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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.

PTAB Hits the Road Again in November 2014 for Detroit Region Roadshows about the AIA Trials

Cross-posted from USPTO.

Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

Stakeholder engagement is a critical mission of the USPTO, and I am excited to share that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board will visit the Great Lakes region to provide more training about the AIA trials. In November, the board will visit Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis for afternoon, interactive programs. Earlier this spring, the board engaged with stakeholders in a variety of cities on a listening tour to consider revisions to the AIA trial rules and guidance. In these upcoming sessions, the board is focused on teaching the public how to strengthen their AIA trial filings.

In particular, stakeholders will hear a “State-of-the-Board” address, providing an update on recent developments including the volume of AIA trial filings and administrative patent judge hiring. The board also will host a “PTAB Feud” game show in which members of the public compete to answer questions and learn about the AIA trials. Lastly, the board has developed an AIA trial workshop involving a mock scenario in which a petitioner wishes to assert a challenge against a patent. The audience will break into teams, each facilitated by a judge, to discuss which type of petition to file and what issues might arise from both the petitioner’s and patent owner’s perspectives. Topics of discussion will include bars to filing, real party-in-interest and joinder considerations, and claim construction. The teams likewise will decide whether to institute an AIA trial, and if so, on what grounds and for which claims. In Detroit, the PTAB will host an actual AIA trial hearing in lieu of the workshop.

Besides the roadshows, the PTAB continues to hire more talented IP practitioners as judges. In fiscal year 2014, the board brought on 44 new judges, raising the total to 214. This fiscal year, the board is eager to continue growing, both in the Alexandria headquarters as well as all our satellite office locations. If you enjoy high end legal work involving cutting edge science, then an administrative patent judge position may be just for you.

In sum, I encourage you to take part in one of the Detroit Region Roadshows so that you can become even more versed in the nuances of the AIA trials. To learn more about a judge position, please visit Our AIA trial proceedings help strengthen our patent system, and we’re thankful for the stellar leadership demonstrated by our administrative patent judges on the PTAB.

Securing Intellectual Property Protection Around The World

Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee  in Geneva

All inventors—everywhere—deserve to have their inventions protected and promoted through intellectual property (IP) law everywhere. That is why the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) international IP focus—both in terms of policymaking and in IP processing—specifically advances us toward a world of global IP promotion and protection. And that is why USPTO’s senior leadership, led by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee, has spent the last week leading the United States’ delegation at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. Working with their colleagues from other major IP offices across the globe, the USPTO remains focused on Building a Better Patent System both at home and abroad.

One focus of Lee and her team in Geneva has been advancing the Global Dossier project, a signature initiative of the IP5. The IP5 includes the five largest patent offices in the world—ours, as well as Europe’s, China’s, Korea’s, and Japan’s. The USPTO hosted the 2013 IP5 meeting in Cupertino, California, where members agreed to create a one-stop-shop for applicants to file and manage a global portfolio of patent applications.

An effective Global Dossier program allows an inventor to more easily travel on the Patent Prosecution Highway, or PPH. This program ensures an inventor applying to two patent offices can benefit from those offices coordinating on the examination process. As those bilateral partnerships grew, however, it became clear that common rules of the road were needed across all PPH participating nations. Thus at the beginning of this year USPTO launched the Global PPH program, which ensures that all PPH-participating countries adhere to the same work-sharing standards. The Global PPH program now has 17 participating offices, with Singapore and Austria scheduled to join later this year.

Of course obtaining a patent faster and cheaper only matters if it is enforceable.

Expanded 2014 Edison Scholars Program to Focus on Litigation Issues

Expanded 2014 Edison Scholars Program to Focus on Litigation Issues

Guest blog post by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee 

I’m delighted to welcome our 2014 Thomas Alva Edison Visiting Scholars to the USPTO. The Edison Scholar program, which began in 2012, enlists the services of distinguished academic researchers to study intellectual property issues that further the USPTO’s mission and the public interest. The scholars devote up to six months of full time service to the agency, or up to a year in part-time service. 

Past Edison Scholars have studied ways to improve the USPTO’s efficiency and performance, decrease burdens on applicants, and improve patent quality and clarity. Their work has generated concrete proposals for patent policy and continues to deliver exceptional results.

Because of its success, the White House Task Force on High-Tech Patent Issues directed the USPTO to expand the Edison Scholars program to study an issue that is of particular and urgent interest, abusive patent litigation. Last fall, the USPTO issued a call for proposals and began a competitive selection process to fulfill this mandate. We have five Edison Scholars this year, including three “Research Fellows” who were selected to specifically develop and publish robust data and research on litigation issues. They’ll be working within our Office of Policy and International Affairs, led by Chief Policy Officer Shira Perlmutter. We look forward to the contributions of all the 2014 Edison Scholars on these essential topics.

2014 Thomas Alva Edison Visiting Scholars

Graeme Dinwoodie is professor of Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law at the University of Oxford, Director of the Oxford IP Research Centre, and a Professorial Fellow of St. Peter’s College. Professor Dinwoodie is an international authority on comparative IP law and is the author of five casebooks. He earned his J.S.D. from Columbia Law School. Research topic: Professor Dinwoodie will study the role of trademark registrations in defining rights as to infringement, whether to confirm market usage rights already in effect or to provide broader protections that enable economic expansion.

USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee Discusses Entrepreneurship and Job Creation at the Virginia Innovation Partnership Virginia Ventures Forum

Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Michelle K. Lee addressed the Virginia Ventures Forum, a meeting of the statewide Virginia Innovation Partnersh

Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Michelle K. Lee today addressed the Virginia Ventures Forum, a meeting of the statewide Virginia Innovation Partnership (VIP) at the USPTO.  One of only seven multi-institution initiatives to win federal funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce's i6 Challenge in 2012, VIP is bringing together universities, community colleges, corporations, investment capital, and other resources to drive promising research discoveries forward and accelerate innovation and economic growth throughout the Commonwealth.

Some of VIP’s funded projects for 2013-14 included “Development of a novel chimeric vaccine for tick-transmitted disease” at Virginia Commonwealth University, “Laser Modification of Metallic Surfaces for Industrial Applications” at the University of Virginia, and “Next Generation Diagnostics” at George Washington University.  All Virginia colleges and universities were invited to apply for proof-of-concept funding.  Projects selected by VIP’s review and advisory boards were granted access to VIP’s expansive mentoring network and matching funds from VIP partners.  It is the Partnership’s hope that the VIP will serve as a model for adoption by other states as well.

“By working together,” Lee said at today’s event, “government, universities, and private enterprise can spur innovations that make our world a better place, while fueling entrepreneurship and job creation in Virginia and beyond.”

Also speaking at the Forum were Tom Skalak, Vice President for Research at the University of Virginia; Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the Department of Commerce; and Aneesh Chopra, senior advisor to The Advisory Board Company and the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer from 2009-12.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Welcomes Chinese Delegation

Deputy Director Michelle K. Lee discussed a number of key intellectual property (IP) issues at the Intellectual Property Rights Working Group meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT)

On September 11, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Deputy Director Michelle K. Lee discussed a number of key intellectual property (IP) issues at the Intellectual Property Rights Working Group meeting of the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), co-chaired by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Deputy Director Lee welcomed Assistant Minister of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, TONG Daochi and his delegation of Chinese IP officials this week for the opening of the JCCT meeting. The meeting included a tour of USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, and commemorated 35 years of USPTO and U.S. Commerce Department training and assistance on IP matters with China.

In her remarks, Deputy Director Lee said, “We maintain close and effective office-to-office relationships with our counterpart agencies in China and have a strong history of collaboration. Our relationship rests on a firm foundation and we look forward to expanding our engagement and exchanging ideas in the future.”

The Chinese delegation visited the Global Intellectual Property Academy, a facility which serves as the U.S. government’s preeminent facility for enabling exchange of thoughts and ideas concerning intellectual property. Then they participated in the JCCT meeting, which covered patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret issues that are at the forefront of the U.S.-China relationship.

Calling Kids of All Ages: USPTO Launches Web Page Encouraging Invention and Science and Tech in School

Calling Kids of All Ages:  USPTO Launches Kids Page Encouraging Invention and Science and Tech in School

Did you know that only one U.S. president earned a patent? Do you know which one? Have you ever wondered where the famous expression “The Real McCoy” comes from?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched a newly redesigned section of its website for kids, but not kids alone! Parents, teachers, and teens will find lots of resources as well as hands-on activities for anyone from preschool to high school. The website encourages students of all ages to engage making, inventing, and discovering the importance of intellectual property. The site also exposes future inventors and entrepreneurs to the inventive thinking process. 

When the children in your life check out the new USPTO KIDS! pages, they’ll discover interesting facts about inventors and learn how they can bring ‘creations of the mind’ to life!  

The website includes games, coloring pages, an audio library of sound marks, videos created by NBC Learn in collaboration with the USPTO and the National Science Foundation (NSF), Girl Scouts’ intellectual property patch activities, lesson plans for teachers, and a list of upcoming events. 

Students can explore collectible cards featuring interesting facts about past and current inventors from diverse walks of life. They’ll also see profiles of inventors their own age, such as Marissa Streng, who while still in elementary school received a utility patent for her dog dryer invention and is the owner of a federally registered trademark. Marissa’s story was featured earlier this year on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Another featured student, Rebecca Hyndman, received a patent for the invention of an under-floor that she designed as an 8th grader. Rebecca was called upon to introduce President Obama at the signing of a historic patent reform bill, the America Invents Act.  

Leading Our Team: The Office of General Counsel Senior Management Retreat

Deputy General Counsel Justin Antonipillai discussing Secretary's initiative

This year the Office of General Counsel hosted its yearly Senior Management Retreat at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The retreat started with an open and engaging conversation with White House Counsel, Neil Eggleston who discussed his experiences in the federal government and its utility in supporting the Obama Administration as White House Counsel.

In support of Secretary Pritzker’s “America is Open for Business” Agenda, the Office of the General Counsel hosted two panel sessions supporting Strategic Goals Two and Three, Innovation and Environment. One panel focused on the overall lifecycle of innovation and was led by Vikrum Aiyer, Deputy Chief of Staff for the United States Patent and Trademark Office and Gregory Godbout, Deputy Associate Administrator and Executive Director of 18F at the General Services Administration. On environment, the additional panel focused on the impact of climate change and the Administration’s response with guest speakers Brandi Colander, Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the Department of the Interior and Tom Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Deputy General Counsel Justin Antonipillai discussed the Secretary’s vision on management, mentoring, and training at the Commerce Department

New USPTO Office in Denver Will Spur Innovation and Accelerate Solving the World’s Problems

Steve Katsaros, Founder and CEO, Nokero International Ltd. holding his patent

Guest blog post by Steve Katsaros, Founder and CEO, Nokero International Ltd.

Ed note: Nokero (short for "No Kerosene") designs, manufactures and distributes safe, affordable, and environmentally-friendly solar based technologies. The solar lights and solar battery chargers are high-quality and low-cost, eliminating the need for harmful and polluting fuels around the world.


Yesterday, June 30, 2014, was the opening of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Rocky Mountain Satellite Office. We were joined at the opening ceremony by Deputy USPTO Director Lee, Acting U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Andrews, Commissioner of Patents Focarino, U.S. Senators Bennett and Udall, Denver Mayor Hancock, Members of the Colorado Congressional delegation, and others. 

I had the privilege of addressing a crowd of more than 200 and share my thoughts as a Colorado entrepreneur and beneficiary of the U.S. patent system.

To introduce my company and my vision, I ask you to imagine life without electricity. Picture yourself in a mud hut with a tin roof --soot so thick that you avoid touching the walls. Picture a lamp burning kerosene, its emissions of black carbon, unburned kerosene and known carcinogens filling the room. Do you smell the burning kerosene and taste the soot as it is pulled into your lungs? 

No human should live like this.

Nokero (short for No Kerosene) is a Colorado company that has globalized its inventions to tackle energy poverty.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Opens New Satellite Office in Denver, Colorado to Speed up the Patent Process and Create Local Jobs

Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews (L) is joined by Senator Bennet, Deputy USPTO Director Lee, Mayor Hancock and others at the ribbon cutting for the USPTO's Denver office

Today Acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews and Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee opened the permanent location for the USPTO Rocky Mountain Regional Office in in Denver’s central business district to help the region’s entrepreneurs advance cutting-edge ideas to the marketplace, grow their businesses, and more efficiently navigate the world’s strongest intellectual property system.

Through the ‘Open for Business Agenda,’ the Commerce Department is actively investing in communities across the country to build their capacity to spur innovation. They strongly support innovative startups and enterprises throughout their lifecycle because those companies produce economic growth, support good-paying jobs, and benefit America’s middle class. The Department also believes that this new USPTO satellite office will help the Rocky Mountain region’s inventors and entrepreneurs speed up their innovative products and technologies into the marketplace.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hopes that by retaining and hiring more talented examiners locally they can further improve the overall quality and transparency of their operations while continuing to reduce patent pendency on a national scale. 

The new Rocky Mountain Regional Satellite Office is expected to create an estimated 130 high-quality, good-paying jobs, that will eventually house patent examiners, Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) judges, and outreach officials in a 45,000-square-foot space located in the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building.

Intellectual Property Key to Protecting Pharma and Biotech Innovation

Intellectual Property Key to Protecting Pharma and Biotech Innovation

Did you know the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office plays an important role in getting biotechnology and pharmaceutical products to market? Biotech and pharma are major areas of patenting for the USPTO. In fact, since 2009, the USPTO granted more than 31,000 patents in the “Molecular Biology and Microbiology” classification, and about 30,000 in the “Drug, Bio-Affecting and Body Treating Compositions” classification. There has also been a significant increase in recent years in patents granted for medical devices. In 2012, the USPTO granted more than 16,000 patents in that category, a 157 percent increase in five years. 

On Wednesday June 25, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee spoke at the BIO International Convention in San Diego, California on the importance of patents in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Read Deputy Director Lee’s speech. 

“When you do find that one-in-a-hundred success—that drug that truly works—it’s critical that you have the patent protection necessary to get that drug to market and recoup your investment on the 99 attempts that didn’t succeed,” said Lee. 

