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Blog Category: Patent and Trademark Office

USPTO to Host Patent Quality Summit March 25-26

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is holding a Patent Quality Summit on March 25 and 26 at its headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, and public participation is key to its success. The two-day event is an opportunity for the public to provide their thoughts about patent quality in order to guarantee the most efficient prosecution and processes, and to ensure the issuance of the highest quality patents. The event will include discussions with USPTO leadership, experts from the agency, industry, and academia, and sessions for brainstorming ideas to enhance patent quality.

The Patent Quality Summit is the kickoff event for the USPTO’s comprehensive new Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, which supports three Enhanced Patent Quality pillars: (1) excellence in work products; (2) excellence in measuring patent quality; and (3) excellence in customer service. High quality patents contribute to maintaining a strong U.S. economy by providing inventors and companies the chance to develop their technologies, grow their businesses, and expand sales of their products.

“High quality patents permit certainty and clarity of rights, which in turn fuels innovation and reduces needless litigation,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee. “Our Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative will allow us to further improve patent quality through direct and ongoing engagement.”

Public feedback is pivotal in making both the Patent Quality Summit and Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative successful. The USPTO wants to hear from everyone, from longtime patent owners to Main Street retailers who may have only recently begun to focus on patents; from patent prosecutors to patent litigators; and from patent applicants to patent licensees. By engaging all stakeholders, the USPTO is working to build a world-class patent quality system together.

The Patent Quality Summit is free of charge and open to all. A variety of topics will be covered, and when registering, participants can specify whether they will attend in person or via webinar, and which sessions they would like to participate in. Those unable to participate in person or by webinar are encouraged to provide their ideas via email to WorldClassPatentQuality[at]uspto[dot]gov on or before May 6, 2015, and will also be able to view the recording of the event on the Patent Quality Summit page of the USPTO website. The USPTO is eager to hear public input on patent quality, and is planning additional events throughout the country in the upcoming year.

Secretary Pritzker Addresses Importance of Data to the Digital Economy and Announces Major Growth in Data Jobs Over Last Decade

Secretary Pritzker Addresses Importance of Data to the Digital Economy and Announces Major Growth in Data Jobs Over Last Decade

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today participated in three separate events at the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas underscoring the importance of entrepreneurs and small businesses to the economy. During her SXSW events, Secretary Pritzker highlighted how the U.S. Commerce Department invests in innovation, supports the digital economy and is helping provide American businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to grow and hire.

Secretary Pritzker began the day by participating in a roundtable with business incubators, tenant startups and other startup stakeholders at the headquarters of RideScout, a smartphone app created to increase transportation efficiency. During the roundtable she listened to local business leaders and startups describe what the future of business incubation will look like, and the kind of investments and support they will need to successfully spin-out new companies. She was joined at the roundtable by the Department’s newly hired, first-ever Chief Data Officer Ian Kalin. Secretary Pritzker appointed Kalin to this role to help unleash more of the Commerce Department’s data to strengthen the nation’s economic growth. The new Chief Data Officer will work to make Commerce data easier to access, understand, and use, while also ensuring we maximize the return of data investments for businesses, entrepreneurs, government, taxpayers, and communities.

Following the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker participated in an armchair discussion entitled “Move Fast, Government, or Get Out the Way.” Before beginning the discussion Secretary Pritzker took a few moments to swear in Michelle K. Lee, as the new Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Lee is the first woman to hold this position in the more than 200 year history of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. After the swearing in ceremony, Secretary Pritzker participated in the armchair discussion with CEO John Steinberg. They discussed the importance of data to the U.S. economy and Secretary Pritzker also used the opportunity to announce the findings of a new Commerce Department report highlighting the importance of data jobs to the U.S. economy and the huge growth in these high-paying jobs over the past decade.  During the event, she also stressed the importance of re-tooling the patent system to adapt to the rate and pace of technology and fuel, not slow, innovation. 

2015 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

2015 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

Last week, the National Inventors Hall of Fame, in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced the 2015 Hall of Fame inductees. These visionary inventors each patented inventions that revolutionized their industries and changed people’s lives. Of the fourteen new inductees, seven will be honored posthumously. 

The National Inventors Hall of Fame, located in the Madison Building on the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia, was established in 1973 and honors monumental individuals who have contributed great technological and scientific achievements and helped stimulate growth for our nation and beyond. The criteria for induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame requires candidates to hold a U.S. patent that has contributed significantly to the nation's welfare and the advancement of science and the useful arts. 

