry! The A/C is on and it’s [temperature].”

 

Tesla "dog mode" showing a cat and dog inside a car

Tesla has created a “dog mode” where pets can be left in a car for a short time with the air conditioning (or heat) on. (Photo courtesy of Tesla)

  • In the fitness sector, you can track your pet’s activity with “smart collars,” which function similarly to the human activity tracker, FitBit. There are multiple patents directed to tracking systems for monitoring a pet’s location, activity, training, and creating virtual fences.
  • To keep our pets safe, implantable microchip devices equipped with GPS can help find the almost 10 million pets that are lost every year. Numerous patents directed to implantable microchip devices, which are generally the size of a grain of rice, can be implanted by your local veterinarian.
  • Some pets struggle with health problems, including joint ailments or even lost limbs. In the 1950s, inventor Carl Creamer received a patent for a “Mobile Sling for Crippled Animals” (U.S. Patent No. 2,546,726). These veterinary prosthetic carts are intended to help animals experiencing a range of health issues including, spinal damage, forelimb or shoulder pain or weakness, degenerative myelopathy, elbow dysplasia, and other joint and limb ailments. His patent has spawned a cottage industry of device manufacturers working on a range of new and improved designs to assist with a variety of ailments for a range of breeds.

 

Carl Creamer patent for dog sling

Carl Creamer patent for "mobile sling for crippled animals."

  • Taking this to another level in the health industry, prosthetic implants made by 3D printing techniques can help disabled pets attain a better quality of life. Many of these devices were inspired by similar devices designed for humans. Virginia-based Animal Ortho Care, and its founder Derrick Campana, was one of the first to use 3D-printed prosthetics for animals. He is one of only 10 people in the world to design prosthetics for animals, including elephants, cows, goats, horses, dogs, and cats.

 

Throughout the “dog days of summer,” including National Dog Day on August 26th, follow the USPTO on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more examples of pet-related inventions and trademarks, as we celebrate the ways in which these inventions have made our pets and us happier, healthier, and safer.

Tuesday Aug 20, 2019

Apollo 50: The role of intellectual property in space commerce

By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu

 Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu addresses the audience at the Apollo 50 event.
Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu addresses the audience at the July 23, 2019 Apollo 50 event. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

On July 20, 1969, an estimated 530 million people watched from around the world as Apollo’s lunar module touched down in the Sea of Tranquility and Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the surface of the moon. It’s hard to believe that it took less than 65 years from the Wright brothers’ patent to the first step on the moon, and the fact is the pace of innovation just keeps accelerating. On July 23, the USPTO celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing and its significance on invention, space commerce, and intellectual property (IP). The program’s two major themes quickly became evident: innovation and inspiration. 

In an overflowing auditorium full of employees, students, and members of the public, we were honored to be joined by many special guests including: Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross; NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; astronauts Kathy Sullivan and Paul Richards; Director of the Office of Space Commerce Kevin O’Connell; NASA Associate Director, Satellite Servicing Capacities Office Frank Cepollina; and several CEOs of aerospace companies. If you missed it, watch the recording.

 Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross discusses administration goals on space commerce.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross discusses administration goals on space commerce. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

In his remarks, Secretary Ross spoke about the importance of space commerce, stating that “protecting the intellectual property of new space companies, entrepreneurs, inventors, and individuals is essential for U.S. success.” He also acknowledge the important role of USPTO examiners and employees who “provide inventors with the protections they need to commercialize their technologies, create companies, hire employees, and put people, satellites, manufacturing plants, and tourists into space.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine discusses the importance of intellectual property in continuing NASA’s mission.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine discusses the importance of intellectual property in continuing NASA’s mission. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Administrator Bridenstine explained how NASA obtains patents for many reasons, including its continuing mission to elevate the human condition. Part of the reason that NASA has more than 1200 patents in its current portfolio is to drive down the costs of technology, allow it to scale faster, and minimize the risk. He described how a number of essential, pioneering NASA technologies directly impact life on earth, from our food production, water conversation, banking, and telecommunications systems.

