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Thursday Dec 03, 2020

PTAB’s Motion to Amend Pilot Program shows promising results

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Scott Boalick, Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO

PTAB logo

On March 15, 2019, the USPTO implemented a pilot program for motions to amend (MTAs) in AIA trials before the PTAB. In MTAs, patent owners may request to cancel challenged claims or propose substitute claims to replace challenged claims if they are found unpatentable. We have seen promising results for claim amendments made under this pilot program and want to share these with you.

Under the pilot program, a patent owner has two new options. First, the patent owner can request preliminary guidance from the Board on its MTA. Second, the patent owner may file a revised MTA in response to preliminary guidance (if requested) or to the petitioner’s opposition. In short, by providing for guidance and an opportunity to revise the MTA, the pilot program provides for back and forth between the Board and the patent owner that did not previously exist.

If a patent owner requests preliminary guidance, the Board will provide feedback on the statutory and regulatory requirements for an MTA, as well as on patentability of the proposed substitute claims based on the record at that time. The patent owner may then file a revised MTA in response to the preliminary guidance. Alternatively, if the patent owner does not request preliminary guidance, it may file a revised MTA in response to the petitioner’s opposition to the original MTA. Notably, if a patent owner does not choose either pilot option, then the MTA proceeds under effectively the same practice as before implementation of the pilot program.

The pilot program applies to all AIA trials instituted on or after March 15, 2019, and patent owners could start filing MTAs under the program in June of 2019. Between June 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020, patent owners requested preliminary guidance in 76% of MTAs, or 78 out of 102 MTAs. Thereafter, 79% of patent owners filed a revised MTA.  From April 1, 2020 through September 30, 2020, the PTAB issued 31 Final Written Decisions addressing pilot-eligible MTAs. So far, the pilot program options are being used in the vast majority of MTAs. Moreover, early results suggest that patent owners who chose at least one of the pilot program options are more likely to have their MTAs granted for at least one proposed substitute claim as compared to MTAs that do not use the pilot program options. 

Specifically, out of the 31 Final Written Decisions with MTAs that were eligible for the pilot program, 22 elected at least one of the pilot program options. And out of the 22 MTAs in which patent owners elected at least one pilot program option, 36% had at least one proposed substitute claim granted. By contrast, of the nine MTAs where patent owners did not elect either pilot program option only 11% had at least one proposed substitute claim granted. Before the pilot program, only about 14% of MTAs had at least one proposed substitute claim granted. 

The USPTO implemented the MTA pilot program with the goal of providing a more robust amendment practice in AIA trials, in a manner that is fair and balanced for all parties and stakeholders. Through this practice, the aim is to ensure that patent owners have viable opportunities to amend claims challenged by third parties. Preliminary data indicates that the pilot program is working as intended.

We remain committed to monitoring and evaluating the effects of the MTA pilot program, and welcome all feedback

Tuesday Nov 24, 2020

USPTO fights trademark scams

Guest blog by David Gooder, Commissioner for Trademarks, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 

Fraudulent solicitations logo

At the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), our fundamental mission is to provide stable, reliable, and predictable intellectual property (IP) rights for those who receive a patent or a trademark registration. Over the years, the USPTO has developed systems to protect trademark owners and innovators from fraud, theft, and abuse from those intent on stealing their proprietary ideas, their designs, their brand identities, and their livelihoods.

One disturbing trend lately is the rise of fraudulent solicitations from so-called IP “experts” offering their services to assist owners of trademark applications and registrations at the USPTO. These solicitations often mislead owners into believing they are from the USPTO. Yet, the spurious offerings are either never performed or are botched, potentially putting a trademark application or registration at risk of failure. Often, these charlatans are charging inflated fees for bogus services. The scams target owners of U.S. trademarks from around the world.

Although the USPTO does not have the legal authority to sue or prosecute those who attempt to defraud our customers, or to stop private companies from sending trademark-related offers and notices, we are shining a spotlight on the issue to raise awareness in the community and do our part to fight back. As such, we are actively engaged where possible, with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

In fact, in July 2017, we held a public roundtable to discuss how to combat these scams. As a result of this meeting, in 2018, the DOJ invited the USPTO to provide two IP attorneys to support the DOJ and the USPIS in a two-year “detailee” program as those agencies investigated and prosecuted offenders. 

Our detailees assisted in several investigations, including one led by Homeland Security Investigations, in conjunction with USPIS that resulted in the recent arrest of an individual who allegedly defrauded trademark owners out of more than $1 million. The individual was offering bogus services that were falsely associated with the USPTO. The defendant allegedly sent solicitation letters under business names like “Patent and Trademark Office” from a Washington, D.C. address and from a non-existent “Patent and Trademark Bureau LLC” at a New York address. The case is currently pending in federal district court.

To further assist trademark owners, the USPTO posts a listing of third-party solicitations on the USPTO website from entities known for sending scams and offering misleading services and notices. The webpage provides trademark owners and those applying for trademarks with examples of recent fraudulent solicitations that have been the subject of complaints.

The USPTO warns customers about misleading solicitations at various points in the trademark registration and maintenance processes. For example, applicants are warned at the time when they receive confirmation of the filing of an application and when they receive a new registration certificate. In addition, representatives from the USPTO speak frequently on the topic at outreach events with counsel and business owners.

If you receive information from, or have been misled or paid money to one of these scammers, please file a consumer complaint with the FTC immediately. Do not discard the offer, the envelope, or the electronic message as it may be used to trace the source.

Additionally, if you receive a phony solicitation from a company that is not on our list of abusers, please email us at TMScams@uspto.gov. Include copies of the solicitation and, if applicable, the envelope it came in so we can assess whether to add the sender to the list. You do not need to notify us about firms that are already listed.

The USPTO is here to promote and protect the intellectual property of those who have worked so hard to create it. We want every person and company that has received a trademark registration to have the chance to be successful in the marketplace, hire workers, and create a more prosperous future for our country.

Friday Nov 13, 2020

Five years of innovation – Texas Regional USPTO

Blog by Laura Peter, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO

Texas 5 year logo

Recently, I spoke with Hope Shimabuku, USPTO’s Texas Regional Director in Dallas, about the five year anniversary of the Texas Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (TXRO), innovation in the region, and her passion for championing the pursuit of STEM fields.