The importance of intellectual property in innovation is exemplified through the pioneers and patent holders who were recently inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, a program managed by the USPTO in partnership with the non-profit Invent Now. 

One of these inductees, Dr. Richard DiMarchi,has received international recognition for the discovery of peptide-based polypharmacy directed at the treatment of diabetes and obesity. He received a patent for Insulin LisPro, better known by its trademarked name, Humalog®, which is currently used daily by more than a million patients with Type 2 diabetes. Dr. DiMarchi continues to engage in research, and recently said that one of his unachieved goals is to focus on a disease like Alzheimer’s, reduce it to a molecular target, and then design a drug that will work in human clinical studies. 

Strong intellectual property is key to protecting innovation in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, and the USPTO continues to work on the White House executive actions to issue the highest quality patents possible, add transparency to our patent system, and level the playing field for all players. 

Protecting Your IP Overseas – Three Things to Know

Protecting Your IP Overseas – Three Things to Know

Planning to export? Don’t forget about your intellectual property!

Some U.S. companies have found that foreign manufacturers have copied their products, packaging, and business plans, even though they had never done business abroad. Foreign counterfeiters can easily steal your product pictures, brochures and logos from your website, and apply for trademarks and patents in their country, if you have not registered them there already. For this reason, many U.S. small companies seek trademark and patent protection in large potential markets well in advance of actually exporting to those markets.

As World Trade Month 2014 comes to a close, here are three things to remember about protecting your intellectual property (IP) as you embark on making sales internationally.

  1. Contact an IP Attaché. Located in U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world, they can explain options for protecting IP rights overseas.
  2. Take advantage of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Under the PCT, an inventor, who has not publicly disclosed his invention, can file a single international patent application in one language to begin the process of seeking patent protection in up to 148 PCT member countries. The PCT gives applicants the flexibility of having more time to study the market to determine the countries in which a patent will be necessary.
  3. Similarly, the Madrid Protocol allows trademark owners to seek protection of their marks in multiple member countries by filing one international application with their home trademark office, in one language, with one set of fees, and in one currency. The owner designates the member countries in which they want trademark protection, and their application information is forwarded to each designated country to examine it according to their domestic trademark laws.

Learn more about how the United States Patent and Trademark Office can help you safeguard your intellectual property overseas.

General Counsel Kelly Welsh Visits USPTO during Community Day

Celebrating diversity in the workplace is important to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). General Counsel Kelly Welsh joined USPTO General Counsel Sarah Harris in celebrating the USPTO’s 17th Annual Community Day. Annually, the USPTO hosts Community Day to rededicate the importance of diversity and the impact it has in creating innovative approaches in client engagement, team building, and better work product. The event brings the community of the USPTO together to show not only how they differ in individual backgrounds and lives, but how they can come together to form the greatest intellectual property community in the world. General Counsel Welsh also met with the USPTO’s senior leadership, legal chiefs, staff attorneys and support staff. After meeting with USPTO staff, an official program commenced with reflections by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Michelle Lee and Mayor of the City of Alexandria William Euille. Following the program, the community set up booths discussing their organizations and a food fair for the public.

PTO Addresses Importance of Intellectual Property for World IP Day

Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

Today I had the opportunity to discuss the importance of intellectual property during a World IP Day event at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. I want to share my remarks with you through this blog:

One of the challenges I’ve come to appreciate in my own career in IP law, and particularly as Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, is how to facilitate a better and broader public understanding of the importance of intellectual property in our daily lives. Let’s face it: As engineers, scientists, academics, and lawyers, we don’t always do a great job helping get the public as excited about intellectual property as we are, or in helping them see the connection between intellectual property, the products they enjoy, and the IP-related jobs created every year in our innovation economy. As recently as 2012, a Commerce Department study found that IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion dollars to, or 34.8 percent of, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). That’s a huge part of our economy.

As a child of the Silicon Valley, I saw the power of innovation and intellectual property up close and personal. My parents were immigrants, drawn across the Pacific Ocean by the promise of the American Dream. My father was an engineer, and so were all of the dads on the street where I grew up. They worked for tech companies of all sizes, often founded by just one person who grew their businesses through the power of intellectual property. Many of them had the experience of creating an invention, patenting it, and using the protection that patent provided to obtain venture capital funding, hire employees, and begin producing and selling new products and services. Seeing that process as a child made an indelible impression on me, and I never had much doubt about what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” But of course my childhood was shaped by intellectual property in other ways that I didn’t always recognize or appreciate.

Big Data is Big Business for Commerce

Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms (center) along with Erie Meyer, Joel Gurin, Waldo Jaquith, and Daniel Castro at the Center for Data Innovation hosted “The Economic Benefits of Open Data” event

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

Big Data and Open Data are all the rage these days. However, Commerce was into Big Data before Big Data was cool. As far back as 1790, we began collecting data on patents in the U.S. and the Census Bureau conducted the first Decennial Census the same year. In 1870, the National Weather Service was created – which today is one of the biggest data producing agencies around.

Back then, our economy was based largely on agriculture. Over the years, our economy evolved through the industrial revolution, later giving rise to the strong service sector. Today, we are at the nascent stages of the next era in our economic growth, the information age. On a daily basis, there is an ever-increasing amount of data becoming available, and the demand for data is increasing exponentially. We have before us both great opportunity and fascinating challenges to understand how best to harness this national resource. This is a key focus of Commerce’s Open for Business Agenda.

You may not know it, but the Department of Commerce is home to many agencies that are your primary source for data that you likely use every day.

For example:

  • How many people live in the U.S. or in your hometown? You might know the Census Bureau is the authority on population, but did you know the Census Bureau’s data goes well beyond just population? Census also produces huge volumes of data on our economy, demographics, and fascinatingly insightful data describing our communities – or, if you are a business, your customers.
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis is a little know agency that produces key economic data and many of the closely watched economic indicators that move markets, drive investment decisions and guide economic policy. Do you know which industries are the leading sources of income in your community, or to your customers? BEA data can tell you.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is your primary source for weather, ocean and climate data – they are collecting data every minute of every day from land, sea, and even spaced-based sensors. When you hear the local forecast or hear about severe weather warning, that is NOAA data informing you about your environment in real time.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology, locally known as NIST, is our nation’s authority on broad swaths of scientific, cyber, and physical data – including, officially, what time it is.
  • We also have data on patents going back more than 200 years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is a gold mine of inspiration for innovation.
  • Other agencies in Commerce provide data on economic development, minority businesses, trade, and telecommunications and the Internet.

On any given day, the Department will generate in excess of 20 terabytes of data, and sometimes much more. Yet, we think we can do more with this resource. We want to take every step we can to open access to it to the entrepreneurs and innovators of America, as we are pretty convinced that there is huge unmet value and potential. We understand that a huge part of the value of data is when it is not seen alone, but as part of a rich tapestry of information. We believe that there is great opportunity to solve problems, innovate new businesses, and improve data-driven decision-making, and we are committed to that path.

That is why I was so glad to be a part of today’s launch of the Open Data 500 Project, housed out of the GovLab at NYU. This exciting project has verified what we were certain must be true: That hundreds of American companies are using Commerce data every day to innovate and deliver important goods and services to their customers.

US Patent and Trademark Office Now Accepting Applications for 2014 Patents for Humanity Program

Patents for Humanity

The U.S. Commerce Department’s United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced that Patents for Humanity is being renewed as an annual program. Started as a one-year pilot in 2012, the program recognizes businesses, inventors, non-profits, and universities who leverage their intellectual property portfolio to tackle global humanitarian challenges.

2013 Patents for Humanity pilot award winners pioneered innovative business models in frontier markets to deliver much-needed HIV medicine, create more nutritious food products for the poor, and deliver solar energy to off-grid villages, among others. Building on the success of the pilot, USPTO will institute an annual competition to reward entrepreneurs and innovators who deploy patented technologies to address global challenges in five categories that reflect the President's development agenda: medicine, nutrition, sanitation, household energy, and living standards.

The USPTO expects to select about 10 winners this year who will receive public recognition and an acceleration certificate to expedite select proceedings at the USPTO. Honorable mentions will also be awarded with a more limited certificate to accelerate a patent application of the recipient's choosing. USPTO launched Patents for Humanity in February 2012 as part of an Obama administration initiative encouraging game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges. In January 2013, Patents for Humanity received an award for Best National IP and Technology Transfer Policy of 2012 from Licensing Executives Society International (LESI), a leading non-profit that supports IP professionals.

For details on how to apply for a 2014 award, view the Federal Register notice or learn more about the Patents for Humanity program.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Supports IP Protection at Commemoration of 700,000th Design Patent

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and a student at the Langdon Education Campus explore a LeapFrog handheld device, the 700,000th design patent awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office

Intellectual property protections are essential to helping unlock American innovation. Patents and trademarks give entrepreneurs the confidence and security they need to invest in new R&D, new businesses, and new employees. That confidence and security translates into $5 trillion of economic output at year -- a 2012 Commerce Department study found that industries that rely most heavily on IP protections support 40 million U.S. jobs and more than one-third of GDP. In order to help create the conditions for economic growth, the Commerce Department is making the country’s IP laws work even better.  

As part of these efforts, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee and Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino today for a ceremony commemorating the 700,000th design patent. The patent was assigned to LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. for the design of “Leapster Explorer,” a hand-held learning and play device for 4-to-9-year-olds, featuring a touch screen and 3D graphics.  At the ceremony, which took place at the Langdon Education Campus in Washington, DC, Secretary Pritzker and Deputy Director Lee presented the patent to Leapfrog Senior Vice President and General Counsel Robert Lattuga. 

Every day, USPTO is awarding more utility and design patents to entrepreneurs and businesses to help them grow, innovate, and compete. Last year alone, USPTO issued 22,000 applications for design patents, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.  A design consists of the visual, ornamental characteristics embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture. Applications in this area cover designs of computer equipment, cell phones and other handheld electronic devices, such as the Leapfrog Design Patent Number 700,000. 

The Obama Administration has been a strong supporter of efforts to make the patent system works more efficiently. President Obama recently announced a number of new executive actions to increase transparency in patent ownership, provide more training to patent examiners, and help inventors and small business owners who unexpectedly find themselves facing patent litigation. 

At today’s ceremony, USPTO also announced a new Intellectual Property patch for Girl Scouts in the National Capital Region (GSCNC). The new patch was developed as a joint project between the GSCNC and the USPTO, in collaboration with the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation (IPO). The patch is designed to support curriculum and activities that increase understanding of IP, especially as it relates to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Department of Commerce releases FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan

Plan priorities are in direct alignment with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda”

Today the Department of Commerce released its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2014 to 2018. The five-year plan, along with the recently released FY15 budget, provides the pathway for meeting the Department’s long-term goals and objectives. The plan, summarizes the key strategies and initiatives that will drive progress in the Department’s five priority areas:

  • Trade and Investment. Expanding the U.S. economy through increased exports and foreign direct investment that leads to more and better American jobs.
  • Innovation. Fostering a more innovative U.S. economy—one that is better at inventing, improving, and commercializing products and technologies that lead to higher productivity and  competitiveness.
  • Data. Improve government, business, and community decisions and knowledge by transforming Department data capabilities and supporting a data-enabled economy.
  • Environment. Ensuring communities and businesses have the necessary information, products, and services to prepare for and prosper in a changing environment.
  • Operational Excellence. Delivering better services, solutions, and outcomes that benefit the American people.

The creation of the strategic plan was a collaborative effort involving staff from every Department of Commerce bureau and serves as a foundation for economic growth and opportunity. The plan is in direct alignment with the  “Open for Business Agenda,” which reflects the Department’s role as the voice of business, and the Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. Department leaders and employees will use this plan to transform strategies into actions, and actions into results.

Read a summary of the plan or the entire plan.


Spotlight on Commerce: Joyce Ward, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Spotlight on Commerce: Joyce Ward, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Joyce Ward, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

I have the honor of serving as the Director of the Office of Education and Outreach at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I am fortunate to work with a dedicated, talented, and passionate team of people who believe deeply in the importance of educating, inspiring, and encouraging students and the people who educate them, whether they are teachers, parents, mentors, or members of the community.
Intellectual property (IP)—tangible ideas that can be bought and sold and traded—empowers people and has the potential to change society in ways both big and small. We’ve seen it over and over throughout our history with inventions such as the electric microphone, the artificial respirator, optical fiber, methods for storing blood, and countless other innovations that were developed by people with extraordinary ideas, vision, and sheer tenacity.
The Office of Education and Outreach is charged with developing, augmenting, and implementing education and outreach programming that increases knowledge and awareness of IP among stakeholders, and provides capacity building for future generations of inventors and innovators. To carry out that mission, we develop educational materials, build strategic partnerships, conduct professional development workshops for educators nationally, and provide hands-on experiences for students to help them make the connection between ideas and actualization.
I grew up in rural eastern North Carolina on Highway 58 between Wilson and Greene counties. The entrepreneurial spirit is in my DNA. Both of my parents were small business owners, and my great grandfather, first generation out of slavery, started his own business, which survived for close to 100 years. My father, a teacher by training, started a moving and storage company that evolved into a used furniture and antique shop. He also supported my mother in her business, which morphed from a gas station, convenience store, and used car lot to a restaurant and night club.

Encouraging Innovation, Not Litigation

Secretary Pritzker at the White House promoting the Administration's Patent Action

Importance of Patent Reform

America’s entrepreneurs, businesses, and workers are the primary source of new ideas that drive innovation. Patents, trademarks and copyrights–the main protections in our intellectual property (IP) system–are critical tools that help commercialize innovative, game-changing ideas, from advances in healthcare technology to improved consumer products. By creating a better environment for America’s private sector to capitalize on those ideas, IP protections help foster the innovation and creativity that leads to a stronger economy and more jobs.

In 2012, economists at the U.S. Department of Commerce studied industries that use patent, copyright or trademark protections most extensively, and found that these “IP-intensive industries” account for over one-third of our nation’s GDP, more than 60 percent of our exports, and nearly 28 percent of jobs. Clearly, IP protection is a pillar of the United States economy.