From left: Kevin O’Connell, Jeffrey Manber, Melanie Stricklan, Christopher Ingraham, and Mary Lynne Ditmarr. 
From left: Kevin O’Connell, Jeffrey Manber, Melanie Stricklan, Christopher Ingraham, and Mary Lynne Ditmarr. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Kevin O’Connell, Director of the Office of Space Commerce at the Department of Commerce, led our panel discussing the rapid growth of the global space economy, and the role of the private sector plays in commercializing space. Panelists included Jeffrey Manber, CEO of NanoRacks; Melanie Stricklan, founder and chief strategy officer of Slingshot Aerospace; Christopher Ingraham, Manager of Stakeholder Communications at International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory; and Dr. Mary Lynne Ditmarr, President and CEO of Coalition for Deep Space Exploration and member of the U.S. Space Council.

From left: Laura Peter, Paul Richards, Kathryn Sullivan, and Frank Ceppolina. 
From left: Laura Peter, Paul Richards, Kathryn Sullivan, and Frank Ceppolina. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

The highlight for many was hearing from the panel moderated by Deputy Under Secretary and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter on NASA’s innovation policies, featuring true rock stars of space: Doctor Kathryn Sullivan, astronaut on three space shuttle missions and the first American woman to walk in space (in 1984); Paul Richards, astronaut on the eighth shuttle mission to the international space station; and Frank Ceppolina, pioneering engineer on the Hubble space telescope and National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee and patented inventor.

 Astronaut and first woman to walk in space Dr. Kathryn Sullivan meets children of Ian Steff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing, International Trade Administration.
Astronaut and first woman to walk in space Dr. Kathryn Sullivan meets children of Ian Steff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing, International Trade Administration
. (Photo by Michael Cleveland/USPTO)

 The discussion focused on the role of technology transfer policies and IP that have contributed to improving life for all of us here on earth. Deputy Peter walked through a number of NASA-related patents whose technologies have become everyday household items, including scratch proof lenses, Invisalign™ braces, video game systems, insulated rescue blankets, and more. Cepollina described how the repair mission work on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) advanced fields like photo lithography, and noted that our current cell phones are 260,000 times more powerful than the Apollo guidance system controller. After the event, the astronauts signed autographs for children and other fans.

 Astronaut Paul Richards (right) discusses his patent with USPTO employee Keith Dixon (left), who prosecuted the patent while at NASA.
Astronaut Paul Richards (right) discusses his patent with USPTO employee Keith Dixon (left), who prosecuted the patent while at NASA. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

In addition to these space pioneers’ impressive contributions, Richards and Cepollina are also inventors and patent holders. Richards is the inventor of a pistol grip torque measuring power tool for which he received a patent in 1997. In fact, the NASA patent attorney who prosecuted that patent application, Keith Dixon, now works with at the USPTO. And Cepollina’s work at NASA and in patented technologies are not only important to space technology growth but have also been a springboard for developments in other industries including breast cancer detection and more powerful microchips for satellite optics.

 Secretary Ross and Director Iancu speak with the inventor of the Virtusphere, Ray Latypov
Secretary Ross and Director Iancu speak with the inventor of the Virtusphere, Ray Latypov. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO
)

Finally, before and after the event, participants had the chance to view an Apollo era spacesuit loaned from the Smithsonian, experience a virtual moon walk provided by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame® Museum's Apollo 11 exhibit.

As I said at the event, landing on the moon was the ultimate triumph of human ingenuity. The benefits of space innovation are astounding. Our IP system not only helped make this possible, it continues to promote and protect stunning advances in every field of human endeavor.

Wednesday Jul 31, 2019

USPTO proposes patent fee adjustments

Guest blog by Acting Chief Financial Officer of the USPTO Sean Mildrew

Image of two credit cards

At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), we continuously work to reinforce the predictability, reliability, and quality of patent rights. To meet this challenge, the USPTO requires a predictable and sufficient stream of funding, which means that we must continually review our fees and adjust them as appropriate.