LP: Congratulations on the fifth anniversary of the Texas Regional Office! For those not familiar with the office, please tell us which states are in your region and what resources you provide to the public?

HS: Thanks Deputy Director Peter!  I am happy to be celebrating this landmark event for the TXRO.

The region covered by the TXRO includes eight states: Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and of course Texas. Throughout the region, we provide a number of resources both at the TXRO as well as within those states. 

Onsite, we provide in-person, written, and now virtual resources across the region to stakeholders who are interested in learning about intellectual property (IP) in general, as well as information about the patent and trademark processes. Additionally, we have facilities for stakeholders to conduct patent and trademark searching using the same software that our USPTO personnel use. Stakeholders can also meet one on one with patent examiners and engage in our many patent and trademark hearings held by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board and the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. Additionally, the TXRO provides a number of IP training courses for stakeholders, including our monthly Meet the Patent Experts and Meet the Trademark Experts – available to all stakeholders virtually.

Throughout the region, we work with a host of different organizations to provide resources closer to home. For example, we have collaborated with a number of providers to offer a Patent Pro Bono Program which covers the entire United States. The program matches volunteer patent professionals with a financially under-resourced inventor or small business owner to provide counsel for securing a patent. Seven programs are available to qualified stakeholders in the states covered by the TXRO.

Additionally, we have engaged libraries throughout the country as Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRC). Each PTRC is able to access the search tools used by the USPTO. The PTRC also has at least one librarian trained by the USPTO to answer basic IP questions, as well as to provide support to stakeholders who are conducting searches. 12 PTRCs support the states associated with the TXRO.

Finally, the USPTO works with law schools in the region through the Law School Clinic Certification Program to establish and provide patent and trademark clinics for under-resourced inventors and small business owners. Students, under the supervision of practicing attorneys, work with stakeholders to secure patent and trademark protection for their inventions and businesses. In the TXRO region, there are six patent clinics and seven trademark clinics.

How many USPTO employees work in the TXRO and what are their roles?

The TXRO began with four female Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) judges housed in a temporary location in 2013 – all four of these judges are still with the USPTO to date, with three of them still associated with the TXRO. Since then, six classes of patent examiners, over two dozen PTAB judges, and many others have been hired to work based out of TXRO.

At of the end of FY20, the TXRO had 113 onsite employees: a Regional Director (me), an Assistant Regional Director, patent examiners, Patent Trial and Appeal Board judges, Patent and PTAB managers, an outreach team including a Regional Outreach Officer and outreach detailees, a Program Analyst, and support staff (including administrative, IT, ITRP, and security). Each employee supports the day-to-day activities and long-term strategic objectives of the USPTO and TXRO through examining patents, reviewing patent appeals review, hearing patent cases, supporting recruiting efforts, and engaging stakeholders through IP training and outreach activities. 

What have been your proudest accomplishments so far as Director of the TXRO?

The TXRO has made a tremendous impact throughout the entire innovation ecosystem. And the community and stakeholders in our region have welcomed us through all of it. The USPTO has been able to attract top, diverse talent in all capacities – historically, there is an incredibly high response rate for any job announcement to work at TXRO. I am particularly proud that 27% of the TXRO’s workforce are veterans, giving them the opportunity to continue to serve our nation through innovation. 

The TXRO has planned or participated in 1200+ outreach events, and reached 83,000+ stakeholders over the last five years. Every year since the opening of the TXRO, we have participated in the innovation segment of South by Southwest – an annual event focusing on emerging technologies – as well as EarthX – an event celebrating innovation in the sustainable energy realm. 

The TXRO was able to provide a STEM-based IP education during the total eclipse of 2017. We have also collaborated with the Greater Dallas-Fort Worth-based Congressional representatives and provided a Congressional Challenge Coding Kickoff Event--an event for which we provided hands-on training on coding as well as intellectual property to high school students. 

I am particularly proud of the Pro Bono Tour that we developed in collaboration with the State Bar of Texas – IP Section. This program reaches small business owners, entrepreneurs, and independent inventors in geographic locations which does not have access to IP resources, thereby enabling them to capitalize and use the IP system. From Girl Scout IP Patch programs to the Artificial Intelligence roundtables to the Patriot Bootcamps, the TXRO has been able to engage stakeholders in all facets of the innovation landscape.

Most importantly, the USPTO’s executive and senior leadership’s visible and regular engagement has been critical for ensuring the successful launch and sustained growth of the TXRO. USPTO leadership from our headquarters in Alexandria, as well as from our sister regional offices in Silicon Valley, Detroit, and Denver, has actively participated in town halls and met one on one with employees throughout the last five years, enabling our employees’ voices to be heard and creating a culture of investing in our employees’ future and success at the USPTO. Speaking and meeting with an executive at the TXRO is considered the norm rather than the exception.

Texas is an innovation and technology hub.  How have you seen various sectors change and grow these last few years? How about in other states in your region?

Over the last five years, innovation and technology hubs have increased and expanded in Texas and throughout the region. In Texas, many corporate headquarters have relocated to the area, expanding the technology footprint to now include increased automotive, construction, entertainment, military defense, cybersecurity, transportation and logistics, and pharmaceutical technology sectors. This growth adds to the existing aerospace, aviation, information technology, telecommunications, banking, finance, and energy technology industries. With the increase in these sectors, there has been a tremendous growth in flexible shared workspace locations and incubators for technology startups and services throughout Texas as well as in the region. Several well-known retail companies and university partnerships have also expanded and developed similar models throughout the entire region and seen similar growth. 

Recently, the USPTO launched the National Council for Expanding American Innovation, aimed at expanding the innovation ecosphere nationwide. Can you tell me a little about your journey and your work expanding the innovation ecosphere?

Expanding the innovation ecosphere and the launching of the National Council are initiatives that are critical to increasing participation and access to innovation throughout the entire innovation landscape, something that I have always been passionate about throughout my entire career. I am a native Texan and come from a long of line of engineers – my grandfather was a civil engineer and my dad is a mechanical engineer. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a mechanical engineering degree, I worked as an engineer for two large corporations in the food and beverage and computer industries for six years before attending law school at Southern Methodist University – Dedman School of Law.