This year’s class of inductees includes Nobel Prize winner Shuji Nakamura, responsible for the blue light-emitting diode (LED) which enabled the white LED, and the blue laser diode; Jaap Haartsen, the inventor of Bluetooth® technology, now used in 2.7 billion devices and growing; George Alcorn, who furthered deep space exploration with his X-ray spectrometer; Kristina M. Johnson and Gary Sharp, pioneers in display technology related to rear projection television and 3D applications; duo Ioannis Yannas and John Burke, who have saved the lives of many burn victims with their invention of Artificial Skin; and Thomas Jennings, the first African American to receive a patent, who invented the precursor to modern dry cleaning. Watch this short National Inventors Hall of Fame video on the 2015 inductees. 

Both the new and previous inductees will be honored in a three-day event series. It will kick off with a illumination ceremony at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Virginia on May 11th, followed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on May 12 at the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, and a panel discussion on May 13th presented with the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History. The National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be emceed by CBS News correspondent and television personality Mo Rocca.

Strong Intellectual Property Fuels Investment

Strong Intellectual Property Fuels Investment

Many of the world’s greatest breakthroughs have something in common – strong intellectual property (IP) protection provided by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In fact, IP protection was included in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution by our Founding Fathers, who deemed it essential for society “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” Since Thomas Jefferson— the first patent examiner— reviewed the first U.S. patent, the country has been transformed by ingenuity to become the most open economy in the world where global businesses come to work and innovate on the cutting edge.

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 enables the USPTO to grant patents and trademarks faster and with greater quality and clarity, further strengthening our country’s IP system. The USPTO offers countless resources, including the Track One Prioritized Examination Program for accelerated examination, and the Pro Bono and Pro Se programs, which provide free legal representation and support services for small and independent inventors. The USPTO continually strives to keep costs and fees low.  For a brief overview on the steps necessary to obtain a patent you can refer to our Commerce blog, Five Steps for Protecting your Invention and for a trademark, Six Steps to Protect your Brand. At any time you can receive USPTO assistance by contacting the Inventors Assistance Center.  The USPTO is also very active internationally, working to protect U.S. interests abroad through the IP Attaché Program and collaborating with international IP organizations toward international patent harmonization.

For all these reasons the U.S. intellectual property system has long made America an attractive place to innovate and invest. Companies from around the world leverage the power of the U.S. patent, while supporting the U.S. economy. The strength of the intellectual property environment is an indicator of market potential for inventors and companies to develop their technologies, grow their businesses, and expand sales of their products. That is why we would like to encourage you to attend the SelectUSA Investment Summit in the Washington, DC area on March 23-24, 2015. Investors will find the practical tools, information, and connections they need to establish or expand operations in the United States. SelectUSA was created to work across the U.S. government to attract and retain business investment in the United States in order to create jobs, spur economic growth, and promote U.S. competitiveness. Those who choose to invest in the United States can feel secure knowing that there’s a long tradition of protecting valuable intellectual property.

Intellectual Property Attachés Discuss Protecting U.S. Interests Abroad

Intellectual Property Attachés Discuss Protecting U.S. Interests Abroad

The United States Patent and Trademark Office hosted its annual Intellectual Property (IP) Attaché consultations at its Alexandria, Va. headquarters during the week of December 15. Each year since 2007, participants from the USPTO and other government agencies, organizations, associations, and universities attend the event to exchange information about international IP issues and the work of USPTO’s IP attachés. The consultations provide a platform for all 11 IP attachés to share their accomplishments, participate in briefings on patent, trademark, and copyright developments in the United States, and collaborate with other organizations, stakeholders, and foreign IP attachés. The consultations enable information exchange and coordination with U.S. stakeholders, with a goal of improving IP protection and enforcement abroad.

The USPTO IP Attaché Program assigns experts to U.S. embassies or consulates overseas to represent the USPTO and advocate U.S. government policy positions on IP. IP attachés have assisted many industry associations, businesses, and other U.S. stakeholders in their efforts to protect and enforce their IP rights and navigate local IP laws in regions around the world. Each IP attaché has expertise in the fields of international IP law, policy and enforcement. 

In the week prior to the Alexandria meetings IP attachés met with the public in San Francisco and San Jose, including representatives from high tech organizations, legal associations, and universities. These consultations provided education and built contacts with a broad range of organizations interested in learning more about the IP Attaché Program and U.S. government IP policy overseas.

The consultations also included a half-day discussion sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where IP attachés exchanged views with chamber members and the public on various international IP issues. The discussion centered on ensuring that IP systems help protect U.S. interests abroad while reducing trade barriers and encouraging strong economic growth.