Today’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding USPTO fees is the result of a comprehensive biennial fee review that began in 2017, when we analyzed the effects of proposed fee changes on our operating model. At that time, we concluded that fee adjustments would be necessary to provide the resources needed to improve patent operations, including implementing the USPTO 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. As part of our analysis, we also received feedback on an initial fee proposal via a Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) hearing conducted in September 2018 and a report issued by PPAC in October 2018. As a result, the proposed fee adjustments outlined in the NPRM increase certain patent fees where there are specific needs and increase the remaining fees at a set percentage to address rising expenses.  The significant percentage discounts for small and micro entities are maintained.

With this additional funding, we will:

  • Enhance the quality and timeliness of patent examination in order to produce more reliable and predictable patent rights.
  • Enhance the quality and timeliness of AIA trials by providing sufficient judicial and administrative resources to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
  • Replenish the patent operating reserve to further stabilize our finances, enabling us to deliver more reliable and predictable service levels, even in times of financial fluctuations.

We welcome feedback on the proposed changes. A 60-day public comment period is now open. After reviewing and considering the public comments, we expect to prepare a final rule for publication during the summer of 2020.

The NPRM can be accessed here. The preferred method for submitting comments is email addressed to fee.setting@uspto.gov. Comments are preferred to be submitted in plain text, but also may be submitted in portable document format (PDF) or a word processing format. Because comments will be made available for public inspection, information that the submitter does not desire to make public, such as an address or phone number, should not be included in the comments. Comments on the fee proposals are due by September 30, 2019.

Wednesday Jul 03, 2019

Camp Invention prepares tomorrow’s innovators

By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu

Director Iancu interacts with students at Camp Invention

Director Iancu meets Camp Invention students in Hyattsville, Maryland, as they work on their innovation force module (photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

For the United States to maintain our leadership role in key science and technology areas, we must harness the concerted efforts of industry, academia, and government to empower the next generation. The USPTO plays a critical role as we work to equip tomorrow’s inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs with the skills they need to succeed.

On June 26, I had the opportunity to visit Camp Invention in Hyattsville, Maryland. I was joined by Al Langer, inventor of the first automatic implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

Camp Invention, an annual summer program hosted by the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF), in partnership with the USPTO, turns curious kindergarten through sixth grade students into innovative thinkers. Located in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, there are over 1,800 schools participating in NIHF’s educational programs nationwide. Inspired by National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, this program delivers a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and intellectual property based program to 160,000 students annually, taught by 13,000 local, certified teachers and 9,000 high-school and college-aged interns.

The students at Camp Invention in Hyattsville, Maryland, like more than 50,000 students nationwide, receive scholarships to attend NIHF’s education programs. Scholarships allow underrepresented students to learn the 21st century skills to prepare them for the future.

The theme of this year’s Camp Invention curriculum is “Supercharged,” and features four modules that incorporate concepts of inventing with activities on superheroes, sea adventures, farm tech, and robots. Dr. Langer and I met and spoke with students working on all four modules.

Al Langer assists students at Camp Invention

Inventor Al Langer assists students with their deep sea mystery module at Camp Invention in Hyattsville, Maryland (photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

One week of Camp Invention is comprised of programming that presents children with real-world, hands-on challenges that emphasize STEM proficiencies, creative problem solving, collaboration, and entrepreneurship through innovation. Participants are led through the process of invention, learning that failure is a necessary point on the path to success. Teachers are provided with new ways to incorporate STEM skills into their classrooms, and each year Camp Invention introduces a new, cutting-edge curriculum to ensure that the program continues to be an engaging and memorable experience for everyone involved.