The idea of becoming a patent attorney came initially from my father – he mentioned the idea of patents and a post graduate law degree since I was in high school. I was introduced to the idea of patents again when I started working as an engineer.

During my time at the USPTO, the TXRO has actively engaged in a number of different efforts associated with expanding the innovation ecosphere throughout the country with the aim and goal of broadening, according to USPTO Director Andrei Iancu, the “intellectual property ecosystem demographically, geographically, and economically.” 

Much of the outreach at the TXRO focuses on entrepreneurs and small business owners who have questions on the best way of entering the innovation ecosystem. 

As mentioned above, one of my proudest accomplishments is the establishment of the Pro Bono Tour, which directly impacts and expands the innovation ecosphere in communities where intellectual property and innovation resources are not prevalent.

Recently, the USPTO launched an Expanding Innovation Hub on its website where readers can find our Progress and Potential reports. Before and after the release of these reports, the TXRO participated in many panels discussing the importance of expanding the innovation ecosystem. Director Andrei Iancu and I were able to meet with a number of corporate stakeholders and industry leaders in the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area and host roundtables discussing barriers to entry as well as how each of us can move the needle more quickly.

Members of the TXRO and other USPTO leaders have been and continue to be invited to work with industry leaders to help identify gaps, brainstorm ways to close the gaps, as well as develop best practices. The TXRO is already moving forward and supporting the wonderful efforts of the National Council by hosting roundtables and dialogues throughout the region to continue to expand the innovation ecosphere.

The pandemic has created a number of challenges, including the move to 100% telework at the USPTO. Can you tell us how the TXRO adapted to these new circumstances?

The TXRO rose to the occasion and rallied to ensure the safety and well-being of all employees throughout the entire pandemic. When the agency was moving towards mandatory telework, the management and support staff at the TXRO moved quickly to enable a new class of patent examiners, as well as other onsite employees, to make the move to telework. This included finding out-of-the box, creative ways to procure PIV badges and telework equipment for the new and non-teleworking employees, training employees on how to use equipment remotely, as well as ensuring continued training for the new class of patent examiners (who were only with the USPTO for three weeks before being sent to mandatory telework). 

Throughout the entire pandemic, the work-life committee, as well as the other local affinity groups, have made regular engagement and contact with TXRO employees a priority, holding meetings and virtual coffee breaks. All employees were able to switch to support virtual hearings and virtual examiner interviews, as well.

From an outreach perspective, the team quickly converted from in-person to virtual events, including hosting a TXRO record-breaking (with 1100+ unique attendees) all-day Trademark Boot Camp, which featured the first ever live, virtual Trademark Trial and Appeal Board oral hearings. Many of the regular scheduled monthly programs also saw an increase in participation, particularly with respect to increased geographic diversity. The TXRO has also increased collaborations and program offerings with the other regional offices to create regional programs, including ethics CLE programs for lawyers, as well as similar programs with universities. The TXRO participated in 186 total outreach meetings and events in FY20, with 86 of the meetings and events held in the second half of the year when we were working in a virtual environment. 

The TXRO, along with the Rocky Mountain Regional Office, entered into Phase 1 reopening in June 2020, allowing employees to work onsite as needed. 

What lies ahead for the TXRO in the next five years?

The theme for the five year anniversary is “Innovation Heroes: Serving the Nation through Innovation.” As we look into the future for the TXRO, I have no doubt that everyone in the TXRO will continue to carry the torch in expanding the innovation ecosystem. We are sewing together the future innovation fabric for the region as each patent and trademark is examined, as each case is heard, and as each individual learns about how to protect his or her intellectual capital. The work our employees do to serve the nation contributes to this fabric. Throughout the entire process, I believe that our employees are heroes serving the innovation community – they perform an incredibly difficult job where law, business, and technology converge. I look forward to being a part of that over the coming years.

Thursday Oct 22, 2020

2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition

Guest blog by Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld 

2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition logo

The 2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition has kicked off! The competition, which began as a regional competition led by our Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit in 2014, has expanded into a nationwide competition, with participation from law school teams from across the country and all of our USPTO regional offices.

The competition challenges the teams on the fundamentals of patent prosecution, including by drafting a patent application and arguing its patentability. It consists of two rounds: a preliminary regional round where teams compete and the National Finals where the winners of the regional competitions compete against each other at an event hosted at USPTO headquarters. Team registrations are being accepted until November 7, 2020, and regional and final rounds will take place virtually in Spring 2021.

The competition replicates the experience of prosecuting a patent application before the USPTO. Students are given a hypothetical invention statement and are asked to perform a prior art search, write a specification, prepare drawings, and write a brief memo explaining their drafting choices. They present their applications and the rationale for patentability and argue claim scope to a panel of judges. The judges consist of senior USPTO officials and patent attorneys from the local communities with extensive experience in patent prosecution and enforcement, who provide feedback and advice to help competitors improve their arguments and legal reasoning. Because the competition assesses the strength of contestants’ reasoning and patent drafting skills over technical knowledge, it is accessible to law students from all technical fields and interests.

Participating in the competition is an excellent opportunity to gain practical and indispensable experience drafting and prosecuting patents and to hone public speaking and communication skills. Last year‘s competition hosted a record 34 teams. Learn more about the 2020 finalists and winners. According to Mark Landauer, a member of last year’s winning team from the University of St. Thomas School of Law: 

“This competition is a great way to build practical patent skills that are otherwise outside the scope of a traditional legal education. We learned not just the administrative side of patent filing, but the strategies which go into the practice, the history, the rationale for certain strategies and the ways to draft claims. Overall, we were given a glimpse into patent drafting and litigation strategies that is nearly unrivaled.”

The National Patent Application Drafting Competition has been successful due to the overwhelming support from the intellectual property (IP) law community. The USPTO works closely with the American Intellectual Property Law Association in organizing the competition, as well as with local attorneys, local bar associations, local Inns of Court, and law school faculty mentors. Interacting with practitioners provides students with useful feedback from experienced attorneys and promotes connections with future colleagues. This year, students will be able to build vital connections by hosting virtual networking events throughout the competition.

