"I get to meet many people from different countries virtually or in person, and work on a variety of projects that give me a strong sense of personal value and accomplishment."
A career with "no typical day"
Working in Bangkok, Thailand, during COVID-19 pandemic restrictions requires constant adjustment to comply with the fluid mandates from the U.S. Embassy Bangkok and the host-government. Depending upon the U.S. Embassy’s guidelines and notices, Kitisri S., USPTO Regional Intellectual Property Attaché for Southeast Asia, may begin her workdays at home or take a five-minute ride to her office right outside the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.
In her dynamic role, Kitisri provides advice and recommendations about challenging intellectual property (IP) issues to a wide range of IP stakeholders, including U.S. agencies, foreign IP offices, intergovernmental organizations, U.S. companies, and rights owners.
She works mostly online these days, holding virtual meetings with government officials or stakeholders in the Southeast Asia region. She also conducts bilateral and regional training online with the USPTO’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) team and IP offices in the region. Kitisri occasionally leads or attends in-person programs and meetings in the office or elsewhere in Bangkok—when permitted and with health safety precautions in place.
“There is no typical day,” says Kitisri, “but I always have a sense that my work is important and impactful. I get to meet many people from different countries, and work on a variety of projects that give me a strong sense of personal value and accomplishment.”
A depth of knowledge, a breadth of diplomacy
What’s the number one skill needed for Kitisri’s job? “You must be knowledgeable,” she says, “because you have to confidently advise people, like providing legal information to U.S. companies and industries who want to invest in the region.” She emphasizes that learning about the laws of different countries and the nuances of how they are implemented is key to effectively responding to inquiries from multiple agencies and stakeholders.
When it comes to being knowledgeable, Kitisri is certainly the right person for the job. Her love of learning and self-growth led her to earn her B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in scientific fields. But she didn’t stop there–she also holds a J.D.
Her impressive background in both law and science first led her to work at the USPTO in 2007, where she first served as a patent attorney in the Office of Policy and International Affairs. In that role, Kitisri had the honor, she says, of serving for about 10 years as the U.S. Representative to the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), an intergovernmental organization based in Geneva. She was also elected to three-year terms as the Vice President and then President of the UPOV Council, and was awarded a gold medal from the organization.
It was while working as a patent attorney in OPIA that Kitisri gained familiarity with attachés in many regions and came to understand their dynamic responsibilities and impact on the IP community. As a person who constantly seeks new challenges and opportunities for growth, becoming an IP attaché was the perfect next career opportunity that allowed Kitisri to stay at the USPTO.
“The USPTO values the culture of diversity and employs people of different backgrounds. When I say I am from the USPTO, I am recognized as being from a respectable organization,” Kitisri says.
While Kitisri’s depth of knowledge about IP and the Southeast Asia region are necessary to her job, her patient, sage approach to diplomacy is the distinguishing factor in her efforts.
“Hone your diplomatic skills,” she says. “Treat everyone with respect. This leads to better access and better cooperation, particularly with foreign officials. You also need to be patient and persistent because most IP issues are difficult, and people move at their own pace. Success will come sooner or later if you are persistent.”
World-class experiences and accomplishments
Being an IP Attaché is challenging, but also extraordinarily rewarding. The career accomplishment Kitisri is most proud of is her decade-long work with Thai governmental agencies in improving its IP environment to better protect the IP rights of innovators before and after it was moved from the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Priority Watch List to Watch List in 2017. The government of Thailand took an “all-government” approach in coordinating IP protection and enforcement.
Thai creators, inventors, and businesses are gaining a better understanding and appreciation of IP, and are increasingly supportive of stronger IP protection and enforcement. Kitisri’s diligent work to protect American intellectual property in Thailand has also led to increased government enforcement of online piracy laws, and the removal of illegal website content and illegally streamed movies.
Kitisri’s hard work and devotion to the protection and support of IP rights in a global context makes her a true representative of the USPTO’s mission.