At the USPTO, we recognize that the next generation needs to gain a strong understanding of intellectual property and problem solving. Programs like Camp Invention introduce young people to important STEM and IP skills in a fun environment, and help build a robust pipeline of talent, ready to meet the expanding needs of a highly technical workforce. These future inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs will play a crucial role in helping the U.S. compete and succeed in a global economy.

Tuesday Jul 02, 2019

For U.S. businesses, the USPTO’s IP attachés are there to help

Guest blog by Shira Perlmutter, Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs at the USPTO

I recently had the pleasure of joining five of the USPTO’s IP attachés at a series of meetings with U.S. innovators and stakeholders, including the annual meeting of the International Trademark Association (INTA) in Boston.

The IP attachés are intellectual property (IP) experts posted to U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world. They meet with government officials to explain U.S. perspectives and policies and advocate for improvements to IP systems. They also provide training on effective IP enforcement, monitor IP-related developments, and conduct programs to educate the public on the value and importance of IP. This work is ever more important in an increasingly global marketplace.

IP attaches meet with New England Inventors Association

A group of the USPTO’s IP attachés meet with members of the New England Inventors Association in North Andover, Massachusetts. The meeting was part of the IP Attaché Program’s outreach activities in the Philadelphia and Boston areas this past May.

At least once a year, the attachés return to the United States to meet with American innovators and businesses, learn about their IP-related concerns, and share information about IP developments in their regions. This spring, their destinations were Boston and Philadelphia.

IP legal counsel Luciano Marchione, based in Brussels, speaks with member of the New England Inventors Association

IP legal counsel Luciano Marchione, who is based in Brussels, Belgium, as part of the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program, speaks with a member of the Inventors Association of New England in North Andover, Massachusetts. He joined a group of several IP attachés to conduct meetings with stakeholders in the Boston and Philadelphia areas this past May.

In Boston, in addition to INTA, the IP attachés met with members of the Inventors Association of New England (IANE), one of the nation’s oldest inventor clubs. The group expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet with the IP attachés and learn about how to protect their IP in foreign jurisdictions. “As independent inventors and entrepreneurs, our members often feel like it’s ‘you against the world.’ ” said George Peters of the IANE, the co-inventor and founder of KettlePizza,® a cooking accessory that can convert an outdoor grill into a pizza oven. “It’s an incredible feeling to know that the IP attachés are in our corner. They place very high value on the independent inventor, work to promote our interests and are available as a resource to answer questions about foreign markets.”

IP Attaches visit KettlePizza in Boston

L to R: IP specialist Komal Kahla and IP attachés Duncan Willson and Laura Hammel speak with KettlePizza co-founder George Peters during their meeting with members of the New England Inventors Association in North Andover, Massachusetts. The meeting was part of the IP Attaché Program’s outreach activities in the Philadelphia and Boston areas this past May.

Business accelerators and incubator programs have been established in many areas of the country to help innovators and start-up companies overcome early-stage growth obstacles. In Philadelphia, the IP attachés visited one such establishment, the University City Science Center, a nonprofit business accelerator in the life sciences field. They also met with representatives of several larger, established companies.

In all of these meetings, a common theme presented itself — that while there is worldwide demand for products of American innovation, foreign demand brings additional risks. The IP systems of other countries can be quite different from our own. And even if a business currently manufactures or sells its product only in the United States, it is important to have a plan to protect its IP rights not only at home but abroad.

That is where the USPTO’s IP attachés can be a valuable resource. They can assist U.S. stakeholders who are experiencing problems with IP rights abroad or who are considering entering a foreign market. And they are effective advocates in their respective regions for policies and laws that benefit U.S. businesses.

Learn more about the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program, including where the attachés are based and how to contact them.

Monday Jun 24, 2019

Intellectual property resources in your area

By Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Providing entrepreneurs, small businesses, and independent inventors with access to intellectual property (IP) resources is one of the major priorities for the USPTO. These entities are vital to our country’s economy, but they often don’t have the same resources that larger entities can leverage to protect their innovations. Because of that, the USPTO oversees several programs to assist with free or reduced-cost help in applying for patents, including the Patent Pro Bono Program, the Pro Se Assistance Program, the Certified Law School Clinic Program, and Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. That’s all in addition to the reduced filing fees we charge to small and micro entities.

