“I get a real sense of satisfaction every time I can help someone get one step closer to achieving their dream of entrepreneurship.”
Textile, apparel, and footwear examiners play a unique role in the patent ecosystem. Unlike their counterparts in areas like biomedicine or chemistry where you can’t readily “see” the invention, these examiners work with tangible innovations conceived by everyone from hobbyists and independent inventors to some of the largest apparel and footwear manufactures with retail stores scattered around the globe.
We all wear what these examiners first see on their desks. From inventions for “smart textiles” that detect medical anomalies like heart murmurs or sudden infant death syndrome in babies, to protective garments for firefighters and woven vests that shield against ballistics, textile examiners see it all. They even review avant-garde fashion designs that illuminate runways in New York, Paris, and Milan.
As we often say, “It takes skill to recognize ingenuity.” If an inventor can conceive it, then our examiners can determine its patentability, and in so doing they help the greater good.
“When you get the chance to be hands-on with inventors by suggesting claim amendments, your opinion matters,” says Jennifer, a supervisory patent examiner (SPE). In her line of work, claim amendments are used to help refine a patent application by the removal, addition, or clarification of the original information provided—all intended to help the applicant avoid ambiguity.
“The work that I’m doing really, truly makes a difference,” Jennifer states. “Sometimes I can hear their joy through the phone when an amendment has improved a claim. There’s a real sense of satisfaction in helping someone get one step closer to achieving their dream of entrepreneurship,” she says.
The dreams of the inventors aren’t the only ones being realized here. Jennifer’s tenure at the USPTO has allowed her to pursue her professional dreams as well. She says that before she arrived at the agency in 2002 as a recent Georgia Tech grad, she would never have seen herself as a patent examiner. But now, because of the agency’s penchant for empowering its employees to constantly strive for ways to improve themselves through education, training and re-assignment opportunities, Jennifer can’t imagine not being here.
Moving her way up through the Patents organization came with challenges, but triumphs as well. Jennifer took full advantage of the USPTO’s After Work Education Program and earned a master’s degree in applied biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins in 2008. Since then, she has transitioned seamlessly into leadership roles where she can train, educate, and empower her fellow employees.
Jennifer is among the first people that new examiners meet when they join her team. On day one she greets them with a hearty welcome and does everything she can to help them get acclimated to their new surroundings.
“We’ve all been there…starting a new job is never easy,” she says. “Sometimes new examiners can feel isolated, so I want them to know that we’re here for them and that they have a strong support network to lean on if they need to,” she adds. And she speaks from experience; years ago, a candid talk with one of her supervisors to hone in on her goals and career aspirations was the catalyst that sparked Jennifer’s love of training and her trajectory to become a supervisor herself.
Jennifer says with each passing year there are more opportunities to take part in various programs and projects. She’s a seasoned recruiter and is also serving as Education Coordinator of the SPE Operations Council (SPOC)—a place where supervisory examiners can be empowered, create opportunities for knowledge exchange, and put their ideas on customer-focused organizational excellence into action. Jennifer also helps develop diversity initiatives and supports the agency’s Career and Bronze awards ceremonies to commend employees for doing outstanding work.
By far, Jennifer’s favorite part of working at the USPTO are her colleagues who have become like family. She loves the dedication and passion they exhibit day in and day out working together—and with applicants—toward a common goal of protecting our country’s innovation.
Jennifer wears her love of working at the USPTO proudly, and we must say, it fits her like a glove.