In addition, the USPTO is expanding the competition’s contestant pool to include law students traditionally underrepresented in patent prosecution, including those students enrolled in law schools located outside the major IP markets. Virtual information sessions will instruct students in the fundamentals of patent drafting, patent searching, and conducting examiner interviews. The USPTO will also regularly reach out to law schools to inform students of registration deadlines and competition dates.

The USPTO looks forward to the participation of law school teams from across the country in this year’s competition and to this opportunity to assist students as they pursue future careers in IP law.

Visit the 2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition page of the USPTO website for further information on deadlines, competition dates, details and rules about the competition or contact PatentDraftingCompetition@uspto.gov with any questions.

Thursday Oct 15, 2020

Legal Experience and Advancement Program conducts virtual mock arguments

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Scott Boalick, Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board

LEAP mock argumentPractitioners in the Legal Experience and Advancement Program participate in a mock argument practicum on August 7, 2020.

In May 2020, the USPTO launched the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP). LEAP was established to help develop the next generation of patent practitioners by creating opportunities to gain oral argument experience before the Board. To qualify for LEAP, a patent agent or attorney must have three or fewer substantive oral arguments in any federal tribunal, including the PTAB, and seven or fewer years of experience as a licensed attorney or agent. The USPTO recognizes that oral argument opportunities before tribunals are limited and that gaining courtroom experience is valuable for newer practitioners’ career development. Developing strong oral advocacy skills in such patent practitioners benefits clients, the USPTO, the courts, and the whole IP system.

A key component of LEAP is training, and the USPTO has initiated a variety of opportunities with sessions taught by PTAB judges. We have provided three types of training so far. The first is a one-hour classroom-style lecture where PTAB judges explain the basics of an oral hearing.  In particular, judges orient participants to PTAB hearing rooms, discuss how to handle virtual hearings as well as in-person hearings where one or more judges appear remotely, and share best practices for navigating the flow of a hearing. Additionally, judges offer tips for managing argument time and demonstratives.

The second type of LEAP training is an interactive discussion focused on viewing and evaluating actual recorded court presentations. By assessing what works and does not work in an argument, judges aim to mentor practitioners into adopting effective techniques and avoiding ineffective ones. Also, practitioners can witness first-hand the ramifications on the case of making missteps during the argument.   

The third type of LEAP training we have provided is a live mock argument practicum in front of a panel of three judges. Practitioners are grouped in pairs and must determine how to argue multiple issues in a mock inter partes review case. The mock argument is 30 minutes per side and simulates the oral argument in an actual case. After the argument, the panel gives individual feedback to each practitioner, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the presentation. The mock argument practicum is closed to the public to foster an open and honest coaching opportunity.

PTAB held the first LEAP mock argument practicum on August 7, and the second took place October 9. 40 practitioners from a variety of different law firms argued before a total of 30 administrative patent judges, including the Director, Chief Judge, and executive management team of the Board. The arguments were conducted virtually, and all judge panels were extremely active in probing the issues. The practitioners did an excellent job in making their cases and handling judge questions. In fact, Deputy Chief Judge Jackie Bonilla commented, “If I did not know it, I would have thought I was sitting in an actual hearing as the practitioners were steeped in the mock record and well versed in the case law.”

And in the “real world,” the Board has heard 18 arguments by LEAP practitioners in actual pending cases, 30 percent in appeals, and the rest in AIA trials. Feedback from judges who heard cases with LEAP practitioners has been positive and encouraging.

One judge shared, “It is good to hear from newer attorneys because they are usually more intimately involved in the prosecution of an application. They know what the specification says and can answer detailed questions about claim construction issues.”

Another judge offered words of reassurance to future LEAP practitioners: “No matter how intimidating it is to stand up and argue before judges, the more you do it, the more comfortable you will be. The ability to stand up and argue is paramount to progressing your career.” 

The USPTO created LEAP not only to advance the careers of less experienced practitioners, but also to further the USPTO’s goal to ensure America’s continued economic strength and technological leadership. A well-trained, inclusive patent bar is a critical element of this effort.

Learn more about LEAP or submit your feedback to leap@uspto.gov.

Tuesday Sep 29, 2020

Fall 2020 brings exciting changes to the Patents organization

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Drew Hirshfeld, Commissioner for Patents

Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners for PatentsCommissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld, and Deputy Commissioners Bob Bahr, Robin Evans, Andy Faile, Valencia Martin Wallace, and Rick Seidel.

It has been our privilege to lead a continuous effort that empowers “America’s innovation agency” to better meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. Improved collaboration is critical to that effort, particularly within our Patents organization, which is why we recently reorganized our senior Patents management team. Among the benefits of the new, improved management structure is a work culture that encourages, debates, and embraces new ideas—ideas that will allow us to more nimbly serve our stakeholders and employees.   

The primary objective of the reorganization was to integrate examination and non-examination groups across Patents. Traditionally, these groups have been in five separate reporting chains, but, as the organization has grown, this structure has resulted in one of the reporting chains in Patents having more than 9,000 of the approximately 10,000 Patents employees. This integration of examining and non-examining functions helps accomplish several goals, including: 1) fostering improved teamwork and the sharing of diverse perspectives, 2) facilitating cross-training of the management staff, 3) providing enhanced developmental opportunities, and 4) better balancing the number of employees within the deputy commissioners’ reporting chains.

An important part of the reorganization includes the recent selection of Robin Evans to serve as a Deputy Commissioner. Prior to her selection, Robin was the Acting Associate Commissioner for Patent Quality and had prior experience serving as the Director of Technology Center 2800, the interim Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Denver, and the first regional manager of the Elijah J. McCoy Regional Office in Detroit. Robin brings a wealth of experience to the job and is a fantastic addition to the current deputy commissioner team that also includes Bob Bahr, Andy Faile, Valencia Martin Wallace, and Rick Seidel.

As you can see on the organizational charts before and after the reorganization, deputy commissioners will no longer have unique titles. We have not, however, diminished any of their responsibilities. Rather, the broader and shared responsibilities of each deputy commissioner enable us to be more effective as a team. For example, while there is no longer a deputy commissioner with the title “Deputy Commissioner for Patent Quality,” the responsibility for ensuring patent quality is shared by all, enabling a more expansive focus on patent quality that is directly integrated with those having oversight of patent examiners.