During a career roundtable webcast, USPTO employees discussed potential career opportunities with the public and explained what it is like to work as an IP attaché. Participants asked questions and heard first-hand some of the accomplishments and challenges faced by IP attachés while on assignment. If you missed this roundtable, you can view the webcast on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website.

The USPTO extends its gratitude to all those who participated in the IP attaché consultations and to those who contributed to making the event a productive exchange of information, helping to reinforce a strong and effective IP system worldwide. Visit the IP Attaché Program on the USPTO website to learn more about it.

Tech Week 2014: Optimizing Patent Examiner Training through Volunteer Experts

Tech Week 2014: Optimizing Patent Examiner Training through Volunteer Experts

The first week in December, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) held Tech Week, an opportunity for representatives from corporations, universities, and other organizations to showcase innovations in their field for its patent examiners. Such training, part of its Patent Examiner Technical Training Program, (PETTP) helps ensure patent examiners truly understand the state of the art in the technologies and disciplines in which they consider granting patents.  The technologists, scientists, engineers, and other experts in the PETTP volunteer their assistance. 

PETTP responds to one of several executive actions issued by the White House earlier this year aimed, in part, at strengthening the quality and accessibility of our patent system. One of these initiatives focused on the critical need for examiners to stay up-to-date in their technical fields of expertise through more robust technical training, enabling them to perform the best examination possible. PETTP improves the patent process by ensuring patent examiners are aware of emerging trends, maturing technologies, and recent innovation. 

Topics during USPTO Tech Week included technology advancements and trends in the areas of stem cells, petroleum, regenerative medicine, pharmaceuticals, robotics, financial trading, wireless communication technology, and more. Among the many presenters were representatives from Qualcomm, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, iRobot, Google, Seiko Epson, Sun Chemical, Verizon, and NASA. 

Program Manager Ray Taylor of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) discussed the innovative technologies developed for this large, infrared telescope slated for launch in 2018. JWST will observe some of the most distant objects in the universe, the formation of stars and planets, and give insight into the Big Bang, the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, and the evolution of our own solar system. Taylor explained the unique challenges JWST faces, such as developing a strong yet lightweight primary mirror 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Telescope. This was accomplished by building mirror segments out of ultra-lightweight beryllium, in a way that folds up to fit into a spacecraft and adjusts to shape after launch. Overcoming operational challenges related to temperature, such as mirror deformation and alignment, were also outlined for patent examiners. Taylor received a multitude of questions, leading to a robust discussion on the telescope’s development. 

USPTO Open Data Roundtable – An Awesome Beginning


Guest blog post by Thomas Beach, Senior Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary and Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and Scott Beliveau, Open Data Team Lead, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Nobody doubts the value of data today, and the Obama Administration has taken many important steps towards making government data more open and accessible to the public. As Secretary Pritzker likes to remind us, the Department of Commerce is “America’s Data Agency,” and has a unique and central role in that transformation.   Although open data feels like the flavor of the month for every government agency to tout, this is especially meaningful for the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. The agency houses a treasure trove of data, and now has crystalized a path forward to better sharing it with the world.

Disclosing and disseminating data supports our broader mission of advancing American innovation.  After all, the patent system rests on the trade-off between the disclosure of an invention and the right to exclude others from using it.  From that perspective, the USPTO has been in the business of open data for a very long time.  If we were going to live up to our mission in this interconnected, digital world of disseminating information about patents and trademarks, we knew we needed an agency-wide commitment to improve our data delivery on all fronts.  And that was the spirit in which we hosted the USPTO Open Data Roundtable with NYU’s GovLab on December 8th.

The roundtable brought together diverse members of our user community, including industry representatives, prior art searchers, and academics, with USPTO’s data team.

Young Entrepreneurs Showcase Ideas at Collegiate Inventors Competition

Young Entrepreneurs Showcase Ideas at Collegiate Inventors Competition

On November 17, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Michelle K. Lee welcomed 35 young inventors to the USPTO headquarters for the 2014 Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC). Introduced in 1990 and co-sponsored by the USPTO, Invent Now, and the AbbVie Foundation, the CIC recognizes the nation’s most innovative undergraduate and graduate students working on cutting-edge inventions at their colleges and universities. 

Competition finalists showcased their inventions and interacted with thousands of USPTO patent and trademark examiners, sponsors, media, and the public at the Competition Expo, bringing together innovative minds from across the country. The finalists received feedback from a judging panel of influential inventors and experts, comprised of eleven National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees, representatives from the USPTO, and AbbVie scientists. 