Department of Commerce’s Commitment

The Commerce Department is playing a major role in ensuring that the United States remains the world’s strongest ideas-driven economy with a 21st century patent system. A core part of the Commerce Department’s mission is to help American businesses build things here and sell them everywhere around the globe. That is why U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker made innovation a main pillar of the “Open for Business Agenda” that she launched in November to continue to serve entrepreneurs and businesses that drive innovation. 

Uncovering History’s Black Women Inventors

Dr. Patricia E. Bath and a drawing of her patent

Editor's note: This has been cross-posted from Inventor's Eye, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Publication for the Independent Inventor Community

February and March are Black History Month and Women’s History Month, respectively. Inventors Eye takes a look at past and present to salute the many Black women inventors who have contributed to the growth of innovation in America.

Black women throughout American history have impacted and contributed to our nation’s culture of innovation. Patents offer a unique lens through which to view history. By tracing the technologies patents protect—or once protected—as well as the inventors listed on those patents, an image of the past emerges. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents for more than 200 years. That’s a lot of history, and it contains many stories of successful black women who have changed the technological face of America. Today, black women continue to ignite the spark of genius and make key and meaningful contributions to America’s inventive process. 

The trove of historical information locked in patents can be a challenge to extract, as patents do not record extensive personal details about inventors such as race. Adding to the difficulty is the common practice of early inventors to use initials as a way to conceal their identity or gender. There is ongoing debate about the first black woman inventor, but modern research tools have made it less difficult to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. Though we may never be able to tell the full story of black women inventors, the findings reveal that they have consistently conceived innovative ideas and aggressively filed patent applications throughout history.

Martha Jones of Amelia County, Va., might have become the first black woman to receive a United States patent. Her application for an “Improvement to the Corn Husker, Sheller” was granted U.S. patent No. 77,494 in 1868. Jones claimed her invention could husk, shell, cut up, and separate husks from corn in one operation, representing a significant step forward in the automation of agricultural processes. Five years later in 1873, Mary Jones De Leon of Baltimore was granted U.S. patent No. 140,253 for a novel cooking apparatus. De Leon’s invention consisted of the construction and arrangement of a device for heating food by dry heat and steam. The design of the apparatus shows that it was an early precursor to the steam tables now found often at food buffets.

Other documented 19th century black women inventors include Judy W. Reed and Sarah Goode. Reed, from Washington, D.C., was granted a patent in 1884 for a dough kneader and roller (U.S. patent No. 305,474) and Goode, from Chicago, was granted a patent in 1885 for a folding cabinet chair (U.S. patent No. 322,177).

A New Partner in Implementing Our Innovation Agenda

A New Partner in Implementing Our Innovation Agenda

Guest blog post from Dr. Patrick Gallagher, NIST Director performing the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Commerce 

Yesterday, I had the honor of swearing in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) new deputy director, Michelle Lee. 

Lee most recently served as the first director of the USPTO’s satellite office in the Silicon Valley, which has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of startups and companies in the high tech industry. While serving as director, Lee and her team actively engaged in patent and trademark education and outreach efforts to the vibrant entrepreneur community in Silicon Valley. 

Beyond the Silicon Valley office, Lee has played a broader role in helping shape key policy matters impacting the nation’s intellectual property system, focusing closely on efforts to continually strengthen patent quality, as well as curbing abusive patent litigation. Prior to becoming Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO, Lee served two terms on the USPTO’s Patent Public Advisory Committee, whose members are appointed by the U.S. Commerce Secretary and serve to advise the USPTO on its policies, goals, performance, budget and user fees.

 The USPTO has four satellite offices nationwide, which enable the agency to provide more resources to more area entrepreneurs, tailor programs to local startups and industries, and more effectively create good-paying, high-skilled jobs. 

The satellite offices are just one part of the USPTO’s work to protect the cutting-edge ideas that keep America globally competitive, help entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly, and help empower innovators with more resources to protect and scale their products. The agency’s work also puts them in the critical role of supporting the growth of regional innovation ecosystems. 

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Selects San Jose City Hall as Permanent Space for Silicon Valley Satellite Office

View of exterior of City Hall (credit: Atsuke)

Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that the San Jose City Hall building will be the permanent location for the USPTO’s Silicon Valley satellite office, and is scheduled to open by the end of 2014.

The selection of a permanent USPTO office in the Silicon Valley is a key part of the Commerce Department and Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen American innovation. As a driver of U.S. competitiveness and job growth, promoting and strengthening innovation is a major priority in U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which was launched last week.

The USPTO plays a vital role in helping protect cutting-edge, American ideas that drive our economy and keep the U.S. globally competitive. The satellite offices specifically advance the Department’s innovation agenda by helping entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly, provide tailored resources to local start-ups and industries, and create good paying, high-skilled jobs.

USPTO Celebrates Our Next Generation of Inventors

USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea and Winning Inventors of the “PrestoPatch”

Today Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Teresa Stanek Rea, welcomed America’s future innovative leaders to the USPTO headquarters for this year’s Collegiate Inventors Competition.

Introduced in 1990 and co-sponsored by the USPTO and Invent Now, the competition encourages invention, entrepreneurship and creativity in students who are working on cutting-edge inventions at their colleges and universities. Outstanding inventions in science, engineering, mathematics, technology (STEM) and other creative fields are judged by a panel of National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees and USPTO officials.

The competition recognizes inventors and scientists early in their careers, and rewards students’ pioneering ideas as they address the problems of today’s world. Past finalists and winners have gone on to start their own companies based on their inventions, win prestigious fellowships and grants and receive national attention for their work.

This year’s finalists and winners trended strongly towards medical advances. Entries included a next-generation cancer chemotherapy patch; a powered upper body exoskeleton for physical therapy and occupational lifting applications; a mechanical leech for post-surgical treatment of tissue reattachment patients; a DNA sequence-based invention for the early detection of ovarian and endometrial cancers; and an intravenous drip designed to enable clinicians in developing countries to provide dehydrated children with life-saving intravenous fluids without the risk of overhydration.

Commerce Achieves Record Veteran Hiring Numbers in 2013

Veterans Day 2013 - Honoring All Who Served

In honor of Veterans Day, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the Department of Commerce’s commitment to hiring veterans. In Fiscal Year 2013, 13.2 percent of new Commerce hires were veterans and 3.6 percent were disabled veterans, the highest numbers of veterans the Department has employed in over 20 years.

The Department of Commerce (DOC) Veteran Employment Council, made up of volunteer human resources (HR) specialists, advisors, and program managers, plays a major role in hiring and retaining veterans and works with the individuals once they come on board.

“Here at Commerce, we take hiring veterans very seriously,” said Kevin Mahoney, Commerce’s Chief Human Capital Officer and Director, Office of Human Resources Management. “I would like to thank the DOC Veteran Employment Council for their hard work throughout the year, and we look forward to seeing even higher numbers next year.”

This year, the Department of Commerce trained over 3,100 hiring managers and human resources specialists on veterans’ preference and special appointing authorities for veterans and disabled veterans. Top performing agencies in the Department of Commerce for veteran hiring include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at 31.8 percent, the Office of the Secretary (OS) at 20 percent, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at 16.2 percent and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at 13.2 percent.

United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

Annual funding for the government expired on September 30. The Administration strongly believed that a lapse in funding should not occur. The Department is prepared for a lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations. Prior to a potential lapse in funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations (PDF) in the absence of appropriations (a “shutdown plan”).

The plan may be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant. This plan (PDF) complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce. All employees who are Presidentially Appointed, Senate Confirmed will remain on duty.

In compliance with the restrictions of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Department of Commerce will maintain the following services and activities during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Weather, water, and climate observing, prediction, forecast, warning, and support
• Law enforcement activities for the protection of marine fisheries
• Fisheries management activities including quota monitoring, observer activities, and regulatory actions to prevent overfishing
• Essential natural resource damage assessment activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident
• Water level data for ships entering U.S. ports, critical nautical chart updates and accurate position information.
• Patent and trademark application processing
• Operation of the national timing and synchronization infrastructure as well as the National Vulnerability Database
• Maintenance, continuity and protection of certain research property and critical data records
• All services of the National Technical Information Service
• Export enforcement – the ongoing conduct of criminal investigations, and prosecutions, and coordination with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in furtherance of our national security
• Budget operations required to support excepted activities under a shutdown, such as tracking of obligations and funds control.

The following services and activities will not be available during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Most research activities at NIST and NOAA (excluding real-time regular models on research computers used for Hurricane and FAA flight planning)
• Assistance and support to recipients of grant funding
• Technical oversight of non-mission essential contracts
• Services and activities provided by:
−Bureau of Economic Analysis
−Economic Development Administration
−Economics and Statistics Administration
−Minority Business Development Agency
−Bureau of the Census
• Most services and activities provided by the International Trade Administration

USPTO Marks Second Anniversary of Milestone Patent Law—The America Invents Act

Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea of the United States Patent and Trademark Office provides opening remarks at a public forum marking the 2nd anniversary of the America Invents Act, the biggest overhaul of the nation’s patent laws since the 19th century.

When President Obama took office, he made overhaul of the patent system one of his top priorities. New innovations and ideas play a crucial role in creating American jobs, stimulating our economy, and remaining globally competitive.

And it was two years ago today that the president signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law, setting in motion the most significant changes to the U.S. patent system since 1836. In just two years, the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) implementation of AIA has contributed to a more internationally harmonized, more predictable, and more flexible patent system for the United States, and one that is much more responsive to 21st century realities.

USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea marked the anniversary during a public forum at USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va., today. The meeting served as an opportunity to bring stakeholders together with USPTO experts to address and answers questions on AIA provisions.

Secretary Pritzker Tells Employees in the Northwest their Efforts are Key to American Innovation

Secretary Pritzker today in Seattle kicked-off her first visit to the Northwest as Commerce Secretary by visiting with EDA employees and employees from U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), part of the International Trade Administration (ITA), U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) and Office of Inspector General (OIG). The secretary's visit is part of her latest stop on a nationwide listening tour and was an opportunity to thank the employees for their work for the Department of Commerce. 

At the meeting, the Secretary told employees gathered at the EDA regional office that the common thread in the bureaus throughout the department is working together to protect, promote, anticipate and inform what America needs to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century. This is the mission of the Commerce Department.

Secretary Pritzker praised the agencies in attendance for the great work they are doing in the region.

  • U.S. PTO patent examiners were spotlighted for helping Americans turn ideas into businesses quickly, even as PTO has had several straight years of 5 to 7 percent increases in patent applications.
  • The Seattle U.S. Export Assistance Center was praised by the Secretary for their work in industries like aerospace and defense which has proven to be crucial in growing exports and reaching record breaking numbers in the first half of this year. Recent Commerce data show that exports support nearly 40% of all manufacturing workers in Washington.
  • EDA’s regional office was acknowledged for their efforts in serving 8 states and a number of territories. EDA funds helped build a Pipeline Training Center in Alaska, expand a fiber optic network in California and launched several of new Jobs Accelerators. 
  • And, the Inspector General’s office was recognized for the crucial role they play. From reviewing NOAA’s fisheries enforcement efforts, climate monitoring systems, and other NOAA programs, their work ensures the Department is doing the best possible job.

Secretary Pritzker concluded her visit by encouraging the employees to continue their great work. She believes America is more competitive than ever before. Over the past 41 months, 7.3 million jobs were created. She said the Commerce Department’s goal is to accelerate that momentum through the great work of Commerce employees in the Northwest region, throughout the country, and across the world.

Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force Releases Report on Digital Copyright Policy

Report cover

Department Publishes Green Paper on Updating Copyright Policies for the Internet Age

The U.S. Department of Commerce today released a green paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy (Green Paper) to advance discussion on a set of policy issues critical to economic growth. The Green Paper discusses the goals of maintaining an appropriate balance between rights and exceptions as the law continues to be updated; ensuring that copyright can be meaningfully enforced on the Internet; and furthering the development of an efficient online marketplace.

The Green Paper released today is the most thorough and comprehensive analysis of digital copyright policy issued by any administration since 1995. The report is a product of the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) with input from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Through the IPTF, the USPTO and NTIA will solicit further public comments and convene roundtables and forums on a number of key policy issues.

“Copyright law strikes a number of important balances in delineating what is protectable and what is not, determining what uses are permitted without a license, and establishing appropriate enforcement mechanisms to combat piracy, so that all stakeholders benefit from the protection afforded by copyright,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “Ensuring that our copyright policy provides incentives for creativity while promoting innovation on the Internet is a critical and challenging task. The Green Paper released today is an important step toward ensuring that the United States’ creative industries continue to have a substantial impact on strengthening our nation’s economy.” 

Copyright has been a vital contributor to U.S. cultural and economic development for more than two hundred years, fostering the production and dissemination of the valuable expression that has put America at the forefront of the global creative marketplace. Maintaining a balanced and effective copyright system should continue to drive the production of creative works while at the same time preserving the innovative power of the Internet and the free flow of information. The Green Paper provides a comprehensive review of current policy related to copyright and the Internet, and identifies important issues that call for attention and development of solutions. The solutions may entail a combination of legal remedies, technology, private sector cooperation, and public outreach and education, along with the continued development of options to legally access copyrighted works.

Readout of U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s Visit With Commerce Employees in Denver, Colorado

Secretary Penny Pritzker Meets with Commerce Employees in the Denver Office

While in Denver, Colorado, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Pritzker met with the heads of the Commerce Department’s local offices, including: International Trade Administration’s U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), the U.S. Census Bureau, the Inspector General (IG), and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). In addition to these meetings, she also spoke to employees about their work and ways in which their efforts are supporting economic growth and development in Colorado.

Today’s discussion in Denver served as an extension of an employee town hall she held yesterday in Boulder. The secretary emphasized how their work is crucial to creating a better quality of life for Americans and more opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses. She also asked employees for their input in the department’s ongoing efforts to protect, promote, and inform what America needs to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century.

These employee engagement opportunities are part of the secretary’s overall efforts to serve as a bridge to the business community so that the public and private sectors can work together to create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.

Spotlight on Commerce: Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, USPTO

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

As the Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) I am responsible for the delivery of all administrative service support functions for the USPTO including human capital strategy, human resource management, telework policy and programs, facilities management, safety and security, transportation, asset and records management.  I am fortunate to work with a team of nearly 200 professionals in the delivery of these vital services to our colleagues at the USPTO.  My team and I pride ourselves on being a customer-centric and service-oriented team.  