We are confident these changes will improve our collaborative abilities and enhance the operations of the senior Patents management team. We look forward to announcing the assistant commissioners and the assignment of technology centers to deputy commissioners in the coming weeks. Above all, we remain committed, through these improvements and others, to providing the best customer service possible and to fostering ever greater American innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth.

Friday Sep 18, 2020

A seamless transition to all-virtual hearings

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Scott Boalick, Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO 

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Remote PTAB hearing on July 27, 2020.

As the coronavirus pandemic began in early March, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) held its first all-virtual hearing, seamlessly adjusting to the new format and showcasing yet another example of our state-of-the-art efforts to support America’s “innovation agency.”

In the 60 days after this transition, the PTAB has held 263 virtual hearings. Of note, 95 of these hearings were AIA trials, 100% of which were all virtual. By comparison, in the 60 days prior to the transition, there were 99 AIA trials and only one of those trials had counsel appear remotely. Despite the sudden switch in format, PTAB work has continued unabated.  

PTAB table image

Past innovations allowed this transition to be possible. For example, PTAB has long permitted counsel to appear remotely in ex parte appeals to save travel-related costs and time for applicants. Likewise, up to two of the three judges assigned to any PTAB proceeding (ex parte appeal or AIA trial) have appeared remotely, supporting the USPTO’s well-known hotel programing where judges and examiners are recruited throughout the United States and permitted to work outside the DC metro area. And just this year, PTAB allowed parties in all proceedings to request to appear from a USPTO regional office.

Still, transitioning all PTAB hearings to a complete virtual environment required the PTAB and its support staff to work efficiently and creatively as they addressed everything from court reporting to virtual public access.

We continue our work to improve the user experience and welcome any suggestions parties and practitioners might have. Please send us a note at PTABhearings@uspto.gov.  We also realize that for many practitioners, appearing remotely is a new experience that poses some challenges. To that end, we have identified some best practices that we share with counsel in advance.

On a related note, the USPTO launched the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) during this time of remote hearings, and it has shown tremendous interest so far. LEAP fosters the development of the next generation of patent practitioners by creating opportunities for them to gain skills and experience in oral arguments before the PTAB.

Finally, with the expansion of remote hearings, we are also able to offer stakeholders opportunity to listen to hearings remotely. For more information, please visit the PTAB page of the USPTO website for schedules and further instructions.

The USPTO’s top priority is to maintain the health and safety of our employees, contractors, and the American public, while continuing to provide valuable services, programs, and resources at the highest level. The option to appear remotely before the PTAB is one of the many ways that we have met, and will continue to meet, the needs and priorities of those who appear before the Board.

Tuesday Jul 28, 2020

Successful failover test ensures the stability of patent system applications at the USPTO

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

Image text says as director of the united states of patent and trademark office

Illuminating the corridors of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) data center in Alexandria, Virginia, are countless routers, switches, wires, and storage systems neatly organized on rows of server racks. 

The blinking LED lights and soft whirring of cooling fans form an essential part of the USPTO’s digital backbone—one that supports ongoing patent and trademark examinations and daily business operations throughout the United States. Through this system, thousands of vital computer processes are executed every second of every day to enable the work done at America’s “Innovation Agency.”

Until recently, most of this capability lay within the walls of USPTO headquarters in Alexandria. However, we determined in 2018 that this potential single point of failure was no longer tenable.

In August of 2018 we experienced a multi-day outage of the Patent Application Locating and Monitoring (PALM) database. Afterwards, we committed to stabilize and modernize the USPTO’s IT infrastructure, which was long overdue. Significant portions of our infrastructure were antiquated and prone to failure under stress, and we lacked meaningful redundancies to mitigate the consequences of such failures.

We began the upgrading process by conducting a top-to-bottom review and mapping of all IT systems. This included engaging outside experts to assess the infrastructure, processes, and organization. We then prioritized the needed improvements, and we set to work. For example, last year we upgraded to a new server platform for the main patent processing system. This new platform is 1,000 times faster, 20 times more efficient, far more stable, and less prone to failure.

Critical to our stabilization effort is our team’s addition of redundancies – standby systems that enable “failover.” In a failover setup, redundant systems at offsite locations run simultaneously alongside the primary system. If the primary system fails, the standby system takes over, providing virtually uninterrupted support to system users.  In addition to adding failover servers, we activated at the alternate site a second 10 gigabit-per-second (10G) Ethernet computer networking circuit, deployed additional active and stand-by databases for key processing systems, and automated our deployment process for the primary and backup locations.

To test the USPTO’s failover capabilities, on July 2nd and 3rd of this year, our IT team executed a planned outage of the servers housing the Official Correspondence and the Docket and Application Viewer. The files contained in this system are some of the largest, most important, and most accessed IT applications at the USPTO, used for reviewing, filing, and prosecuting patent applications.

The outage test went as planned, with no issues. The USPTO’s new standby system at the offsite location remained fully operational during the test, with a rapid and seamless transition of the applications from the primary data center. All data was updated in real time and remained secure.

Following this failover test, we then switched back to the primary data center, again with no issues.

Our IT team is now moving forward to fully automate the failover system, and we plan to execute similar failover tests several times throughout the year. All along, of course, we continue to upgrade various other hardware and data infrastructure.

USPTO has come a long way since the PALM outage, but we know there is still much more work to be done. We also understand that these upgrades will take time and require additional resources, and that we will encounter more hurdles along the way. We will stay the course.

Most importantly, we are committed to ensuring these essential IT systems are reliable for the examiners and users working to further the vital role that innovation, entrepreneurship, and intellectual property play in meeting the great challenges of our time.

Thursday Jul 16, 2020

First-rate information technology infrastructure supports USPTO teleworkers nationwide

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

server image

Remember that old U.S. Post Office creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds?”

That’s how we feel about our work at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Granted, we’ve faced much worse in the past three months than just inclement weather. Even so, the USPTO’s 13,000 employees have endured the historic challenges and, through an efficient teleworking system, have kept America’s engine of innovation moving forward.

Today, so much of what we do at the USPTO relies on our information technology (IT) systems. And there’s no doubt that the pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home orders have tested the limits of these systems. But, after the intensive IT stabilization and modernization efforts of the past two years, the USPTO was well prepared when our physical offices closed in March.