Recently, we updated our website to make many of these resources easier to find. Take a look! The “Find help in your area” link under the “New to IP?” area at the top of the USPTO homepage takes users to a map of the United States where they can select state-specific resource pages and regional USPTO office pages. From free legal assistance to listings of local inventor clubs, there’s a large array of helpful programs. In addition, we’ve added regional event filters to our main USPTO events calendar so you can easily find upcoming events in your local area. Overall, we updated more than 60 pages, and over the next few months, we will be gathering public feedback in order to continue making even more helpful changes to our website. Send us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Image of the USPTO website

Recent USPTO website updates make finding local resources and events easier

Under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses may be particularly interested in securing free legal representation to help them protect their inventions using the Patent Pro Bono Program. Located across the country, each of the 21 local nonprofit pro bono programs matches inventors with volunteer patent attorneys to help them navigate the process for obtaining a patent. Since the program began, over 1,900 inventors have been matched with registered patent practitioners, and currently more than 1,500 attorneys are available to volunteer through the program.

Another way for inventors and entrepreneurs to secure free legal services is through the Law School Clinic Certification Program. Currently, there are 60 participating law school clinics where law students draft and file patent or trademark applications for clients under the supervision of their law school faculty. Since its inception, over 4,000 law students have participated in the program and have filed more than 850 patent applications and more than 3,300 trademark applications for clients.

Some independent inventors and small businesses choose to file patent applications without the assistance of a registered patent attorney or agent—also known as "pro se" filing. We have tools to assist pro se filers, as well as a dedicated USPTO team available to answer filing questions and explain the process. To learn more, visit the Pro Se Assistance Program page of the USPTO website.

We also offer independent inventors and small businesses reduced patent filing fees for “micro entities” and “small entities.” Entities that meet the micro-entity requirements are eligible for a 75 percent reduction on most fees, and small entity status offers a 50 percent fee reduction. View the full USPTO fee schedule.

Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) are another great way to get IP help. This nationwide network consists of public, state, and academic libraries designated by the USPTO to support the public with trademark and patent assistance. They provide the human touch in helping inventors and small businesses find the information they need to protect their IP. Please note that PTRC representatives are not attorneys, and they cannot provide legal advice. Find a PTRC in your state.

These are only some examples of the various services we offer to help inventors and entrepreneurs protect their IP. Visit the USPTO website to learn about even more resources.

American history is filled with remarkable stories of inventors and entrepreneurs who worked hard, took risks, persevered, dared to go where others would not, and ultimately overcame tremendous odds to succeed. We will continue to encourage the sparks of inventors’ ideas to grow into the flames of world-changing innovation.

Friday Jun 07, 2019

Continuing to improve our IT infrastructure

By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu and Chief Information Officer of the USPTO Jamie Holcombe

One of our chief goals at the United States Patent and Trademark Office is to provide consistent, reliable, and high-quality services to all of our stakeholders, in every aspect of their engagement with our office. A major component of providing these services is the ease-of-use and availability of the USPTO’s information technology systems.

In the past several months, we have committed personnel and resources to increasing the stability and availability of our IT infrastructure, and deploying state-of-the-art technology throughout our entire enterprise.

Close up photo of the front side of the old PALM server, informally called T-REX, and no longer in use.

USPTO’s previous PALM server, currently no longer in use. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Over the most recent Memorial Day weekend, we reached an important milestone in that effort. Thanks to the hard work of our IT team and the assistance of an expert outside technology firm, we successfully transitioned a critical part of our Patent Application Locating and Monitoring (PALM) application to a new, more modern, stable and resilient server platform. The previous IT platform was almost two decades old. It was difficult to maintain given the age of its hardware and coding, and risked failing without notice. We are proud to announce that we have a new PALM server platform that is 1,000 times faster, 20 times more efficient, and far more stable and less prone to failure.