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and when I was nine years old, after one particularly bad Cleveland winter, my mother, grandmother and I moved to Boca Raton, Florida. So I really grew up there.  I am a proud graduate of Boca Raton Community High School.  

After high school, I attended Duke University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics. Growing up near the water led to being interested in a career with the U.S. Navy. I was a member of the Duke Navy ROTC battalion and upon graduation was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. My first station was as part of the commissioning crew of the USS Vandegrift (FFG-48). I later went on to serve as Second Company Officer at the U.S. Naval Academy and Executive Assistant to The Commandant of Midshipmen. I left the Navy in 1989 and went to work as a junior consultant for Coopers & Lybrand and while working earned a Master of Business Administration from The George Washington University. Today, I am married to my partner of 20 years, Robert Murphy, and we live in the District of Columbia with our black lab, Sammi Jo.

Commerce Bureaus Play Key Role in Intellectual Property Accomplishments and Future Priorities

The Obama administration today released its 2013 Intellectual Property Enforcement Joint Strategic Plan. Since the issuance of its first Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement three years ago, the administration has made major accomplishments toward strengthening intellectual property (IP) enforcement, including increasing its use of trade policy tools, reducing online infringement and supporting American entrepreneurs and intellectual property-intensive industries that strengthen our economy.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Office of General Counsel's Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) all play important roles in these efforts.

The USPTO undertakes a wide range of policy, legal, operational and regulatory efforts and initiatives that enhance intellectual property protection both at home and abroad. For example, USPTO provided technical assistance to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to ensure that Colombia, Korea and Panama implemented IP rights enforcement provisions in our free trade agreements with the three countries. USPTO has also conducted several capacity building initiatives and training programs, including several with foreign judges, countries and organizations to facilitate more effective IP rights enforcement systems abroad.

To help small and medium-sized American businesses interested in doing business in China, the USPTO has conducted several events nationwide providing information on patents, trade secrets, trademarks, copyright and enforcement. The USPTO also has IP attachés who actively work to improve the protection of U.S. intellectual property rights overseas. In addition to experts in the U.S., these attachés have sponsored training seminars teaching best practices in applying and enforcing intellectual property laws with representatives from nearly 20 countries. To assess the impact of intellectual property on the U.S. economy, the USPTO collaborated with Commerce’s Economic and Statistics Administration (ESA) to publish the Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus report, which found that the top IP-intensive industries in the U.S. support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product.

Spotlight on Commerce: Vikrum Aiyer, Special Adviser, USPTO

Portrait of Vikrum Aiyer

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Vikrum Aiyer, Special Adviser to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, USPTO

Some of the most disruptive solutions to the world's most pressing challenges are laid out in applications submitted to our office. And through the review of over half a million proposals for new products and technologies annually, I have the privilege to work alongside a team that helps protect those cutting-edge innovations in the global marketplace, with intellectual property rights.

We all know that the United States faces genuine economic competition in more sectors, from more companies, and from more places than ever before. But in order to write the next chapters of growth and remain the world’s chief global competitor, we must smartly and immediately invest in the very infrastructure that fosters American inventive potential. That’s why the agency has been hard at work to retool our nation’s patent laws from the ground up, making it easier, more cost effective, and more efficient for businesses of all stripes to protect their products and services. 

Being raised in Silicon Valley, and as the son of a physicist spearheading his own enterprise, I recognize that there is no shortage of great ideas in America, but there are barriers to getting those ideas off the ground. So the opportunity to serve as a Special Adviser to the Under Secretary hits especially close to home for me, as I help assess challenges start-ups and technologists face by spearheading our public partnerships with key stakeholders around the country. The role gives me the chance to advise the Under Secretary on how to connect inventors with the tools they need to protect their companies, while also empowering me to publicly frame and communicate how the administration’s intellectual property priorities drive export and manufacturing possibilities in America. 

USPTO Honors Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees

The National Inventors Hall of Fame 2013 Class of Inductees (seated) with living inductees attending the 41st Annual Induction Ceremony held at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Alexandria, Virginia. USPTO photo by Amando Carigo

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had the exciting privilege of honoring 17 of America’s greatest innovators Wednesday night, when they were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in ceremonies held at the USPTO’s Alexandria, Va., headquarters. Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea conferred induction medals to visionary inventors whose patented innovations include the electronic synthesizer, flat panel plasma display, iris recognition technology, and the code providing the foundation for 3G cellular systems.

Garret Brown was honored for inventing the Oscar-winning Steadicam camera stabilizer, which made Rocky Balboa’s run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum one of the most iconic moments in movie history. Emmy award winners Don Bitzer, Gene Slottow, and Robert Willson were recognized for their invention of the flat-panel plasma display, which revolutionized home entertainment. Samuel Alderson was honored posthumously for developing the crash test dummy. From its beginnings, the dummy has proven invaluable to designing and testing advances in fields of automobile safety, aviation, and medical technology.

A complete list of the honorees and their revolutionary patented inventions is located on USPTO's website.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame is the premier non-profit organization in America dedicated to honoring legendary inventors whose innovations and entrepreneurial endeavors have changed the world. Founded in 1973 by the USPTO and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Association, the Hall of Fame has 470 inductees with its 2013 induction. You can visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum in the atrium of the Madison Building on the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Va., Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.

U.S. Department of Commerce Announces Patents for Humanity Winners

Deputy Secretary Blank Speaking during the Patents For Humanity Awards Event

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced the winners of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patents for Humanity pilot program during an awards ceremony on Capitol Hill supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Launched by the USPTO in February 2012 as part of an Obama administration initiative promoting game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges, Patents for Humanity is a competition recognizing patent owners and licensees who address global challenges in health and standards of living.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director Gayle Smith and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Teresa Stanek Rea delivered remarks at the awards ceremony.

“A strong patent system is crucial to supporting our continued economic growth, and its benefits don’t stop at our borders. Patented inventions are bringing longer, healthier, fuller lives to people across the globe,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank. “As part of the President’s global development agenda, the Patents for Humanity program is a great example of how American innovation is helping solve critical global challenges and creating prosperity in emerging economies.”

Commerce’s USPTO Joins NSF and NBC Network in Launching Educational Series on Innovation

Science of Innovation banner

The U.S. Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NBC Learn today in launching an 11-part “Science of Innovation” series to coincide with the 165th birthday of American inventor Thomas Edison. The program represents the latest intellectual property (IP) education efforts by the USPTO and serves as a public-private partnership leveraging the best strengths of federal agencies, industry, and educators to demonstrate the connection between IP and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Narrated by NBC News’ Ann Curry, the series features innovators from across the country, including scientists and engineers working on projects in industries as diverse as healthcare, energy, transportation, agriculture, and more. “Science of Innovation” looks beyond the popular concept of innovation as the result of a single event or brilliant idea. Instead, it examines the processes and steps that anyone from a garage tinkerer to a federally-funded scientist can take to discover new solutions to pressing problems or to add value in new ways to existing products, services or technologies.

“The USPTO has promoted the progress of science and invention since 1790,” said Teresa Stanek Rea, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “Education is the key to encouraging today’s children to become tomorrow’s innovators. These videos and lesson plans are great tools for teachers everywhere to help students learn about intellectual property, while inspiring them to connect the process of innovation with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.”

Segments feature innovators working on cutting-edge innovations, including bionic limbs, biofuels, anti-counterfeiting devices, and 3-D printing. A full list of videos can be found online at

Spotlight on Commerce: James Smith, Chief Administrative Patent Judge

James Smith, Chief Administrative Patent Judge

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest post by James Smith, Chief Administrative Patent Judge, United States Patent and Trademark Office

It is my privilege to serve as Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I was appointed to the position in May of 2011 by then Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. Prior to taking this position I served as the Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for Baxter International, a Chicago-based healthcare company that develops medical devices and treatments for a wide range of human medical conditions. At the company, I led the part of its operations concerned with its patent, trademark and copyright matters. In the current role at the Board, I am part of – actually lead -- a 300-person team, which includes about 170 administrative patent judges who hear appeals from decisions in which the USPTO denies patent rights to applicants. The Board also hears trials which resolve disputes between patent owners and other parties seeking to have patents revoked. All of our cases bring some element of closure to outstanding patent legal issues, thus helping advance the use and protection of inventions in the United States. Our mission is squarely centered on helping innovative businesses bring about an America with great well-being for all.

For me, taking the position at the USPTO allowed me to return to Washington, DC, after being away for more than 20 years. I grew up in DC, and was a big beneficiary of the many educational things it had to offer, such as its historical sites, museums and wonderful cultural offerings. My parents, who taught in the area schools for decades, made regular use of Washington’s cultural richness in their wider instruction of all three of their children. They were big proponents of education, and always insistent that their children learn and appreciate history, including by knowing of the substantial contributions of African-American citizens to the development of our country.

Deputy Secretary Blank Joins President Obama in Honoring National Medal of Technology and Innovation Winners

President Barack Obama presents Dr. Frances H. Arnold (left), California Institute of Technology, the Medal of Technology and Innovation for her pioneering biofuels-related research that could eventually lead to the replacement of pollutant-causing material.

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank joined President Barack Obama Friday, February 1 at a White House ceremony honoring the recipients of the 2011 National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation. These medals are presented each year by the President of the United States.

The Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) administers the National Medal of Technology and Innovation honoring those that deliver technologies that are changing society and improving the quality of life. The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is this country’s highest award for technological achievement.

The medal is awarded annually to individuals, teams, companies or divisions of companies for their outstanding contributions to America’s economic, environmental and social well-being. By highlighting the national importance of technological innovation, the medal also seeks to inspire future generations of Americans to prepare for, and pursue technical careers to keep America at the forefront of global technology and economic leadership.

Commerce’s PTO Wins Award for Program Encouraging Patent Holders to Address Global Humanitarian Challenges

Patents for Humanity

The Commerce Department’s Patent and Trademark Office was honored yesterday for its Patents for Humanity initiative, a pilot program designed to encourage the use of patented technology to address humanitarian challenges. USPTO Director Kappos launched Patents for Humanity in February 2012 as part of a series of Obama administration initiatives to promote game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges. The program is an awards competition recognizing patent owners and licensees who address humanitarian needs around the globe.

“We are honored to be recognized for our Patents for Humanity initiative, which recognizes those who use patented technology to aid the less fortunate,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability of technology to transform lives is real and powerful. This program plays a key role in advancing President Obama’s global development agenda.”

Entrants compete in four categories: medical technology, food and nutrition, clean technology, and information technology. Winners receive accelerated processing of select matters at the USPTO. Applications to the pilot were accepted through Oct. 31, 2012, with winners to be announced at an awards ceremony later in 2013.

The non-profit Licensing Executives Society International (LESI) presented the National IP and Technology Transfer Policy Award to the USPTO at a ceremony in Geneva Switzerland at LESI’s annual Global Technology Impact Forum (GTIF).

Characters Featured at the USPTO’s Trademark Expo Visit the Children’s National Medical Center

Dr. Bear ® and T.Markey, the USPTO's trademark mascot, at 2011 visit to Children's National Medical Center.  Photo by Roberto Ortiz.

The costumed characters featured at the USPTO’s upcoming Trademark Expo visited the Children’s National Medical Center today.  Volunteers passed out Trademark Activity Guides, helped children complete activities involving characters that are registered trademarks, and taught children about familiar trademarks.  The visit included an introductory statement by Commissioner for Trademarks Deborah Cohn, a musical parade of costumed characters, a presentation challenging children to identify the goods and services for which characters are registered, and visits by some of the characters to children on the hospital floors.  The children’s faces lit up with joy as they watched the characters parade around and dance to music!  T.Markey, the Trademark Expo’s own mascot, was  joined by Spuddy Buddy, Crayola “Tip,” Chester Cheetah, and GEICO’s Gecko. 

An even larger cast of costumed characters will parade in front of the USPTO’s Madison Building at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 19, to begin the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 National Trademark Expo.  Representatives from Mattel, NASCAR, Inc. and the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital will join Deputy Under Secretary and USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea, Alexandria Mayor William Euille, and Commissioner Cohn in giving brief remarks. 

Commerce Announces Partnership with Cornell NYC Tech to Help American Entrepreneurs Innovate, Grow, and Create Jobs

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank announces a first-of-its-kind campus collaboration that will provide Commerce resources directly to students, faculty and industry (photo credit: Lindsay France/University Photography, Cornell)

First-of-its-kind campus collaboration will provide USPTO and Commerce resources directly to students, faculty and industry, help accelerate commercialization of new technologies

Today Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank was joined by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos and Cornell University President David J. Skorton to announce a groundbreaking agreement between the Commerce Department and Cornell University that will promote growth for American businesses and entrepreneurs. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and New York City Deputy Mayor Robert Steel also participated in the event.

Acting Secretary Blank announced that for the first time, the resources of a U.S. government agency and a major research institution will join forces to give students and researchers at Cornell’s New York City Tech Campus (Cornell NYC Tech) direct access to resources that will help them bring their ideas to market and grow their businesses.

By installing a permanent staff member of the U.S. Commerce Department at Cornell’s NYC Tech campus, the department will be bringing its full suite of resources to the university community, helping connect students, faculty and mentors to early-stage investors, intellectual property strategies, export assistance tools, government grants, and academic partners. The partnership will help Cornell’s new academic institution break down the traditional boundaries that exist between graduate education and the research and development of technology products.  Press release

USPTO Deputy Director Rea Participates in University of Michigan Law School Panel

Deputy Under Secretary for Intellectual Property and Deputy U.S.Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Teresa Stanek Rea participated today in a panel titled, "The State of Patent Litigation: A Conversation with the Federal Circuit Court" at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. The event included a keynote presentation by the Honorable Randall R. Rader, Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The America Invents Act (AIA) was the main topic of the panel discussion. Rea described how its historic reforms drive growth in both jobs and exports. Most of the AIA’s rules went into effect on September 16th, and create new avenues to ensure our patents are of the highest quality. The AIA was signed into law by President Obama last September. 

