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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks at 700,000th Patent Event

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered remarks today at a ceremony commemorating the 700,000th design patent. The patent covers the “Leapster Explorer,” a learning and play device from LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc., featuring a touch screen and 3D graphics.

At the ceremony, USPTO also announced a new Intellectual Property (IP) patch for Girl Scouts in the National Capital Region. The patch is designed to support curriculum and activities that increase understanding of IP, especially as it relates to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker focused on the importance of intellectual property to fostering innovation, noting that Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low even received a patent a century ago. She discussed the Administration’s efforts to build a better patent system, highlighting President Obama’s series of executive actions to improve the patent application process and help businesses targeted by patent litigation. Secretary Pritzker also called on Congress to pass patent reform legislation to build on the American Invents Act.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Thank you, Michelle and Peggy.  It is great to see leaders from the business and IP communities here today. I also want to thank Langdon Education Campus, its Principal Shannon Foster, and the teachers and staff.  When I served on the Chicago School Board, we launched five STEM-focused high schools.  Therefore, I have a deep appreciation for teachers here who help even younger students explore STEM fields – and I am pleased that employees from our Patent and Trademark Office volunteer here.

And finally, I want to thank Girl Scouts USA and the Girl Scouts Council of the National Capital.  Over the last few weeks, your cookies have been making the rounds at the Commerce Department.  My favorites are the Dulce de Leche cookies, which have milk-caramel chips. I first became familiar with the Girl Scouts when my daughter Rose became a Brownie.  I watched her learn the skills she needed to make her first sale – skills that are essential to understanding leadership, success, and service.  She continues to hold those values now as a college student.

As most of us know, the shortbread cookies are called Trefoils.  Given the reason for today’s celebration, I think it is important to note that Juliette Gordon Low, who founded Girl Scouts USA, received a patent (number D-45,234) for her trefoil design 100 years ago – on February 10, 1914.  That iconic design is an important symbol for Girl Scouts.  When I see the trefoil on the badges of a girl scout who knocks on our door, it brings a smile to my face, and I always make a purchase.

Patents and trademarks are crucial to doing business – regardless of whether a company is selling cookies, cars, or computers. In fact, two years ago, the Commerce Department studied the overall value of intellectual property to the United States economy.  Our economists found that industries that rely on intellectual property protections support 40 million American jobs and more than one-third of America’s Gross Domestic Product.  That’s $5 trillion a year. Therefore, it’s no surprise that protecting intellectual property is a key part of the Commerce Department’s mission to create the conditions for economic growth. 

Clearly, America’s entrepreneurs and their ideas are some of our country’s most valuable and treasured assets.  Entrepreneurs give our country a competitive edge in the global economy. When an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley knows that her idea will be protected with a newly-issued patent, she gains more confidence to put her business plan into action, and to hire the first few workers for her startup.  Or when a business leader in Chicago receives a new patent, she can continue to invest more in her company’s research and development, creating a continuous cycle of innovation within the company.

Every day, USPTO is putting more utility and design patents in the hands of entrepreneurs and business leaders to help them protect their ideas so their companies can grow, innovate, and compete.  In an increasingly competitive global economy, this role of government has never been more important.

Today, we must ensure that our patent system works effectively. The President gets it.  He recently announced new executive actions which will increase transparency in patent ownership, provide more training to patent examiners, and help inventors and small business owners who unexpectedly find themselves facing litigation.

We can’t stop there.  The Administration supports legislation to build on the success of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011.  Specifically, we are calling for Congress to pass reforms that will enhance competition and tech transfer, reduce abusive tactics by shadowy shell companies, help ensure that courtroom cases do not unfairly hurt Main Street, and put downward pressure on litigation costs.

We are pursuing these reforms even while our PTO employees are working harder than ever.  Last year alone, we received over 35,000 design patent applications – an 8 percent increase over the previous year.  And today I am thrilled that we have reached a new milestone with the 700,000th design patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

We have many hardworking employees at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – including patent examiner Barbara Fox, who is here today. About two years ago, a new patent application was assigned to Barbara from a company called Leapfrog, based in Emeryville, California.  Since 1994, the company has been making learning platforms for grade-school children. This particular design patent application was to protect the unique look, feel, and appearance of a product called Leapster Explorer , which contains 40 learning and playing experiences for 4-to-9-year-olds.  With these fun tools for self-learning, it is no wonder kids are excited to learn to read and do math.

Barbara researched to make sure the design was truly unique. She also ensured that the application was high-quality, and then she approved the patent.  As a result, this patent will help protect and strengthen the visual and physical identity that Leapfrog has worked so hard to build.  In fact, Leapfrog now holds 70 utility patents and – as of today – 33 design patents. And yes, I think that we should recognize that Leapfrog – like so many great American companies – is “doing well by doing good.” 

With that as background, please help me welcome and congratulate Leapfrog’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Robert Lattuga.  He is responsible for protecting the company’s ideas and technology.   On behalf of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, I am pleased to present the 700,000th design patent to Leapfrog Enterprises, Incorporated for its “hand-held learning apparatus.”  Congratulations!