We transitioned to a remote workforce with virtually no disruption, despite having an unprecedented number of employees accessing our IT systems from home. We now have, on average, over 13,000 secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections to our campus every day. This is a 75 percent increase over our daily average prior to the pandemic.

We also now have over 1,200 virtual meetings each day using our secure video teleconferencing tools, connecting an average of 6,000 participants from among our workforce, our contractors, and the public at large. Our teleconferencing systems allow employees to conduct a variety of meetings and applicant interviews, and even hold virtual hearings before the Patent and Trademark Trial and Appeal Boards. To fully leverage these collaboration tools, we undertook five system upgrades and configuration enhancements to our teleconferencing infrastructure.

In addition, we planned, staged, and executed the procurement and shipment of 2,000 monitors and 3,200 printers to teleworking employees in the first few weeks after the stay-at-home order was issued. We also deployed over 400 broadband routers to recently hired examiners to provide better connectivity to the USPTO systems.

As we noted last year, fully modernizing the USPTO’s technology systems to industry standards is a large-scale project that will require significant time and effort. Much work remains to be done, and there will undoubtedly be hurdles along the way. Even so, our success in transitioning to almost an entire work-from-home workforce demonstrates that we’ve made remarkable progress in a short period of time.

The USPTO remains committed to helping inventors and entrepreneurs weather this crisis and hit the ground running once it passes. And, in doing so, we will continue to enlist modern ways of doing business, including improving the performance and reliability of our IT infrastructure and other systems.

Our employees and our IT team continue to make us very proud. They work tirelessly to ensure that nothing stops our service to America’s innovators.

Wednesday May 20, 2020

Spotlight on Commerce: Thomas Hong, Primary Patent Examiner

Guest blog by Thomas Hong, Primary Patent Examiner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Editorial 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.

Thomas Hong and officers from the Korean-American IP Association

Thomas Hong (right) with officers from the Korean-American Intellectual Property Organization at the USPTO.

I am a primary patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I review patent applications within the mechanical engineering technology center, specializing in amusement and education devices. I also serve as president of the Korean-American Intellectual Property Organization (KAIPO), the USPTO’s youngest affinity group, which aims to promote and support the growth and development of Korean-American intellectual property professionals.

It took me more than a decade to reach where I am today. Upon graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Seoul National University in South Korea in 1999, I immigrated to America with my family in pursuit of new opportunities.

I continued my studies at Purdue University and obtained a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2004, and my thesis topic related to Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing. This led me to my first career as a software developer with government consulting firms. While it was a good job, I found that it was not the right career path for me. I felt that I rushed into the job and surrendered to the industry’s demands. I felt like I lost sight of my passions and interests and didn’t see myself growing in this field. I decided to change my career path and enrolled at the George Mason School of Law (now known as Antonin Scalia Law School).

As a first generation immigrant, law school was an eye-opening experience for me. I was one of only a few among my classmates holding a college degree from a non-English speaking country. I found myself not only having to develop my fluency in English, but also having to start learning a completely new language: law. While these years weren’t easy, I realized how fortunate I was to have a family and community that was incredibly supportive of me as I pursued my goals and ambitions. Many first-generation immigrants sacrifice these kinds of opportunities for their future generations.

Law school was a turning point for me. It was a time for self-reflection. It was during law school that my mindset began changing from a singular, self-serving view to a more encompassing community view. I looked not only at how I can better myself, but also at how I can better serve and contribute to my community and beyond. I started volunteering for communities I belonged to. I was a marshal at the PGA Tour Tournament, was on the board of directors in my neighborhood’s community group, and served as an officer for the Korean-American Intellectual Property Bar Association (KAIPBA).

I ultimately chose to work for the federal government because, to me, being a career civil servant is a privilege. This unique career gives me an opportunity to serve our biggest community, the public, while simultaneously developing my career and growing as a person.

One of my proudest moments of my time here at USPTO has been working with my colleagues to establish an affinity group for Korean-American professionals at the USPTO: KAIPO. The USPTO’s workforce encompasses multi-generation Asian immigrants, including Korean-Americans, who face unique challenges and have extraordinary knowledge and experiences to pass on. My hope for KAIPO is to connect these different generations so that we can share our unique experiences and help each other grow and develop in our professional and personal lives.

My advice for those who are interested in a federal government career is to continuously strive to learn and develop your competencies, and find your passions. When you find where these align, you begin to find how you can best contribute and serve the public.

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a time for celebration and a time to recognize contributions of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in this country. It was a long journey, spanning two countries, for me to get to this point in my career, and I am proud and honored to be here at the USPTO working in public service alongside so many dedicated and hardworking individuals.

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.

Tuesday May 05, 2020

Spotlight on Commerce: Elizabeth Chu, Social Media Specialist and Acting Website Editor-in-Chief

Guest blog by Elizabeth Chu, Social Media Specialist and Acting Website Editor-in-Chief, USPTO

Editorial Note: This post is part of a series in honor of Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), showcasing the vast and diverse work of Commerce employees collectively working together to deliver important services that are helping the American economy grow.

USPTO staff at “Apollo 50: The role of intellectual property in space commerce” event on July 23, 2019

Elizabeth Chu (pictured first row, center) and USPTO communications staff at the “Apollo 50: The role of intellectual property in space commerce” event on July 23, 2019.

As the Social Media Specialist for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I am responsible for planning, implementing, and monitoring the agency’s social media strategy to increase brand awareness and strengthen our digital presence. Recently, I stepped in as the Acting Website Editor-in-Chief, due to the recent departure of a colleague. Adding website responsibilities and new skills to my current role as Social Media Specialist—all during a pandemic—has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Luckily, I’m surrounded by generous, dedicated, and talented colleagues in the Office of the Chief Communications Officer who help and support me when I need it. It’s a privilege to work side-by-side with professional and expert communicators in a fast-paced work environment.

My parents and sisters immigrated to the United States from South Korea in the 1980s. I was born in North Carolina, but my family moved to Maryland when I was very young and raised me there. Growing up, my parents and sisters have always been my main influences. Like most first-generation immigrants, my parents worked hard, long days in blue-collar jobs. Watching them, I learned that diligence, honesty, and a good education were important for a successful career and life. I feel fortunate to have a family that’s supportive of all my passions and career pursuits.