Given Ann Arbor’s proximity to Detroit, it’s not surprising that many audience members were curious to learn more about the USPTO’s first-ever satellite office in Detroit. It opened on July 13th, but examiners there are already working on patent applications from regional inventors. Rea also noted that the USPTO is hard at work looking to open additional offices in Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, and Silicon Valley.

Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Implements Most Provisions of the America Invents Act

Vice Chief Judge Jay Moore of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board explains provisions of the AIA (file photo)

The most significant reform to the U.S. patent system in more than a century is a major step forward as numerous provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 are now in effect. The new rules will spur innovation and economic growth by streamlining the patent application process and introducing new procedures to ensure patent quality. Seven reforms to U.S. patent law went into effect one year after the signing of the bipartisan patent reform legislation by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011. 

Some of the new rules include three new administrative trial provisions—inter partes review, post-grant review, and the transitional program for covered business method patents—will offer third parties timely, cost-effective alternatives to district court litigation to challenge the patentability of an issued patent; a supplemental examination provision that allows applicants to submit additional information relevant to the patentability of an issued patent to the Office in a new procedure that may protect the patent from an inequitable conduct charge; an inventors oath and declaration provision that for the first time allows assignee filing of a patent application; and a citation of prior art and written statements provision will enable the Office to treat the claims in a patent consistent with how a patent owner represents its claims to the courts or in other Office proceedings.

USPTO Hosts Webinar to Discuss Provisions of the America Invents Act that Become Effective on September 16, 2012

USPTO leadership looks on as Judge Michael Tierney of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences addresses Friday’s webinar on changes to patent laws.

In just 9 days, many provisions related to the biggest change in U.S. patent law since the 19th century go into effect, and the senior leadership of the United States Patent and Trademark Office spoke about them in an online webinar this afternoon. The America Invents Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011, modernizes our intellectual property system, ensuring that the USPTO is sufficiently resourced to operate efficiently, and affords inventors the timely and consistent patent protections they need to spur business growth and hiring.

Many of these new rules and guidelines go into effect on September 16, 2012, and they were created with input and comments from the public over the last year. Participating in today’s webinar were USPTO Director David Kappos, Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino, General Counsel Bernard Knight, Chief Judge James Smith, Lead Judge Michael Tierney, and Chief Communications Officer Todd Elmer.

Meanwhile, USPTO leadership will engage with the public even further when it begins traveling the country on Monday, September 10 for a series of “roadshows.” These roadshows will take place in eight cities—beginning in Minneapolis—and patent practitioners and the public can come to learn about how the America Invents Act is changing the law.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Promotes Innovation in Maine

PTO Director David Kappos addresses the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce in Rockport, Maine

Innovation is thriving in Maine, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Department of Commerce, and the administration are working hard to further foster that environment, Under Secretary of Commerce and USPTO Director David Kappos told the Regional Chamber of Commerce of Penobscot Bay, Maine, on Tuesday.

From 2009 to 2010, the number of patent filings in the Portland, Maine, region nearly doubled, Kappos said. “We’re doing a lot to ensure that creative ideas and groundbreaking innovations, born right here in Maine, can flourish, and that the American innovation system is one that’s built to last.”

Barriers to innovation are being reduced, Kappos said, in part through the Startup America initiative, which includes investment funds, mentoring networks for entrepreneurs, tax breaks for small businesses, and the Department of Commerce’s i6 Green Challenge. That program rewards communities that develop and embrace cutting-edge ideas in green technology development and implementation.

Kappos also highlighted promoting insourcing of U.S. jobs through robust protections of our intellectual property abroad.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Helps Atlanta Kickstart Innovation Opportunities

Director Kappos addressing Startup Atlanta (Photo by Used with permission)

Helping set a stage for success to Atlanta’s entrepreneurs, Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos was in the Georgia capital this afternoon to help launch Startup Atlanta. Created by the city’s economic development agency, Invest Atlanta, the initiative seeks to connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed.

A hallmark for Startup Atlanta is an online platform that will serve as a network for entrepreneurs while simultaneously mapping out valuable resources such as incubators, accelerators, service providers and connections.

At the event, Kappos addressed the importance of a vibrant local entrepreneur community. “Not only do the novel ideas of Georgia’s entrepreneurs have the potential to move the pulse of an industry or transform the welfare of a community,” Kappos said, “They can also attract critical resources and capital for additional research and development, creating a host of new markets and new opportunities.”

Director Kappos Promotes Innovation in Southern California

Director Kappos, seated, being interviewed

Under Secretary and United States Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos briefed southern California innovators on the many ways the Obama administration is advancing U.S. innovation. He met with technology entrepreneurs at Powerwave Technologies in Santa Ana, California, hosted by Southern California’s TechVoice chapter in conjunction with CompTIA and locally-based Technology Leadership Political Action Committee (TLPAC). The USPTO is on the eve of publishing a series of new rules implementing the America Invents Act, signed last September by President Obama, which will improve patent quality and make it easier for U.S. innovators to protect their intellectual property (IP) abroad. Attendees were briefed on AIA implementation as well as the USPTO’s plans to open four new satellite offices, including one in the Silicon Valley region of California. “By building partnerships and collaborating with the Orange County Bar and broader community,” Director Kappos said, "the USPTO will better engage its Silicon Valley office with the Southern California IP community.”

New Patent Office Will Foster Innovation, Creating a Cycle of Job Growth

Eric Kelly, President and CEO of Overland Storage

Guest blog post by Eric Kelly, President and CEO of Overland Storage

As one of the driving forces of technological innovation in the United States, Silicon Valley companies continue to create new products and opportunities that advanceall aspects of our lives. The ability to create intellectual property is critical for companies as they develop new products and protect existing assets. Last year alone, Californians made up more than a quarter of the 108,626 patents issued to U.S. inventors. 

Recently the Commerce Department announced a plan to put a satellite Patent Office in Silicon Valley. As the President and CEO of a global provider of leading data management and data protection solutions, I support this move, as it brings increased resources to streamline the patent process and creating a cycle of job growth that is good for the overall US economy.

I also believe that it is critical that the United States retain our manufacturing base to further protect the intellectual assets of our innovators. The impact of piracy and counterfeiting not only affects company sales, exports and profits, it can threaten the existence of companies that spent years and millions of dollars developing and bringing technology to market.

The world is changing at lightning speed, and Silicon Valley continues to be a force in driving change and enabling companies and individuals adapt to change. We look forward to working with Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank and the entire Commerce Department team in their efforts to ensure that companies can remain agile, innovative and competitive in today's evolving marketplace.

Government Coming to Entrepreneurs

Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK

Guest blog post by Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK.

Ed. Note: SeventyK’s mission is to change cancer care by educating patients, families, and their healthcare providers through innovative ways about age-appropriate treatment and the unique needs of the adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patient. Unlike pediatric and older adult cancer patients, for over two decades the rate of survival for AYA cancer patients has not improved.

Last Thursday I was honored to be part of a panel at the Colorado University Denver Anschutz Medical Campus where Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank discussed the importance of opening four new USPTO offices, including one in Denver.

As Acting Secretary Blank spoke to the new opportunities and growth that will spur from opening new USPTO offices, two quotes came to mind:

#1: "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it" (Albert Einstein). 

For the first time, new offices outside of Washington, D.C. will be part of the solution to accelerate innovation in this country—an important recognition that innovation doesn’t happen in one place—it happens across the country. Now entrepreneurs who need to protect their innovation have a direct line to the government locally. A strong move when seeing that IP-intensive industries account for nearly 35 percent of the FY2010 U.S. GDP.

Acting Secretary Blank Cuts Ribbon to Open U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Detroit, Michigan

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank cuts the steel ribbon, officially opening the Elijah J. McCoy USPTO Satellite Office

Acting Secretary Blank wrapped up her 3-day Innovation Tour with a stop in Detroit, Michigan today to participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially launch the Elijah J. McCoy USPTO Satellite Office. She was joined by USPTO Director Kappos, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Representatives John Dingell, John Conyers, Jr., Gary Peters, and Hansen Clarke, and local businesses and entrepreneurs.

During the ceremony, Acting Secretary Blank swore in the office’s first seven USPTO Board Judges who will review patents and help speed up the patent process. The Detroit USPTO satellite office will create approximately 120 highly-skilled jobs in its first year of operations.

In her remarks, Blank said:

And now, today, with this new office, we’re making another critical investment in the future of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the U.S. as a whole.

With the help of the McCoy office, we’re creating a stronger, more efficient patent system. That’s important because patents are the fuel for innovation.

Patents protect the intellectual property of Americans who have game-changing ideas. Patents help put those ideas to work in our economy. And patents help us out-compete the rest of the world.

We’ve already made great progress in improving our patent system. Even though patent filings grew five percent last year, we were able to actually reduce the patent backlog by 10 percent.

The McCoy office will help us continue to expand our patent system’s capacity and productivity.

Blank noted that the new office is just a beginning. An innovation-driven economy demands more support of R&D, help for universities like Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State to push their research discoveries into the marketplace, and to ensure young people can succeed in science, technology, engineering and math—the STEM fields.

Blank reiterated the President's call that we must stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas and start helping those that are trying to keep jobs here or bring them back. Citizens and government must use all of the tools at their disposal to ensure that America will continue to drive innovation and be a magnet for good jobs for the middle class. The ability to innovate and compete as a nation will determine what kind of economy—and what kind of country—is passed along to the next generation.

Innovation and the Economy

AlPatrick Kennedy, Founder and CEO of OSIsoft LLC.

Guest blog post by Patrick Kennedy, Founder and CEO of OSIsoft LLC.

ED Note:OSIsoft LLC produces the PI System, the world leading product for managing and monitoring real time information supporting quality, energy management, safety and other productivity applications. It is an 850 person software company that builds industrial software for monitoring manufacturing and one of the winners of the President’s E-Awards in 2012. OSIsoft LLC was founded in 1980 and has grown to operate in 110 countries and, in the last five years, exported over $0.5 Billion in software.

Manufacturing must be a part of a healthy economy in the US because it not only creates a lot of value add, but is nearly the only route that puts everyone to work, not just computer scientists. How do we do this?  As Dr. Michael Porter of Harvard noted, innovation -> jobs and productivity -> higher wages and the strength of the US for both of these is software.  Most new manufactured goods that are candidates for production in the US are software based (e.g. electric cars, grid storage systems, virtual power plants, photography, animation, health care instrumentations, real time tracking) and the addition of a Patent and Trademark office to Silicon Valley represents a boost to this idea.  Patents not only protect Intellectual Property they convert it to a product that you can sell worldwide to support the economy.

I am a personal believer in this, plus I believe that we have to help ourselves, not just wait for the next program. This is a private-public partnership. I am personally pulling a 12-mile loop of fiber optic cable around my city, San Leandro, to allow it to participate in software based manufacturing in the age of Big Data and rapidly changing software infrastructure (see, but will be using some of the Economic Development Grant programs to extend this deeper into the community.  Providing up to 10 Gbps pipes to business is a strong advantage to people that want to envision and experience the next generation software. The Silicon Valley already receives 1 of every 10 patents granted in the US and with our enhanced broadband, wireless, software talent and strong financial community, we will host the innovation required to re-enter manufacturing of next generation product in healthcare, energy conservation, mobility and transportation. The SF Bay Area is the heart of the software industry in the world and we want to leverage this for job creation.

Acting Secretary Blank Travels to Denver to Highlight Innovation and Newly-Announced Patent and Trademark Office

Blank was joined by Mayor Mayor Hancock and University of Colorado-Denver Chancellor Donald Don M. Elliman

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank was in Denver, Colo. today to discuss ways to support innovation and create jobs, particularly through the protection of intellectual property. In the morning, Blank attended a breakfast hosted by the Colorado Innovation Network, where she spoke with local business leaders. She listened to their ideas and suggestions for how Commerce can better support them in their efforts to create jobs by encouraging innovation.

Later this morning, the Acting Secretary delivered remarks and participated in a panel discussion on the key role that the patent system plays in strengthening the local economy and driving U.S. competitiveness at the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus. Also joining the panel were: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock; Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos; University of Colorado-Denver Chancellor Donald Don M. Elliman Jr.; Robb Walt, co-founder of the Community Power Corporation; and Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK. During the discussion, Blank noted some of the ways the Department of Commerce is supporting and fostering American innovation.

Acting Secretary Blank Begins 3-Day Innovation Tour with Stop in Silicon Valley to Discuss Newly Announced Patent and Trademark Office

Acting Secretary Blank Begins 3-Day  Innovation Tour with Stop in Silicon Valley

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks to a full house and participated in a panel discussion at San Jose State University on driving U.S. innovation to create jobs. The panel was moderated by Carl Guardino, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Blank was joined by Dr. Pat Kennedy, CEO of OSISoft, Eric Kelly, President and CEO of Overland Storage  and Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi, President of San Jose State University. During the discussion, Blank noted some of the 22 ways the Department of Commerce is supporting and fostering American innovation.

In her opening remarks, Blank noted:

This past winter, our [US Patent and Trademark] Alexandria office had a special exhibit on the ground floor – 30 giant iPhones lined up side-by-side.  Each one featured one of the many patents that Steve Jobs received. As Steve said, “The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Today, those entrepreneurs, those innovators, and those dreamers – all of you – are the reason I’m so proud to say that the Commerce Department will soon put one of its first four satellite patent offices right here in Silicon Valley.

Today, thousands of inventors here and across the country continue to help lay the foundation for America’s long-term growth and leadership.  The entrepreneurial spirit continues to thrive here in Silicon Valley. With your help, we have seen 28 straight months of private sector job growth – totaling 4.4 million jobs.  

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) plans to open a satellite office in the Silicon Valley area in an effort to help local businesses and entrepreneurs innovate quicker and grow faster. Acting Secretary Blank cited a recent Commerce Department report showed that industries that rely heavily on intellectual property protection support at least 40 million jobs – and about one-third of our GDP. That report showed that these jobs pay about 42 percent more than others. So a better patent system means good jobs and stronger economic security for millions of middle class families. 