As many of our regular users are aware, last August, the USPTO suffered a database corruption issue in a portion of the PALM application that impacted some of our other servers. Those servers were also old, so we immediately replaced them at that time.

Unfortunately, the PALM-related systems failure caused parts of our electronic filing system to be offline for several days last summer.

We decided to take a fresh look at our entire IT systems, from top to bottom.

We performed an exhaustive analysis of our hardware and software systems. We hired a consulting firm that specializes in our types of complex IT systems. We hired a new Chief Information Officer who has extensive experience both in the private sector and in government. And we resolved to stabilize and modernize all of our IT systems. Our Memorial Day upgrade is a significant step in this multi-stage journey toward increased productivity, reliability and resiliency.

Needless to say, a fully modernized IT system that will remain operational per industry standards is a large-scale project that requires significantly more work. We have made the commitment to make the investments that are required to achieve that goal, and will not shy away from any of the challenges that lie ahead.

An improved IT infrastructure is critically important to help the USPTO better serve the inventors, entrepreneurs, and the rest of the public that comes before us. Their pioneering innovations and brands create jobs, improve the quality of life, and drive economic progress.

We will continue to work with our external partners, stakeholders, and employees to ensure that the U.S. Intellectual Property System leads the world in driving global innovation and entrepreneurship.

Thursday May 23, 2019

National Military Appreciation Month

By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu

During National Military Appreciation Month, we recognize the role that innovation has played in America’s military strength and honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

On May 2, we celebrated the 2019 National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) inductees at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Andrew Higgins, the inventor of the LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) known as the “Higgins Boat,” was among the notable inventors honored. Most people recognize the Higgins Boat as the amphibious craft used to land American troops and equipment on the beaches of Normandy and the shores of Iwo Jima. In partnership with the NIHF museum, here at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, we have an actual Higgins Boat on display until the end of July. Visitors are encouraged to board the craft and learn about the “boat that won the war.” The NIHF Museum, also located at the USPTO, offers American flags for visitors to plant near the exhibit to honor the service of our nation’s veterans.

Director Iancu and Deputy Director Peter with the Higgins boat

Director Andrei Iancu and Deputy Director Laura Peter plant flags by the Higgins boat on display outside the USPTO headquarters (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

The USPTO is strongly committed to hiring veterans. The qualities the military teaches, in addition to the diverse experiences service members have, means that veterans have a great deal to bring to any team. That is why the USPTO has a robust veterans hiring program. Since the program’s inception in 2012, the USPTO has hired about 800 veterans or transitioning service members, which accounts for 6% of our agency’s total workforce. Our veterans tell us how proud they are that by joining the USPTO after active duty, they can continue to serve their country by protecting American assets – in this case, intellectual property. Veterans contribute to our mission in the areas of science and engineering, information technology, contracts, procurement, finance, administration, project and program management, and customer support. Each day, I see these men and women bring to their work at the USPTO the same spirit of selfless service and love of country that led them to serve in uniform.

On May 23, I and other USPTO employees participated in our annual Memorial Day observance, organized by the USPTO Military Association, which includes the Walk of Thankful Recognition, from USPTO headquarters to the Alexandria National Cemetery. Each participant was provided a card describing the life of a veteran buried at the cemetery and encouraged to pay his or her respects at the gravesite. As always, this was an extremely meaningful and moving event.

This Memorial Day, we join with the rest of our citizenry to honor and remember those who have served and those who have sacrificed for our nation. On behalf of the USPTO, we thank the inventors whose ideas keep our military on the cutting edge, as well as the proud men and women who served in our armed forces.