I studied art history at the University of Maryland and, after graduation, started my first full-time job in Washington, D.C. Halfway through my three years at the National Gallery of Art, I applied to an arts management program at American University. After receiving a Master of Arts in arts management, I began working for the Washington Ballet in the marketing and communications department where I gained a lot of marketing and communications experience. Nonprofit arts organizations are fast-paced, hardworking entities with limited budgets. Supporting the arts was a fulfilling experience because I could share my passion for the arts every day with others. Although I no longer work for arts organizations, I still seek volunteer opportunities with museums or studio arts classes.

Transitioning from a small, nonprofit arts organization to a federal agency with over 13,000 employees was initially nerve-racking, but it’s been one of the most rewarding changes of my life. Not only do I have the pleasure of working with a creative and talented team of communicators at the USPTO, but I have also had the unique opportunity to work on award-winning projects such as 10 Million Patents and the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The former is a significant milestone that we planned for and executed over a multi-month timeline with a detailed communications plan. The campaign culminated with an official signing ceremony at the White House and a special event at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The moon landing event was significant to me because I led and coordinated the communications plan for that project. Our focus was on space innovation, technology transfer from the Apollo missions, and an overview of the current Administration policy on space exploration and space commerce. This communications plan culminated in one of the biggest events in recent USPTO history and featured the NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. These projects were successful because of the extremely talented and knowledgeable communicators on my team.

Working on major, successful campaigns that help educate the public about the importance of intellectual property is an honor and privilege. It is especially rewarding that I get to do this work with over 13,000 other colleagues dedicated to American innovation and who work hard every day on behalf of inventors, makers, and creators across the United States.

I am proud to work in public service at the U.S Patent and Trademark Office because I know that my efforts to educate the public and raise public awareness support innovators of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.

Tuesday Apr 28, 2020

PTAB launches the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) for the next generation of patent practitioners

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Scott Boalick, Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO

A female law clerk makes a mock argument before the PTAB.

(Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

Today, the USPTO officially launches the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP). LEAP is designed to foster development of the next generation of patent practitioners by creating opportunities to gain the proper skills and experience in oral arguments before the Board. The USPTO understands that “stand up” speaking opportunities before tribunals are limited and that gaining courtroom experience is advantageous for practitioners in their career development. Additionally, having a patent bar with strong oral advocacy skills benefits clients, the USPTO, the courts, and the whole IP system.

A LEAP practitioner is defined as someone who is new to the practice of law or new to practice before the PTAB. To qualify as a LEAP practitioner, a patent agent or attorney must have three or fewer substantive oral arguments in any federal tribunal, including PTAB, and seven or fewer years of experience as a licensed attorney or agent. By arguing before the PTAB, LEAP practitioners gain oral advocacy skills that will benefit them when appearing before any tribunal in the future. Likewise, they may reap the reward of drafting or contributing significantly to an underlying motion, brief, oral argument, or client position.

In exchange for giving a LEAP practitioner the opportunity to present argument as part of the program, the Board will grant additional argument time to the party, typically up to fifteen minutes depending on the length of the proceeding and the PTAB’s hearing schedule. The extra argument time is intended to incentivize appellants and parties to support LEAP practitioners. This plays a key role in helping the USPTO achieve its goal of offering legal experience and advancement to a diverse group of practitioners.

A law clerk presenting a mock oral hearing before the PTAB from the Alexandria headquarters

(Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

A LEAP practitioner may conduct the entire oral argument or may share time with other counsel, provided that the LEAP practitioner is offered a meaningful and substantive opportunity to argue. For example, a LEAP practitioner may argue claim construction, a motion to exclude evidence, or a patentability issue. More experienced counsel may assist a LEAP practitioner, if necessary, during oral argument and may clarify any statements on the record.

It is easy to participate in LEAP. For an appeal, an appellant should send an email to PTABHearings@uspto.gov at least five business days before the hearing. Similarly, for an AIA proceeding, a party should send an email to Trials@uspto.gov at least five business days before the hearing. The program becomes effective on May 15, 2020, and LEAP practitioners may begin filing requests to participate in this program starting on that day.

The USPTO will also provide training to familiarize LEAP practitioners with oral argument procedures before the PTAB. The training will address the flow of a hearing, effective use of hearing time, use of demonstratives during a hearing, and other oral advocacy tips. This training will provide an added measure of confidence in the preparation of LEAP practitioners for both the PTAB case at hand, as well as any IP litigation down the road.

Innovation and the intellectual property system behind it form the engine of economic growth and development. Expanding this ecosystem is critically important to ensuring America’s continued economic strength and technological leadership. New practitioners are a key element of this effort, and it is important to expand their participation. LEAP is one step in that direction. For more information on the USPTO’s resources on expanding innovation, please visit our newly launched webpage at uspto.gov.

We look forward to working with our stakeholders and the bar to further develop this and similar programs.  

Monday Apr 27, 2020

Recognizing World IP Day

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

World IP Day 2020

Twenty years ago, the World Intellectual Property Organization designated April 26 as World Intellectual Property Day to recognize the importance of innovation, creativity, and the positive role of intellectual property. “Innovate for a Green Future” is the theme for 2020’s World Intellectual Property Day, encouraging the world to build on “green tech” ideas to improve our health, well-being, and economy.

There is a long history of inventions that have enhanced our quality of life, from reducing air pollution to keeping food fresh. Consider the example of the catalytic converter. In response to studies about the growing dangers of smog in Los Angeles, French-American engineer Eugene Houdry pioneered catalytic converter devices for industrial factory smokestacks. He subsequently developed catalytic converters for gasoline engines. These devices convert pollutants from the exhaust gas into less toxic substances. Today, the device is standard on all American cars. In 1956, Houdry was awarded U.S. Patent No. 2,742,437 for Catalytic Structures. In 1990, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for Catalytic Cracking.

More recently, horticulturist Sylvia Blankenship and biochemist Edward Sisler developed a novel compound that significantly extends the freshness and storage life of fruits and vegetables by mitigating the effects of ethylene, which ripens produce. Their invention enables year-round access to fresh food and reduces food waste. This year, Blankenship and Sisler will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for their invention, U.S. Patent No. 5,518,988 for 1-MCP for Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Freshness.