After the panel discussion, Acting Secretary Blank attended a lunch at TechShop. TechShop is a membership-based workshop that provides members with access to tools and equipment, instruction, and a community of creative and supportive people so they can build the things they have always wanted to make. Blank spoke with local business leaders to discuss entrepreneurship, innovation and how the new patent satellite office could help to support job creation. She heard ideas about how the satellite office will meet local business needs, how the office will work with regional economic development groups focused on job creation, and whether their might be in interest tailoring the patent office’s services to meet the needs of startups, incubators and accelerators.

Blank will fly to Denver – another newly announced patent office location – and host another series of conversations with local businesses and officials about improving and continuing American innovation tomorrow.

Dallas, Denver and San Jose Join Detroit as Regional U.S. Patent Offices

United States Patent and Trademark Office Seal

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos today announced plans to open regional USPTO offices in or around Dallas, Texas, Denver, Colorado, and Silicon Valley, California. These offices are in addition to the already-announced first USPTO satellite office to open on July 13 in Detroit, Michigan. The four offices will function as hubs of innovation and creativity, helping protect and foster American innovation in the global marketplace, helping businesses cut through red tape, and creating new economic opportunities in each of the local communities.

The offices announced today will help the USPTO attract talented IP experts throughout the country who will work closely with entrepreneurs to process patent applications, reduce the backlog of unexamined patents, and speed up the overall process, allowing businesses to move their innovation to market more quickly, and giving them more room to create new jobs.

Patents are a significant factor in private sector job creation. In fact, the U.S. Commerce Department issued a recent report finding that IP-intensive industries are the source – directly or indirectly – of 40 million jobs, contributing $5.06 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2010.

Selection of the four sites was based upon a comprehensive analysis (PDF) of criteria including geographical diversity, regional economic impact, ability to recruit and retain employees, and the ability to engage the intellectual property community. The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 (AIA), signed into law by President Obama in September, requires the USPTO to establish regional satellite locations as part of a larger effort to modernize the U.S. patent system over the next three years.

“Intellectual property protection and innovation are engines of economic growth and the bedrock of America’s private sector,” said Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank. “The Obama administration is committed to making certain our businesses and entrepreneurs have the resources they need to grow, create jobs and compete globally. These new offices are an historic step toward further advancing our world’s best IP system, and reinforcing the United States as the number one destination for innovation capital, and research and development around the world.”

USPTO Hosts FIRST Lego League Innovation Award Ceremony

Teasm members seated at table

Yesterday, the Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted the second annual First Lego League (FLL) Award Ceremony, where two teams of young inventors ages six to 14 each won an FLL Global Innovation Award and a $250,000 investment to help develop their ideas for the marketplace. Both teams invented products related to this year’s theme: food safety.

The Dublin, Ohio team Moderately Confused, inspired by food spoilage caused during delivery, created the “Erasable Barcode”; if the temperature of an environment becomes unsafe for food, ink attached to the barcode will obscure a portion of the label so that the spoiled product cannot be sold.

Similarly, after witnessing massive power outages caused by natural disasters like Hurricane Irene, the team S.I.S. Robotic Revolution of Shelton, Conn., created a “Smart Sticker” that attaches to food packaging and changes color when the package has been exposed to unsafe temperatures

USPTO: Leading the Way on International Patent Harmonization

Nearly 80 percent of all patent applications filed worldwide are processed through five patent offices: Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO), the Japan Patent Office (JPO), the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), and the State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO). In 2007, the five agencies formed a group called the IP5, to work on increased cooperation and collaboration. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos and Deputy Under Secretary Teresa Stanek Rea attended the 5th Meeting of IP5 Heads of Offices in Porticcio, France on June 6th.  

As the USPTO implements the America Invents Act (AIA), signed into law on September 16, 2011, by President Obama, America is poised to implement an optimal 21st Century harmonized patent system. This administration is leading the process of reshaping an IP world into one in which national and regional patent systems are coordinated to create an optimal environment for technological innovation.

At this high-level meeting, the Heads of Offices focused on receiving and analyzing input from IP owners regarding how to make the patent process more user-friendly. As part of that vision, they discussed the concept of a “Global Dossier,” aimed at simplifying procedures for patent applicants and improving the efficiency of the offices when dealing with the same patent application.

The IP5 also reaffirmed their commitment to improve the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), which already enables patent applicants to seek simultaneous patent protection with a single international application for up to 145 countries.

This was the first-ever IP5 meeting featuring the Heads of Offices. The next meeting of all Heads of Offices will be held in the United States, hosted by the USPTO, in 2013.

Enhancing Global Commerce Through The America Invents Act

Implementation of the America Invents Act--the most significant overhaul to U.S. patent law in more than a century--beyond our borders is an essential response to an evolving intellectual property terrain impacting our global economy. It is a terrain being shaped by cross-disciplinary technologies—from computers to mobile phones to life-saving drugs—that are a growing part of everyday life. And that terrain continues to be shaped by our key trading partners around the world, including China.

These efforts are important in keeping the momentum toward meeting President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014, which will support millions of good-paying U.S. jobs. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos recently met with China’s leading IP stakeholders, providing an overview of the significant changes to the U.S. patent system resulting from the agency’s ongoing implementation of the 2011 America Invents Act. He outlined the progress the USPTO is making in its implementation; the need for further harmonization of the world’s patent laws; and the benefits of a worksharing process that enables patent applicants to simultaneously pursue patent protection in multiple countries, known as the Patent Prosecution Highway, or PPH 2.0.

With an increasing emphasis on innovation in the U.S. and China, Kappos noted the importance of harmonizing our patent processes and advancing our worksharing initiatives—not just to ensure the smooth and efficient operation of our respective IP systems, but also to cultivate and commercialize new technologies blooming in the labs of both countries.

Deputy Secretary Blank Advocates Public Service in Commencement Speech

Guest blog post by Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca M. Blank

This morning, I had the privilege of delivering the commencement address to graduate students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) commencement ceremony.

I was also deeply honored to receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree during the ceremony for my work as a public servant, including the leadership I provided in my previous job at Commerce, overseeing the nation’s premier statistical agencies, the Census Bureau (during the 2010 Census) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The commencement speech provided an opportunity to give advice to the graduate students and to encourage them to use their expertise and experience to find solutions to the pressing problems facing our world. UMBC is particularly well-known for its scientific training. Science, technology, engineering and math–STEM fields–are particularly important, and it is STEM-related research that will drive innovation in the years ahead. In fact, STEM jobs have grown three times faster than other jobs, indicating the need for more workers with these skills.

Commerce's USPTO Honors Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees

Under Secretary Kappos, inductee Barbara Liskov (mentioned in blog post) and Deputy Director General of the Innovation and Technology Sector of the World Intellectual Property Organization Jim Pooley.

Our everyday lives are bettered by visionary inventors, and we were reminded of that on May 2, 2012, when ten new inductees to the National Inventors Hall of Fame were honored by David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The 40th annual induction ceremony took place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, the site of the historic Patent Office where the Hall of Fame’s first inductee, Thomas Edison, received his patents.

Most of the 2012 honorees were on hand, including Barbara Liskov, whose innovations in the organization of computer programming can be found in almost all modern programming languages; C. Kumar N. Patel, whose carbon dioxide laser developed while at Bell Labs is an essential component in the medical, industrial and military arenas; and Gary Starkweather, who while with the Xerox PARC facility invented the laser printer. They were joined on stage by 21 previous inductees.

Three honorees were inducted posthumously, including Mária Telkes, known as the “Sun Queen” for her pioneering work in solar energy; and Steve Jobs, whose influence spanned personal computing, film animation, consumer technology, and digital publishing.

A list of all ten honorees and their accomplishments can be found on the USPTO web site.

ITA: In Brussels, Assistant Secretary Camuñez Promotes Intellectual Property Rights and Protections

Seated beside Assistant Secretary Camuñez is Marielle Gallo, a Member of the European Parliament representing France.

Guest blog post by Michael C. Camuñez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, International Trade Administration

This past week, I traveled to Europe as part of my ongoing efforts to deepen the already-robust trans-Atlantic trade relationship. One of my stops was in Brussels, Belgium, the home of the European Commission and heart of the European Union. There, I sat down with EU leaders to discuss ways in which the U.S. and Europe can work together to foster greater economic opportunity and growth on both sides of the Atlantic. I was honored to join a lunch with the president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, and other EU leaders, where I offered them my perspective on the importance of the protection of intellectual property rights to our shared prosperity.

I also participated in a panel discussion on intellectual property rights (IPR) and growth at the 10th Annual European Business Summit, an issue vital to fostering innovation. My participation in the Business Summit was timely. For the past several weeks, IPR policies have been hotly debated across the European Union. The question at the forefront of this debate is: how does one protect and enforce IPR, while at the same time creating an environment that will foster the continued growth of the digital economy?

My remarks offered me an opportunity to talk about the perspective that I bring as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance. My role has given me some insight into the global competition to transform industrial, carbon-based economies into 21st-century knowledge-based economies–to attract and keep talent, to intensify the pace of innovation and commercialization of innovative products and services, and how to gain and keep our competitive edge.

Deputy Secretary Blank Speaks on the Role of Innovation in the U.S. Economy

Deputy Secretary Blank speaks on innovation at National Press Club

Guest blog post by Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank 

This afternoon, I had the honor of addressing an annual conference on innovation, sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. Today’s event, entitled “Innovation Policy and the Economy,” provided an opportunity to discuss one of the most important contributors to America’s long-term competitiveness: innovation. 

America’s entrepreneurs, businesses, and workers are the primary source of new ideas that drive innovation. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights–the main protections in our intellectual property (IP) system–are critical tools that help commercialize game-changing ideas. By creating a better environment for our private sector to capitalize on those ideas, IP protections help foster the innovation and creativity that lead to a stronger economy and the creation of more, good-paying jobs. 

Intellectual Property-Intensive Industries Contribute $5 Trillion, 40 Million Jobs to U.S. Economy

Guest blog post by Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

America’s entrepreneurs, businesses, and workers are the primary source of new ideas that drive innovation. Patents, trademarks and copyrights–the main protections in our IP system–are critical tools that help commercialize innovative, game-changing ideas, from advances in healthcare technology to improved consumer products. By creating a better environment for our private sector to capitalize those ideas, IP protections help foster the innovation and creativity that leads to a stronger economy and more jobs.

Today, the U.S. Commerce Department released a comprehensive report showing that intellectual property protections have a direct and significant impact on the U.S. economy. The report, entitled “Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus,” finds that IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5.06 trillion dollars to, or nearly 34.8 percent of, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

While IP is used in virtually every segment of the U.S. economy, our report identifies the 75 industries that use patent, copyright or trademark protections most extensively. These “IP-intensive” industries support more than a quarter of all jobs in the United States. Twenty-seven million of those are either on payroll or under employment contracts, working directly for the IP-intensive industries, and nearly 13 million more are indirectly supported through the supply chains that service these industries. In other words, every two jobs in IP-intensive industries support an additional job elsewhere in the economy. 

USPTO Under Secretary Kappos Concludes 'European Road Show' on U.S. Patent Reform Laws

Kappos and Miklós Bendzsel signing a memorandum of understanding

Managing significant changes to the U.S. patent system brought about by implementation of last year’s major patent reform law is not just a project that stays within our borders. Since many outside the U.S. seek a U.S. patent, other nations have a keen interest in understanding how the America Invents Act will work and may wish to file comments on the rules packages associated with implementing the biggest overhaul to U.S. patent law since the system was born over 200 years ago.

Recognizing this interest, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos undertook a European “road show” last week, visiting six cities in four days to conduct stakeholder outreach events and meet with the heads of offices from several European intellectual property offices. In conjunction with local chambers of commerce, Under Secretary Kappos covered three important topics during these stakeholder outreach events: an overview of the significant changes being made to the patent system by the America Invents Act and progress in its implementation; the need for further harmonization of the world’s patent laws; and the benefits of a work sharing mechanism known as the Patent Prosecution Highway, or PPH 2.0.

USPTO in the 1940s

Drawing of Disney camera

Ed. Note: This post is part of a series following the release of the 1940 Census highlighting various Commerce agencies and their hard work on behalf of the American people during the 1940s through today

On April 10, 1790, President George Washington signed the bill that laid the foundation of the modern American patent system. For over 200 years the patent system has encouraged the genius of hundreds of thousands of inventors.

During the 1940s, several recognizable and valuable patents were issued that have contributed significantly to American culture and society and changed the way we live. One such patent pioneered the way we see animated movies. On May 31, 1940, Walter E. Disney received Patent #2,201,689 for improvements in the art of producing animated cartoons. Disney’s patent was for a multi-plane camera that allowed for a more realistic three-dimensional image as well as depth and richness to the animation. His invention enabled him to move from the standard animated short films to feature-length animation.

Spotlight on Commerce: Deborah Cohn, Commissioner for Trademarks

Deborah Cohn, Commissioner for Trademarks

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

As Commissioner for Trademarks at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I oversee all aspects of the USPTO’s Trademarks organization including policy, operations and budget relating to trademark examination, registration and maintenance. The main functions of the Trademark office are the examination of applications for registration and the maintenance of those registrations. Trademarks are an important form of intellectual property that can be a company’s most valuable asset. Trademarks also serve a vital function in protecting consumers from confusion about the source of goods and services in the marketplace. 

I first joined the USPTO in 1983 as an examining attorney. I was extremely fortunate because trademark law was an area that I enjoyed in law school and government service was very appealing to me. At that time, the majority of examining attorneys were men, but today, 67 percent of our examining attorneys are women! This is due in part to an increasing number of women in law over the past few decades, but the high percentage of women is also due to the flexibility here at the USPTO which allows employees to successfully balance work and family life. Telework and flexible schedules allow employees to create the environment that works best for them.

Women’s History Month means a great deal to me. As women’s roles have changed and expanded, many occupations that were traditionally filled primarily by men have benefited from the great talent and hard work of women. Here at the USPTO, I have been lucky enough to work with some terrific leaders who happen to be women. For example, my former boss, former Commissioner Lynne Beresford, was a great mentor and role model.

Spotlight on Commerce: Teresa Rea, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property (USPTO)

Teresa Rea on podium

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

As Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, I work alongside David Kappos in advising the President of the United States, and other members of the Obama administration, on matters relating to Intellectual Property (IP) policy. When wearing my Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hat, I help oversee the process by which our nation grants IP rights for cutting-edge innovations and technological breakthroughs. By protecting brands and ideas through trademarks and patents, companies are more readily able to attract investments, hire more employees, spur additional research & development, distribute their products in the marketplace and spawn new growth in new industries.

