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Commerce Secretary Locke Visits the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to Thank Employees for Their Work in Support of Innovation and the U.S. Economy

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Locke recognizes efforts toward significant reduction in patent backlog under Director Kappos

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke yesterday visited the Commerce Department's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Va., to congratulate USPTO Director David Kappos and the agency's staff on its accomplishments during the 2010 fiscal year, which ended September 30. 

Locke thanked employees for their efforts toward reducing the patent backlog and recognized the agency’s innovative approaches to help bring the USPTO into the 21st century to foster innovation, ingenuity and creativity.

"Innovation is the leading driver of economic growth and high-paying jobs,” Locke said. “So as part of the team that's been encouraging innovation since our nation's founding over 200 years ago, everyone here has a big job to do, an important job."

Under Director Kappos’s leadership, the USPTO has made significant strides in reducing the patent backlog. A year ago, the patent backlog topped 750,000 applications. Recently, the agency initiated a push among the patent corps to get the backlog below 700,000 applications. In his address to employees, Locke applauded the “699” campaign and noted that the patent team is within striking distance of reaching its goal.  The patent backlog is currently down to approximately 708,000 despite an increase of four percent in patent filings this year, representing the first significant reduction in the patent backlog in a decade.

“I’m here today to applaud you for setting a goal of bringing the number of pending patent applications down below 700,000 – and for the outstanding effort the team has put into making it happen,” Locke said. "That speaks to leadership, commitment, and a lot of hard, hard work.”

He also noted that the USPTO was recently recognized in the Partnership for Public Service’s “Best Places to Work” rankings of government agencies, jumping 50 spots up from its 2009 rankings.  

Accomplishments were acknowledged across all areas of the agency, including:

  • A new operational reorganization that took effect on Oct. 1 and contributes to increased efficiency, productivity and transparency;
  • Programs and proposals designed to give applicants more control over how quickly their application is examined, such as the Green Technology program and the Three-Track proposal;
  • Expanding work-sharing efforts with international IP offices to speed patent examination for applications filed in multiple jurisdictions;
  • A proposal to incentivize the development and dissemination of humanitarian technologies;
  • A streamlined review of appeal briefs;
  • Establishing a new trademark quality metric to measure examination excellence; and
  • New communications tools like blogs and Facebook to strengthen USPTO’s relationships with employees, the IP community and other stakeholders.

To read Locke’s full remarks, visit