Wednesday May 15, 2019

Spotlight on Commerce: Charles Kim, Director of the Office of Petitions

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

Charles Kim

Charles Kim, Director of the Office of Petitions. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

As the Director of the Office of Petitions, I oversee a talented group of petitions examiners, attorneys, and paralegals that review over 45 different types of petitions and issue approximately 40,000 petition decisions per year. By issuing high quality and timely petition decisions, the Office of Petitions supports the USPTO’s strategic goal of optimizing patent timeliness and helps to promote the reliability and predictability of patent rights.

I was born in Seoul, South Korea. My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was four years old.  Like many Asian American and Pacific Islander (and other immigrants) parents, my parents sought to provide a brighter future for their children. With limited financial means and even more limited ability to speak English, my parents understood the uncertainties and challenges that lie ahead. However, they believed that providing their children with better opportunities was worth the risk of leaving behind their families and friends, and venturing out into the unknown. 
When we first arrived in Queens, New York, my parents only had about $500 and a Korean-English dictionary. Shortly after we arrived, my father found a job at a local grocery store and my mother started working at a clothing manufacturing company. They worked long, hard hours, but eventually saved enough money to start their own business.  We moved to New Jersey when I was about ten years old.

After graduating from high school in New Jersey, I attended Rutgers University, where I earned a B.S. degree in electrical engineering.  During my senior year at Rutgers, I saw a newsletter on a table as I walking through the hallway in one of the engineering buildings. The front page of the newsletter had the headline, “The USPTO is Hiring Talented Engineers.” I applied, and a couple of months later, I started my first full-time job as a patent examiner examining applications relating to image analysis.

While working as a patent examiner, I obtained my law degree from George Washington University Law School. After graduating from law school, I was selected as a Supervisory Patent Examiner in the Computer Architecture and Software Technology Center. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve on career development details at the Office of Patent Legal Administration and the Office of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. Immediately prior to my current role, I served for two years as a Senior Advisor to the Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy.

Charles Kim providing an overview of petitions practice to IP students vising from KAIST University.

Charles Kim providing an overview of petitions practice to IP students visiting from KAIST University.

One of the biggest motivating factors for me is when I look back and think about the sacrifices that my parents made so that I could have a brighter future. I am determined to succeed so that their sacrifices were not in vain.  I suspect that this is not a unique motivating factor for many 1.5 generation Asian American and Pacific Islanders (Note that the term “1.5 generation” refers to people who immigrated to the U.S. as children).  And in many ways, this is what Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month means to me. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportunity to reflect on the perseverance, sacrifice, and hard work of the many Asian American and Pacific Islanders that came before me to help build the foundation for future Asian American and Pacific Islander generations to become successful leaders across business and government, and to continue to advance our great nation.

One quote that has had a meaningful impact on my leadership approach is attributed to Peggy Focarino, the former Commissioner for Patents. During her retirement ceremony, Peggy stated that it is important to recognize “Mission First; People Always.” This phrase has stuck with me because it reminds me that regardless of your organization or your title, the one thing that is common (and most important) to all leaders is the people (that they lead).

My advice for those starting their career is to motivate yourself to step outside of your comfort zone.  Picture your comfort zone as a circle. If you position yourself slightly outside the circle, your circle (i.e., comfort zone) will eventually grow. By continuing to stay slightly outside the circle, you will experience continuous growth and improvement, which is a recipe for success! 

Monday May 06, 2019

Commerce Secretary Ross Honors 2019 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees at the National Building Museum

A blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

Secretary Ross at NIHF Induction Ceremony

Secretary Ross spoke at the National Inventors Hall of Fame induction ceremony on May 2, 2019 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross joined the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in inducting nineteen of America’s greatest inventors into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) which was held at the historic National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. At the event, Secretary Ross addressed the important role that innovation plays in transforming and advancing our society.

Television personality Danica McKellar moderated the event, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu delivered remarks, and Director Iancu presented induction medals. Nine living inventors were inducted, and another ten were named posthumously.