A Cross-Country Tour of American Ingenuity

USPTO Director Kappos engages with an audience member at an American Invents Act roadshow

Guest blog post by David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

As I flew into the Windy City today, I couldn’t help but marvel once again at the ideas and innovations that continue to shape our lives in a myriad of ways we take for granted—from the thousands of components and systems in the airplane that brought me here to chips in my smartphone—patented and trademarked technologies that seek protection from the United States Patent and Trademark Office are constantly shaping the way we conduct our daily lives.

So in order to best communicate historic changes to our nation’s patent system, I hit the road. And ever since kicking off our America Invents Act (AIA) roadshows in Alexandria, Virginia on February 17, Deputy Director Terry Rea and I have been privileged to meet with some of the inventors and entrepreneurs behind our nation’s greatness—remarkable men and women in exciting hotbeds of innovation as diverse as Sunnyvale, California; Salt Lake City; Dallas; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Boston; and Chicago, with a final hearing to be held in San Diego on Friday.

The goal of these roadshows and hearings has been twofold: first, to explain the thinking behind the proposed rules for various provisions under the AIA—including new systems to challenge and evaluate patents, like supplemental examination, inter partes review, and post grant review. And second, to conduct a spirited and productive dialogue with our user community, whose input is vital to our mission of building a 21st century patent system. These efforts not only help advance President Obama’s strategy for unleashing American innovation, but it also supports Secretary Bryson’s commitment to leveraging intellectual property to boost American manufacturing, American exports and American jobs.

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank Swears In Nine New Patent Judges to Help Reduce Patent Backlogs

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank Delivers Remarks at Swearing-In Ceremony for New Patent Judges

Guest blog post by Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank

As part of our ongoing efforts to make government more accountable to the American people and cut wasteful spending, this afternoon I had the honor of swearing in nine new administrative patent judges who will help reduce patent backlogs. These nine talented and dynamic individuals will serve on the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), joining the dedicated public servants at USPTO who support millions of jobs in the intellectual property industry.

Today, a high share of companies regularly relying on robust intellectual property (IP) protections to attract investor capital and stay competitive. These IP-intensive firms create an average of three million U.S. jobs per year. More than ever, we must be efficient and effective in helping entrepreneurs protect their intellectual property.

America’s entrepreneurs are the primary source of new ideas that drive innovation. Entrepreneurs provide us with better production processes, new advances in health, and improved consumer products. These are people who can move from ideas to products and from products to the marketplace. These activities strengthen our economy and our global competitiveness. And they create jobs.

BusinessUSA Launches Offering Businesses One Location to Find Key Federal Information and Data


Over the past three years, business owners and entrepreneurs have told us that they don’t have the time or resources to navigate the maze of government agencies and need a one stop shop where they could go for all the assistance they need at every stage of their development.  As President Obama said in his State of the Union address last month, we need to give U.S. businesses every opportunity and tool to succeed and not a maze to navigate.  And as Secretary Bryson has said multiple times while traveling to manufacturers in Columbus, Norfolk, Pittsburgh, and Minneapolis, we need to support American businesses so they can build their products here in America and sell them everywhere around the world.

This is why the Obama Administration is launching a new online platform, BusinessUSA, to help small businesses and exporters of all sizes find information about available federal programs without having to waste time and resources navigating the federal bureaucracy. BusinessUSA combines information and services from 10 different government agencies through one consolidated website and coordinate telephone support through a single 1-800 number. The BusinessUSA website went live today with hundreds of business resources consolidated in one place including Commerce’s International Trade Agency, Census Bureau, Patent and Trademark Office, several other Commerce bureaus, as well as, multiple other government agencies.

BusinessUSA is a platform to make it easier than ever for businesses to access services to help them grow and hire from the day they need technical assistance to start a business, to the day they start building a product and need financing, to the day they are ready to export and need help breaking into new markets overseas.

It’s a “No Wrong Door” approach for small businesses and exporters, creating a common platform to match businesses with the services relevant to them, regardless of where the information is located or which agency’s website, call center, or office they go to for help.  And as more federal agencies publish content through web services, the more we will be able to highlight the most relevant information and programs from across the government. 

Commerce Secretary John Bryson Visits Patent and Trademark Office Headquarters

USPTO Director Kappos gives Secretary Bryson a tour of the Alexandria campus. Several other staff members were also on the tour.

Secretary John Bryson stopped by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia on Friday to meet with employees and tour the facility. It was the first time he had visited the USPTO office since being confirmed as Commerce Secretary in October of last year.

While he was there, the Secretary congratulated the USPTO for its work on the implementation of the historic America Invents Act, which encourages innovation by making the first set of major reforms in the U.S. patent system since the 1800s. The America Invents Act allows businesses to get new ideas to market faster by reducing the time it takes to review applications for new patents to 12 months. By working to implement this law and rebuilding America’s intellectual property system from the ground up, the USPTO is making it easier for businesses to invest in new technologies, launch new industries, and create new jobs—in a 21st century global market.

Bryson also had the opportunity to discuss the USPTO’s efforts to improve patent quality. The USPTO has issued new guidelines that will clarify and tighten the standards for the issuance of patents. The new guidelines offer a more comprehensive measurement of the quality of patent examinations to ensure high standards in our patent process.

Federal Government Help for Manufacturing Companies: How Commerce Contributes

US-Made Auto Parts

In last night's State of the Union address, President Obama laid out proposals for how to bring about a new era of American manufacturing, with more good jobs and more products stamped Made in the USA.  A few of the proposals are:

  • Reward companies for bringing jobs back to America.
  • Lower tax rates for companies that manufacture and create jobs in the United States.
  • Get tough on trade enforcement.
  • Create more jobs and make us more competitive by rebuilding America using half of the savings from ending foreign wars.

These proposals build upon the efforts already underway by the White House.

At the Department of Commerce, we support manufacturers in a multitude of ways:

Commerce Department Agencies Unveil New Website Home Pages

Two agencies of the Department of Commerce unveiled new home pages for their websites in December—the result of efforts to make news and data more readily available and easily accessible to users. The agencies studied user feedback and website best practices to create a more visual and less confusing approach to the mission of informing the public. Both feature links to agency blogs written by their leadership and guest authors and links to economic indicators and career and business opportunities.

On December 20, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced the launch of the newest version of its website at, while at the same time making its retired home page available to users in the transition to its new iteration. In announcing the change, USPTO said it is “just the first of several new changes . . . in the coming months that will help modernize our services for online visitors.” The USPTO is encouraging both positive and negative comments and suggestions that may help the agency with future design enhancements through newhomepage[at]uspto[dot]gov.

On the same day, Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau unveiled its overhauled website with features designed to improve navigation and ease of use, and to make statistics more discoverable, with an interactive map showing business and demographic information for the U.S., as well as states and counties. Like USPTO, this is the start of a series of anticipated ongoing improvements to the Census Bureau website. | home page

2011: A Great Year for American Inventors and Innovation

Photo of USPTO Headquarters

Guest blog post by David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

As December draws to a close , it’s difficult to imagine a more historic year for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) than 2011. The dedication and hard work of our talented public servants has enabled the Agency to make significant strides in the quality, efficiency, and certainty of patents and trademarks granted to technological enterprises. And our collaboration with the small business community has allowed us to level the competitive playing field by offering new tools and resources for independent inventors to acquire intellectual property rights with more ease. As this year comes to an end, I want to take a moment to recount what our extended USPTO family has helped accomplish for American inventors and American innovation, through the lens of a few numbers and key dates that were important this year.

Stolen Intellectual Property Harms American Businesses Says Acting Deputy Secretary Blank

Acting Deputy Secretary Blank joins Attorney General Holder and other Administration Officials at the kickoff event for the IP campaign “Counterfeits Hurt. You Have The Power to Stop Them.”

This afternoon, Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank participated in an event at the White House to announce the Administration’s progress in cracking down on intellectual property (IP) theft crimes and the launch of a public education campaign intended to increase Americans’ knowledge of the threat these crimes pose to economic prosperity and public safety.  The campaign is entitled “Counterfeits Hurt. You Have The Power to Stop Them.

Counterfeit goods not only can cause harm to the safety of our families, but they also cause harm to our economy and to American businesses.  That’s because the success of the U.S. economy relies heavily on intellectual property; virtually every industry either produces IP or uses it. IP theft costs domestic industries an estimated $200 to $250 billion a year.  This robs American workers of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Only when American ideas and American inventions are protected, so that innovators receive the rewards from their creativity, can American business prosper and the American economy continues to   grow. It’s also important to remember protecting intellectual property has a multiplier effect, helping create jobs not only within the original firm that owns the IP but also within all the firms that it buys from and sells to.

Commerce Veteran Hiring at 16-Year High

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Commerce is proud to announce that in the last year, veteran hiring reached a 16-year high, raising the total representation of veteran new hires to 12.5 percent.

Two years ago, on November 9, 2009, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13518: Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government. This Executive order charged all Cabinet-level departments with establishing a Veterans Employment Office, developing an operational plan, and providing mandatory annual training to hiring managers and senior human resources practitioners on veterans preferences and special appointing authorities for veterans.

In response to the President’s Executive Order, Commerce hired Sean Lenahan, former U.S. Coast Guard officer, as their Veterans Employment Program Manager to head the Veterans Employment Team and lead all Department-level veterans hiring initiatives. The Department’s Veterans Employment Team consists of members from the Census Bureau, the Patent and Trademark Office, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“Our Veterans Employment Team has worked tirelessly to enhance employment opportunities for veterans throughout the Department,” said Bill Fleming, Director of Human Resources, Department of Commerce.  Mr. Fleming, a U.S. Army veteran, is one of the many veterans that hold key senior leadership positions within the Department.  Michael Phelps, Director, Office of the Budget, and Barry Berkowitz, Director, Office of Acquisition Management, are both highly decorated, retired officers of the U.S. Air Force.

USPTO: Boosting Small Business with the New Patent Law

The president signing the bill

When President Barack Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law six weeks ago, he did more than just implement the largest patent reform since 1836. The AIA aims to help small business secure patent protection for their inventions in a variety of ways. The Act offers not only favorable legal provisions, but also establishes studies and programs to further investigate how Congress may assist small businesses in the future. The provisions in the AIA help simplify the patent law, promote the disclosure of inventions, and establish procedures to remove bad patents from the intellectual property (IP) system early.

By introducing provisions that speed the patent application process and enhance the quality review of patent applications, the AIA enables applicants to secure an examination of an application in one-third the regular time from an average of 3 years to an average of 12 months. Additional provisions will provide an avenue that small businesses may use to challenge bad patents and receive a decision within 12 months. This changes the current practice where decisions on patent validity are determined through district court litigation and may take several years at significantly greater expense.

Honoring Invention: the World’s Only Inexhaustible Resource

President Obama with receipients at Meddal Award ceremony.

Guest blog post by David Kappos, Under Secretary For Intellectual Property and Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce

At a ceremony at the White House Friday, I had the pleasure to join President Obama as he honored recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation—the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on our nation’s brightest innovators and inventors.

Whether unraveling the information intertwined in a DNA helix, improving the safety of air travel, or digitizing the way we capture memories of loved ones—the medal recipients have offered humanity new tools to tackle some of the toughest challenges we confront as a planet. Moreover, by improving our understanding of the world around us, they have rewritten textbook fundamentals—and inspired a new generation of thinkers to explore unfamiliar terrain.

Much like the thousands of patent and trademark applications, the Commerce Department's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) carefully examines each and every day, the National Medal of Technology & Innovation serves as a reminder that our nation continues to be built by those willing to challenge traditions—willing to push the boundaries of convention and willing to test new limits in design and thought.

That ® Means More Than You May Think

Chubby Checker along with the Pillsbury Dough Boy and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup at the USPTO 2011 National Trademark Expo

Guest blog post by Debbie Cohn, Commissioner for Trademarks at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Learning about the value of intellectual property may not sound like fun and games, but for more than 15,000 people who visited the United States Patent and Trademark Office last Friday and Saturday, that’s exactly what happened.

The 2011 National Trademark Expo featured exhibits and seminars designed to educate the public about the importance and value of trademarks in the marketplace. Trademarks help inspire confidence in a brand and build an identity for thousands upon thousands of companies making products and providing services across America. Brand and identity are both vital components for spurring growth and promoting economic development.

The United States has been registering trademarks since 1870. Through the federal registration system, the USPTO is able to assist business in protecting their valuable investments, promoting goods and services and safeguarding consumers against confusion and deception in the marketplace.

At the National Trademark Expo, the public learned about intellectual property rights for small businesses; counterfeiting and piracy; filing for a trademark registration with the USPTO; and why trademarks are important to business. And they learned this firsthand from the many exhibitors showcasing their marks and discussing the critical role they play.

And while children and adults were wowed by a variety of characters most Americans would immediately recognize as trademarked, special guest Chubby Checker sang and spoke with the audience about how important his trademarks are to him. Checker leveraged his “Twist” to build a successful business in the food industry.

The 2011 National Trademark Expo was a successful event highlighting the powerful role that trademarks play in the global economy.

Patent and Trademark Office Announces 2011 National Trademark Expo

Five images of Chubby Checker doing the Twist

Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will host the 2011 National Trademark Expo on Friday, October 14th from 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday, October 15th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the USPTO’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.  The free, two-day event is designed to educate the public about the value of trademarks in the global marketplace.  Last year’s Expo attracted over 10,000 visitors of all ages.

The Expo will highlight such themes as “Unusual Trademarks” and “Brand Evolution,” and will feature educational workshops for adults and children, exhibits of authentic and counterfeit goods, and costumed characters, including Pillsbury's Doughboy, Popeye and Olive Oyl, the Pink Panther and Barbie.