The top three entries in each division were awarded cash prizes including $15,000 for the graduate first place invention and $12,500 for the undergraduate first place invention. The winner in the graduate category was Katarzyna M. Sawicka from SUNA Stony Brook University for the Immuno-Matrix, a skin patch that delivers a vaccine as easily and painlessly as putting on a Band-Aid®. The winners in the undergraduate category were Taylor Fahey, Charles Haider, and Cedric Kovacs-Johnson from University of Wisconsin – Madison for Spectrom, a device that prints low-cost, high-precision, on-demand full color 3D printing.  Read more about the winners

“CIC is unique in how it connects experienced inventors and scientists with the new generation of innovators,” said Invent Now CEO Michael J. Oister. “These upcoming inventors can interact directly with their role models, while at the same time learning the importance of strong intellectual property and innovation through the patent system.” 

With an eye toward the future and a focus on protecting their groundbreaking work, more than half of the 35 young inventors have filed provisional patent applications. In fact, five of the finalists have already launched startups in an effort to bring their inventions to market. Read more about the 2014 CIC finalists and winners.

Six Steps to Protect Your Brand

Six Steps to Protect Your Brand

A trademark is an essential part of a brand, helping to distinguish a business’s unique products and services from what another business offers. It can be a word, slogan, logo, symbol, design or even a sound. The following six steps from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provide a useful guideline on what to consider before registering a trademark and during the application process. Have an invention? Make sure to protect that too.

1. Determine whether a trademark is even appropriate for you.  Trademarks, patents, copyrights, domain names, and business name registrations all differ.  A trademark typically protects brand names and logos used on goods and services.  You must be able to identify these goods and services specifically.   A trademark, for example, does not cover a general idea.

2. Select a mark using great care. Before filing a trademark/service mark application, you should consider (1) whether the mark you want to register meets the guidelines for registration, and (2) how difficult it will be to protect your mark based on the strength of the mark selected. Note that the USPTO only registers marks, and the mark owner is solely responsible for enforcement.

3. Always search the USPTO database to determine whether anyone is already claiming trademark rights in wording/design that is similar and used on related goods/services through a federal registration.

4. File the application online through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS).  View trademark fee information. REMINDERS: (1) The application fee is a processing fee that is not refunded, even if the USPTO does not ultimately issue a registration certificate, and not all applications result in registrations; and (2) All information you submit to the USPTO at any point in the application and/or registration process will become public record, including your name, phone number, e-mail address, and street address.

5. Because all of the above are very important, you should consider whether to hire a trademark attorney to help you with these steps, as well as the overall application process.

6. Throughout the entire process, you should monitor the progress of your application through the Trademark Status and Document Retrieval (TSDR) system.  It is important to check the status of your application every 3-4 months after the initial filing of the application, because otherwise you may miss a filing deadline.

For more information on trademarks and to access a variety of helpful resources, including instructional how-to videos, visit the USPTO website.

Five Steps for Protecting Your Invention

Five Steps for Protecting Your Invention

Every day, all across America, good ideas are converted into tangible inventions and products that solve problems large and small and lift our quality of life. Do you have a good idea yourself? Maybe you’ve even developed it into a proof of concept or prototype. The next step you should consider is how you can protect what you’ve created. 

Patents are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). They give their owners the right to exclude others from making, selling, offering for sale, or importing an invention protected by the patent. While getting a patent is a complex undertaking, here are five steps and resources to get you started on the road to protecting your invention. 

  1. Pre-filing – Before submitting a patent application, you need to do some homework. The basic premise of a patent is that it protects something that has never existed before. Try determining, to the best of your ability, if your idea already exists by performing a basic patent search
  2. File a Provisional Application – The Provisional Application for Patent is one of the most popular ways for entrepreneurs to get their foot in the patent door. The provisional application is not a patent, and it does not provide actual legal protection. What it does is guarantee you a filing date with the USPTO and the ability to use the term “patent pending” as a warning to would-be infringers. The provisional application will give you a year (you can get another year through the missing parts pilot)— to test the marketplace, gather investors, and figure out your next move. After that, you’ll need to file a corresponding nonprovisional application. It also costs just $65 for micro entity filers. What’s “micro entity”? Keep reading! 
  3. Micro Entity Status – following passage of the America Invents Act (AIA) in 2011, the USPTO created a special filing status for inventors who qualify as a micro entity. This provides a 75 percent reduction in most patent-filing fees. There’s also a small entity status that reduces the fees by 50 percent.