August's featured article

Message from the Associate Commissioner

Mindy Bickel, Associate Commissioner for Innovation Development

Greetings Inventors Eye readers!

As Associate Commissioner for Innovation Development, I oversee the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) outreach to independent inventors, small business owners, entrepreneurs, and university-affiliated inventors. These stakeholders are critical to innovation, creating jobs, and sustaining the American economy, and I am excited for the opportunity to serve them.

A little about me: I began my career at the USPTO in 1989 as a patent examiner in biotechnology and have held many positions throughout the agency. Most recently, I was the USPTO’s outreach coordinator in New York City, where I managed the agency’s partnership with Cornell University and spoke to thousands of inventors and entrepreneurs, providing intellectual property (IP) education in the Big Apple. Before that, I oversaw the Patents Ombudsman Program, which helps inventors get their applications back on track when a breakdown in prosecution occurs. I have always gravitated toward helping inventors and entrepreneurs, and this new position allows me to continue doing what I love.

You’ve probably noticed a few recent changes with Inventors Eye: we have a new look and functionality, and going forward we will have a quarterly publication cycle aligned with the seasons. This will allow for more in-depth news and stories regarding your favorite IP topics.

So what is my vision for the Office of Innovation Development (OID)? First and foremost, we will continue providing high-impact outreach and education while always looking for ways to improve efficiency and accessibility for stakeholders. I envision expansion of our online resources, including informational videos, webinars, and chatroom discussions. We will also continue providing excellent customer service for the Pro Se Assistance Program, which has helped hundreds of inventors navigate the patent process without an attorney. I’m extremely lucky to have a staff of consummate professionals and seasoned experts in IP outreach who have been interacting with inventors from all across the country and the world for decades.

Some of you have attended one of our many Independent Inventors Conferences held throughout the country and can attest to their level of quality and usefulness. In addition, the frequent one-day seminars offered at USPTO regional offices provide the same information in a free and compact format. Not only will this all continue, but the openings of the Texas and West Coast Regional Offices in late 2015, along with the existing offices in Detroit and Denver mean that inventors around the country can expect more opportunities to attend these valuable seminars.

I also hope to improve OID’s presence on university campuses. IP awareness is vital to ensure that the discoveries and products generated in these crucibles of innovation are commercialized successfully. In the past, our academic outreach focused on campus visits, but I want to utilize our webinar and virtual meeting capabilities to expand the amount of universities we can help, regardless of their size or geographic location. If you’re a campus administrator, professor, or student leader interested in enhancing IP education on your campus, please contact us today!  

Lastly, I want to acknowledge the service of longtime OID and Inventors Assistance Program manager Cathie Kirik, who retired at the end of June after 29 exceptional years at the USPTO. Check out this issue’s interview with Cathie looking back on her career as a champion for American inventors and small businesses.

And now I’ll let you get back to the rest of this Inventors Eye issue. In the months to come, I hope to see you at one of our events. Remember, you can always contact the Office of Innovation Development if you have general questions regarding IP or filing a patent application. Call us toll free at 1-866-767-3848 or email

Wishing you all the best, and happy inventing!



Past issues

  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2006
  • Lightbulbs of various colors representing networking
The USPTO gives you useful information and non-legal advice in the areas of patents and trademarks. The patent and trademark statutes and regulations should be consulted before attempting to apply for a patent or register a trademark. These laws and the application process can be complicated. If you have intellectual property that could be patented or registered as a trademark, the use of an attorney or agent who is qualified to represent you in the USPTO is advised.