The opening ceremony on October 14, 2011 featured music by the U.S Air Force’s rock band, Max Impact, and a guest appearance by Chubby Checker.  |  Read morePast Expo photos

Building a 21st Century Patent and Trademark Office

Director Kappos takes questions while at the Brookings Institute

Today, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos addressed the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation, outlining how comprehensive patent reform, signed into law by President Obama two weeks ago today, impacts American innovation, American jobs and American leadership. Representing the most significant overhaul of the U.S. patent system in a generation, the America Invents Act (AIA) transforms how patents are obtained, challenged, and valued in acquisition, licensing, and litigation settlement discussions.

In the centuries since the first patent examiner—Thomas Jefferson—reviewed and granted the first U.S. patent, our nation has observed sweeping revolutions in the pace of innovation—but with no comprehensive legislative adjustment in patent policy.

By building out the world’s only 21st century Patent and Trademark Office, equipped to manage the demands of a globalized economy, this new law enables a better resourced USPTO to grant intellectual property rights with greater speed, greater quality, greater clarity and greater enforceability. It also advances the President’s overall strategy of deploying American innovation to build businesses and build jobs.

Acting Secretary Blank Encourages Innovation in Green Energy Technologies

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered the keynote address at a green energy conference today hosted by Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Brookings Institution and the Clean Energy Group at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The conference was held for policy makers from federal, state, and foreign governments, and industry and academia. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos, EDA Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy also participated.

In her remarks, Blank focused on issues facing clean energy development today and ways to overcome obstacles through more strategic state and federal policy. Blank highlighted efforts by Obama administration initiatives aimed at creating jobs, increasing exports and securing America’s energy future. Topics at the forum included technology transfer and commercialization, public investment, procurement and policy, federal and state economic support for clean energy industries, and international collaboration on clean energy technologies.  Remarks

Acting Secretary Blank and USPTO Director Kappos Join President Obama at the America Invents Act Signing Ceremony

President Barack Obama signs the America Invents Act into law at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, Sept. 16, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

At a ceremony at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, President Obama today signed the America Invents Act into law, representing historic patent reform legislation that will help American entrepreneurs and businesses bring their inventions to market sooner, creating new businesses and new jobs. Passed with the president’s consistent leadership and strong bipartisan support, the America Invents Act represents the most significant reform of the Patent Act since 1952, and will help American companies and inventors who have suffered costly delays and unnecessary litigation focus on innovation and job creation.

Innovation is the primary source of economic growth, job creation,
and U.S. competitiveness in today’s global economy. An efficiently operating intellectual property system is critical to our ability to spur innovation and bring new services and products to the marketplace faster. For investors, patents are strong indicators of market potential for new companies; and for inventors, they are often vital to attracting investment. 

"Our success in creating the conditions that spur new ideas, and our commitment to investing in the education, research and development priorities that help shape our country’s innovation infrastructure, will determine the opportunities of future generations,” Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said. “These issues will determine whether or not America is home to the industries that will fuel economic growth–and the jobs that come with it - in the 21st century.”

Aneesh Chopra, on the White House Blog, said, "By transitioning to a simpler, more objective, and more inventor-friendly system of issuing patents, the new Act helps ensure that independent inventors and small entities have greater clarity and certainty over their property rights and will be able to navigate the patent system on a more equitable footing with large enterprises."

The Act also establishes a new in-house review process for challenging patents—a process that is faster and significantly cheaper than litigation, which too often stymies technological growth. By resolving disputes about patent rights earlier, more efficiently, and at lower cost, we can  add greater certainty to—and cultivate greater confidence it—the American patent system."

United States Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra hosted an Open for Questions event on at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 16th. If you missed it, you can watch the entire Q&A session on the White House blog.

Acting Secretary Blank Celebrates Patent Number 8,000,000, Calls for Congress to Act Swiftly to Pass Patent Reform

Acting Secretary Blank Celebrates Patent Number 8,000,000

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos today presented patent no. 8 million to Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., for a visual prosthesis apparatus that enhances visual perception for people who have gone blind due to outer retinal degeneration. Following the signing, company President and CEO Robert Greenberg demonstrated the new product, Argus® II. 

The ceremony underscored the critical role the U.S. patent system plays in fostering American innovation and economic competitiveness and comes as Congress is acting to make the most significant reforms to the system in more than half a century. Patent reform legislation currently before Congress – the America Invents Act – will help create new jobs by simplifying the process inventors face for getting a patent, while making the system more transparent and reducing costly and time-consuming litigation. 

The bill is an essential tool to bring the patent system and the USPTO into the 21st century and to continue to unleash the innovation, ingenuity and creativity that has made America the envy of the world. Strong and clear patent rights are especially vital to small and new businesses, which create 2 out of every 3 American jobs. Successful inventors need to secure patent rights to access capital, hire employees and lift their companies off the ground. Put simply, patents are crucial to creating new jobs, new industries and new economic opportunities for Americans.

Specifically, the America Invents Act:

  • Allows the USPTO to set its own fees to recover the actual costs of the services it provides, and keep and reserve those fees exclusively for the USPTO’s use – a major part of ensuring that the agency has sufficient funding; 
  • Enables the USPTO to hire more examiners and bring its IT system into the 21st century so it can process applications more quickly and produce higher quality patents that are less likely to be subject to a court challenge;
  • Decreases the likelihood of expensive litigation because it creates a less costly, in-house administrative alternative to review patent validity claims;  and,
  • Adopts the “first-inventor-to-file” standard as opposed to the current “first-to-invent” standard. First inventor to file is used by the rest of the world, and would be good for U.S. businesses, providing a more transparent and cost-effective process that is consistent with the practices of our economic competitors.

Taken together, the reforms outlined in the America Invents Act create a better architecture for fostering American innovation and accelerating the delivery of innovative goods and services to the marketplace. It also gives the Patent Office the tools and resources it needs to serve America’s innovators by granting high-quality patents in a more timely fashion.

The White House's National Science and Technology Council Recognizes NIST and USPTO for Open Innovation Efforts

The White House's National Science and Technology Council Recognized Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for their open innovation efforts [PDF]. NIST's efforts to encourage market transparency and USPTO's leadership in public/private data access have the potential to scale within and across Federal agencies through interagency policy and implementation groups. By leading in this open government initiative, NIST and USPTO set the stage for entrepreneurs to out-innovate our international competitors and win the future.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was recognized for its efforts in democratizing government data, supporting President Obama's initiatives to usher in a new era in which the gap between the American people and their government would close. USPTO initially faced some problems in its effort to publish its data online in a free and open format. The Office had traditionally been providing data through a paid subscription service. It also didn't have funding for technology to publish information online in an open format that could easily be retrieved, downloaded, indexed and searched by commonly used web search applications.

The USPTO opted to partner with Google in a no-cost agreement in which Google agreed to disseminate USPTO's bulk electronic patent and trademark data to the public at no charge. The electronic data includes images and text of patent grants and published applications, trademark applications, patent classification information and patent and trademark assignments.

In the end, nearly two terabytes of data, representing patent and trademark data back to 1790, is now available to the public free of charge on Google, with some 13GB of new data added weekly.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology also received recognition for its efforts in encouraging market transparency with its ongoing coordination of standards for the Smart Grid, the next-generation U.S power grid currently under development. After being called upon by Congress in 2007 to take responsibility for this task, NIST, in collaboration with the Department of Energy, faced the challenge of ensuring the myriad products and services that could connect to the Smart Grid would be able to operate together seamlessly.

Rural America: Wellspring of Innovation

Staff seated in classroom listening to instructor

Guest blog post by Robert L. Stoll, Commissioner for Patents, United States Patent and Trademark Office

Looking at today’s sophisticated high-definition television sets it is hard to imagine that their very foundation could have ever been conceived by a rural farm boy. Yet the legendary account of this farm boy’s inspiration for his image dissector occurred as he was plowing a field.  His name was Philo Farnsworth and at that moment the idea that would become electronic television was born. Just like his 19th century counterparts, John Deere, Cyrus McCormick, Eli Whitney and George Washington Carver, one of the fathers of the modern television industry found inspiration from his rural environment. 

That practice remains alive and well today.  We see it in places like Blaine, Minnesota where Pam Turner invented the Spiral Eye™ Sewing Needle; Athens, Texas where Lesia Farmer invented products for the kitchen; Wake Forest, North Carolina where Michael Sykes invented a home building system; and Sonora, California where Julia Rhodes invented KleenSlate Concepts®, dry erase products.  Today, in the age of the Internet, more inventions are collaborative efforts rather than creations in isolation like Farnsworth’s invention.  But even with all that is available at the touch of a keystroke it is still important to have experts readily accessible to support today’s American innovators wherever they may be.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Issues its 8 Millionth Patent

The USPTO issued patent number 8,000,000 to Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., for a visual prosthesis apparatus that enhances visual perception for people who have gone blind due to outer retinal degeneration. The invention uses electrical stimulation of the retina to produce the visual perception of patterns of light.

Today the USPTO issued its 8 millionth patent to Second Sight Medical Products, Inc., a California-based company founded in 1998, for a visual prosthesis apparatus that enhances visual perception for people who have gone blind due to outer retinal degeneration. The invention uses electrical stimulation of the retina to produce the visual perception of patterns of light. The now patented Argus® II is currently in U.S. clinical trials and has received marketing approval in Europe.  

It took 75 years to get to patent 1 million in August 1911, yet just six years to get from patent 7 million to today’s 8 millionth patent.

“This kind of innovation is a driver of our nation’s economic growth and job creation,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “The USPTO plays a major role in serving America’s innovators by granting the intellectual property rights they need to secure investment capital, build companies and bring their products and services to the global marketplace.”

The signing and presentation of the 8 millionth patent by Director Kappos will take place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Sept. 8, 2011.

Read the full press release for more information on the 8 millionth patent.

Interested in the previous patent milestones? Here's more information on patent milestones at the USPTO.

USPTO Director David Kappos Talks Innovation with Business Leaders in Florida’s Space Coast

Kappos with roundtable participants

This week, the Commerce Department's Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos is in Orlando, Fla., to hear directly from small business leaders as part of the White House Business Council Roundtable series being held across the country. Engaging with innovators and entrepreneurs in the state’s vibrant Space Coast community, Kappos is gaining additional perspective on the regional business climate and using that feedback to identify resources, partnerships and investments that will strengthen the Space Coast economy by boosting its diversity and global competitiveness.

Touring the Kennedy Space Center and the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation and Training, Kappos is observing firsthand how research centers and labs in the region are developing the cutting-edge tools and programs that will inspire the next frontier of innovation and exploration. He is also talking with area businesses about the critical steps the USPTO is taking to streamline the patent system—arming high-tech entrepreneurs in the Space Coast with the strongest and most consistent intellectual property protections to swiftly bring their innovations to the marketplace and jumpstart their companies.

Senior administration officials across the federal government have participated in several business roundtables around the country this summer to determine how the administration can best support the very businesses that are doing the innovating and hiring that will write the next chapters of 21st century growth.

Research and development being unleashed in states like Florida are the building blocks of innovation, Working together, the federal government and local partners can establish an environment ripe for small businesses to flourish, create jobs and help America win the future.

Innovation and Invention: USPTO and Smithsonian Museum Partner in Exhibiting 'The Great American Hall of Wonders'

Kappos at podium

The exhibition, The Great American Hall of Wonders, examining the 19th-century American belief that the people of the United States shared a special genius for innovation, is now open at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is a collaborative effort between the museum and Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and explores six subjects – three natural resources, three man-made inventions – that helped shape America during this period: the buffalo, Giant Sequoia, Niagara Falls, the gun, the railroad and the clock. The exhibition will focus on the ways these six subjects brought together artistic, scientific and technological ways of seeing the world.

In addition to providing creative and technical assistance for development of the exhibition, the USPTO has played a part in the public program development by working with the museum to provide:  speakers for university level courses as well as inventors from the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame for a lecture series.   There will also be a day and a half long inventors symposium held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the USPTO will take the lead in providing experts to address the many challenges facing independent inventors and entrepreneurs.

Protecting Innovation to Ensure New Opportunities for American Businesses, Higher Wages, and Greater Economic Security for American Families

Map of U.S. showing distribution of Green Tech patents

Innovation is a principal driver behind our nation’s economic growth and job creation. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) serves America’s innovators by granting the intellectual property rights they need to secure investment capital, build companies, and bring their products and services to the global marketplace. USPTO is an integral partner in President Obama’s drive to create the foundation for our economic future where we out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.  USPTO is proud to play a role in accelerating socially conscious technologies in emerging fields like alternative fuels, clean energy, and green technology.

Last fall the USPTO extended the deadline for filing petitions under its Green Technology Pilot Program.  Under the pilot, patent applications involving reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy conservation and environmental quality are accelerated in their review at no cost to the inventor.

Program statistics show that stakeholders participating in the Green Tech Pilot have obtained patents much more quickly as compared to the standard examination process.  Currently, the average time between granting of a green technology petition and first office action on the merits is just 49 days.  In many instances, applicants have had their Green Technology inventions patented in less than one year from the application filing date.

More than 1,900 petitions have been granted to green technology patent applicants since the pilot began in December 2009. Of the 1,900 petitions granted so far, USPTO issued the program’s 350th patent for a configuration of a wind turbine housing on June 28.

By advancing a commitment to building a more sustainable energy future, USPTO is able to spur additional innovation and promote green collar jobs that provide our world with alternatives to harmful energy practices. This ensures that the U.S. is not just the world’s Chief Global Competitor, but also its Chief Global Citizen.

The ability to develop tools in the name of cause-based enterprising is an endeavor that may still require investment capital, but leaves the rest of the world inspired through human capital—and that’s an example of the sort of nuanced innovation that continues to mark excellence in American leadership.

USPTO Director Kappos Talks Jobs, Innovation and Patent Reform with Kojo Nnamdi

USPTO Director Kappos Talks Jobs, Innovation and Patent Reform with Kojo Nnamdi

Today USPTO Director David Kappos was interviewed by popular Washington, D.C. radio host Kojo Nnamdi for a segment focused on patents as a vehicle to create new jobs, the patent reform legislation currently pending in Congress, and improvements made at the USPTO under Director Kappos’ leadership. 

Topics discussed in the interview included the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act and how a change from a first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system as called for in the legislation would impact the innovation community. Kappos noted that this is really a first-inventor-to-file system, meaning that the person who files the patent application has to be the inventor. He pointed to this system as one that is more transparent, simple and objective and one that provides greater certainty for inventors.