You can learn more about these inventors and other pioneers of technology through the National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee database.

The USPTO and IP communities are working together to empower inventors, entrepreneurs, and pioneers in the green tech space and beyond through Patents for Humanity, an annual awards competition recognizing innovators who use game-changing technology to meet global humanitarian challenges. The program provides business incentives for reaching those in need. Winners receive an acceleration certificate to expedite select proceedings at the USPTO as well as public recognition for their work. The awards showcase how patent holders with vision are pioneering innovative ways to provide affordable, scalable, and sustainable solutions to improve the human condition.

We currently live in the midst of a global pandemic. As always, inventors will create new technologies that will help us overcome these unprecedented challenges. On this World IP Day, please take a moment to recognize all inventors and entrepreneurs and to appreciate the innovations all around us that make our lives happier and healthier.

Please view our World IP Day 2020 video message.

Tuesday Mar 31, 2020

Spotlight on Commerce: Allison Bourke, Supervisory Patent Examiner

Guest blog post by Allison Bourke, Supervisory Patent Examiner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Allison Bourke, Supervisory Patent Examiner

Allison Bourke, Supervisory Patent Examiner, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce women during Women’s History Month.

I am a supervisory patent examiner at the Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in electrochemistry technology, specifically solar cells, thermoelectrics, fuel cells, and batteries. I support 15 patent examiners and provide assistance so they can get their patent applications reviewed in a timely manner.

I started at the USPTO as a patent examiner in Alexandria, Virginia, in 2009, after attending the University of Arizona and University of Michigan for degrees in chemical engineering, and I absolutely loved my experience in the D.C. metro area. I grew up in the mountains of northern Arizona, so when the opportunity to work in the USPTO office in Denver arose (the Rocky Mountain Regional Office opened in 2014), I packed up my stuff and cats and headed west! I have really enjoyed the small office experience in Denver (100 employees vs. thousands of employees in Alexandria), and the outdoor opportunities in the area are endless. In Denver, I have become a mentor to a young elementary school girl who is attempting to conquer her multiplication tables.

One of my proudest accomplishments at the USPTO has been helping found, with other like-minded colleagues, two women’s organizations: Women in Science and Engineering at the Alexandria campus and Women in Technology and Science at the Rocky Mountain Regional Office. Both organizations have a mission to promote STEM/intellectual property (IP) for K-12 and college students and support members through social and enrichment activities. We have organized, given talks to local college Society of Women Engineers sections about careers in IP, and, with the Rocky Mountain Office’s Outreach team, assisted with Girl Scout IP Patch days and women’s IP networking events with outside organizations. Both organizations celebrate women all year long but focus on Women’s History Month with numerous activities, such as hosting inspirational talks, tea parties, and strong women movie-viewing parties.

I look forward to March each year so we can remind everyone of all the awesome accomplishments of women throughout history and inspire those for the future!

Monday Mar 23, 2020

USPTO launches the Expanding Innovation Hub, a new online platform to encourage greater participation in the patent system

Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Laura Peter, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO

Red, yellow, and blue silhouettes of heads look left and right.

“To maintain our technological leadership, the United States must broaden our innovation ecosphere demographically, geographically, and economically.”---USPTO Director Andrei Iancu

Today, as part of Women’s History Month, the USPTO has officially launched the Expanding Innovation Hub (“the Hub”), an online platform available on the USPTO website that provides resources for inventors and practitioners to encourage greater participation in the patent system. The new platform is yet another step the USPTO has taken to broaden the innovation ecosphere, to inspire novel inventions, to accelerate growth, and to drive America’s global competitive edge. It builds on our SUCCESS Act report to Congress of 2019, as well as our Progress and Potential report on women inventors.

“Expanding Innovation” is part of the USPTO’s effort to inspire more women, minorities, veterans, and geographically and socioeconomically diverse applicants to join the innovation economy. Important pillars of that effort include education and mentorship. On the Hub, you will find the new Demystifying the Patent System Toolkit, designed to help innovators understand the process of obtaining a patent. Additional resources on the Hub include the Mentoring Toolkit, intended to assist organizations in establishing an infrastructure to connect experienced innovators with the next generation in their organization; and Community Group Resources, designed to help organizations establish an infrastructure to connect groups of employees with shared characteristics, interests, and goals.

These new tools are in addition to many other efforts at the USPTO to help expand the innovation ecosystem. We will continue to host a wide variety of events to amplify this message, such as Invention-Con and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium. We have a pro se assistance program to help inventors who are not represented by counsel apply for patents. We have a pro bono network, and we also work with 60 participating law school clinics, all to help inventors and entrepreneurs secure free or discounted legal services. We provide a host of other online resources to help guide and educate inventors as well. 

We also continue to expand our reach geographically. In addition to our headquarters in Alexandria, we have four regional offices in Detroit, Denver, San Jose, and Dallas, and 83 Patent and Trademark Resource Centers located in public, state, and academic libraries across the country. These centers not only offer a physical connection to valuable government resources, but they also offer regular programming, office hours, and staff trained to assist inventors and entrepreneurs with intellectual property (IP) research.

The USPTO also supports dozens of STEM-related programs that provide education about IP to young men and women. These include programs in partnership with the National Inventors Hall of Fame, such as Camp Invention, which is offered in school districts in every state, and the Collegiate Inventors Competition, which takes place each year at the USPTO; the National Summer Teacher Institute, which brings invention and IP into the nation’s classrooms; collaborations with historically black colleges and universities; the Girl Scout IP patch, which is available to Girl Scout troops across the nation; and so much more. 

Now, with the new Expanding Innovation Hub on our website, inventors will have a central location to find information about all of our programs and resources.

America’s economic prosperity and technological leadership depend on a strong and inclusive innovation ecosystem. That is why it is so important to make sure all Americans have the opportunity to develop and protect their inventions, build thriving businesses, and succeed. It is therefore critical that industry, academia, and government work together to broaden our innovation ecosphere demographically, geographically, and economically. Please visit the Expanding Innovation Hub and check back often to engage with us in this critical endeavor.