The inductees’ patented innovations revolutionized their industries and changed people’s lives. Those honored included Chieko Asakawa for creating accessible technology for visually disabled individuals; David Walt for developing microwell arrays that could analyze thousands of genes simultaneously; and S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker for laying the foundation for the modern power tool industry with their invention of the portable hand-held electric drill.

At the ceremony, Secretary Ross stated, “For those being inducted today, we greatly admire your grit in persevering through the trials and errors needed to turn your ideas into reality, and for your contributions to humanity.” Read Secretary Ross' full remarks.

USPTO Director Iancu stated, “When we humans harness that most unique of human qualities—the power to reason, to work together, to invent, to create—we are capable of the most remarkable things. That is what inventors do, and that is what we celebrate tonight.” Read Director Iancu’s full remarks.

In partnership with the USPTO, the National Inventors Hall of Fame has impacted 2.2 million children, educators, college students, and inventors since 1990, and 200,000 in 2018 alone. To be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, one must hold a U.S. patent, as well as contribute significantly to the nation's welfare and the advancement of science and the useful arts. NIHF was established in 1973 to honor U.S. patent holders whose inventions created new industries that employ millions of people and helped to stimulate economic growth for our nation and beyond.

View a complete list of the honorees and the stories behind their inventions online.

Friday Apr 26, 2019

Celebrating World IP Day

World IP Day image

By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu

Every year on April 26, we celebrate World Intellectual Property Day. Established by the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2000, World IP Day highlights the importance of intellectual property in our lives around the globe. This year’s theme is "Reach for the Gold: IP and Sports.”

Inventions have revolutionized sports. From the athletic shoe and protective helmet, to materials like VELCRO®, LYCRA®, and ASTROTURF®, sports inventions have helped improve the speed, accuracy, and safety of athletes everywhere. Now, technological advances in robotics and artificial intelligence are fueling change in sports. And, perhaps even more exciting, these advances often have applications not only in sports, but in other industries as well.

Consider Stan Honey, who was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame last year for his unique augmented-reality tools. He holds over 30 U.S. patents and is the creator of the navigation and tracking technology behind the Virtual Yellow 1st & Ten® line superimposed over the playing field on television and other graphics used across a wide variety of sports. Learn more about how Stan Honey came up with the idea of the first down line or visit the interactive 1st and Ten® Line Stadium exhibit at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum at the USPTO headquarters.

Across the country, the USPTO is holding a number of World IP Day events. Last week, I participated in several such events in California, including a discussion at the University of California San Diego on innovation and sports, featuring Bill Walton, retired basketball player, television sportscaster, and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. Walton is currently the executive chairman of San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI), a non-profit, business-accelerating, trade organization that connects and drives the growth of Southern California's vibrant sports economy.

At the USPTO earlier this week, Deputy Director Laura Peter interviewed entrepreneur and former professional football player Shawn Springs. After seeing first-hand the risks associated with head injuries and concussions in football, Springs thought the head protection used in car seats for children could have a much wider application. He founded the company Windpact, which uses his patented Crash Cloud® technology in helmets, with air-filled compartments that compress upon impact and then refill with air to regain their space. This technology has applications in football and other sports, as well as the automotive and military sectors.

And, on April 29, we will be holding our annual celebration of World IP Day on Capitol Hill, where we will be joined by members of Congress and sports companies. This year the keynote speaker is Dr. Phil Wagner, CEO of Sparta Science, whose force-plate technology helps predict injury risks for athletes. A strength coach and former rugby player, Dr. Wagner developed the Sparta System, which uses artificial intelligence technology to capture a personalized body scan. The scan can then identify areas prone to injury and prescribe personalized training programs to correct weaknesses. The Sparta System is already being deployed among college athletes and professionals and is also used by the military.

At the USPTO, we have the opportunity to celebrate creativity and innovation every day, and to see the cutting-edge technologies that inventors and entrepreneurs bring through our doors. These innovations will continue to play an even bigger role in the future, and they remind us of the inspiring power of invention and intellectual property, and their importance in driving our innovation economy.