“Many aspects of working overseas as an IP Attaché
help me in my current role in OPIA.”
We’re checking in with Laura, an Attorney-Advisor in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Office of Policy and International Affairs (OPIA), who recently returned to the U.S. after serving for four years as an intellectual property (IP) Attaché based out of the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.
We first met Laura when she was on assignment through the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program, which supports the agency’s efforts to improve IP systems and help U.S. stakeholders internationally. IP Attachés directly assist U.S. businesses and advocate to improve IP policies, laws, and regulations abroad.
Laura’s work as an IP Attaché engaged the full spectrum of the IP community in the eastern region of South America, which includes Argentina, Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. There, she conducted IP education programs and spoke to large groups at universities and technology hubs while also raising awareness about the value of protecting IP among independent artists, designers, filmmakers, video game developers, and entrepreneurs.
Thanks in large part to Laura’s hard work and commitment, one of her major accomplishments while at post was extending the patent work-sharing efforts of USPTO and Brazil’s National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) by advancing an expanded bilateral Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH), which the two offices launched on December 1, 2019. The PPH is a collaborative framework that allows participating IP offices to leverage each other’s work on counterpart patent applications. The newly expanded PPH between INPI and the USPTO allows applicants to fast-track the review of patent applications across all technology areas in Brazil.
“This new PPH is a significant milestone and a major win for both offices,” says Laura.
Now conversant in Portuguese and fluent in the economic lexicon of the region, Laura’s grasp of how the local governments operate independently and in concert as a Mercosur bloc (one of South America’s trade blocs that aims to create business and investment opportunities in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay through the competitive integration of national economies into the international market) has flourished in kind.
“Spending those four years working in Brazil allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the economic and political climate in the region, as well as a deeper understanding of the broader U.S. economic and political priorities in these countries,” she says.
Her time in the region was indeed well spent. Laura credits her tenure as an IP Attaché with enhancing her business savvy in three major ways: 1) it sharpened her public speaking skills; 2) it expanded her knowledge base in all areas of IP; and 3) it improved her international relations skills. All these areas of expertise, she says, are critical to supporting the USPTO’s mission.
Having worked on the team in OPIA that covered Mercosur prior to her departure to Brazil, Laura’s transition back couldn’t have been more seamless. She hit the ground running, applying her prior OPIA experience, along with all she’d learned at post, to her current role providing IP policy guidance on trademarks and geographical indication (GI) issues in the same region she served overseas.
And now that she’s acquired a deeper understanding of the interplay between all areas of the IP system, Laura is able to see the “bigger picture,” which enhances her collaborations with the other subject matter teams in OPIA.
Strengthening her skills in international relations by establishing close partnerships with a wide network of stakeholders, including government officials in IP offices and officials with IP-related responsibilities in other ministries, has definitely paid off. In Laura’s current role, she routinely collaborates with the contacts she cultivated while in Brazil.
“I’ve found that effective communication and relationship-building with government officials has led to the greatest opportunities for cooperation regarding trademarks and GI matters,” says Laura. “I truly appreciate being able to pick up the phone and reach a colleague immediately to discuss important topics while also continuing to nurture those relationships.”
Being an IP Attaché made Laura a better communicator, a better advocate for U.S. IP policy and enforcement, and a better ally to IP stakeholders. It also made her a huge fan of the Brazilian art and music scene.
“I witnessed so many phenomenal musicians and artists in Brazil, like Anitta, who, interestingly, just recently engaged in public advocacy promoting copyright protection,” Laura says. “Living overseas for four years really opened my eyes up, not only to the vast array of raw talent that exists around the world, but to some of the most precious displays of human kindness.”
Throughout her travels at post, and with Brazil’s picturesque scenery as her backdrop, Laura found Brazilians to be among the “warmest, friendliest, and most gracious people” she’s ever encountered. She plans to carry their warmth and spirit of connectedness to community and the environment with her moving forward.
So what does the future hold for Laura? Taking on new adventures and new responsibilities definitely remains at the top of the list. Soon she’ll begin to work on representing the USPTO on the World IP Organization’s Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT), which she’s very excited about. But for now, she’s focused on addressing OPIA’s most pressing business matters from her home office. And from time to time, she’ll reach across her desk and press “play” to hear the next track by Anitta.