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Spotlight on Commerce: Deborah Cohn, Commissioner for Trademarks

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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.

As more women assume roles as business owners and executives, it is important that they are familiar with the importance of trademark protection. Earlier this month, I spoke at a symposium for women entrepreneurs. There I discussed how valuable trademarks are to businesses and the advantages to receiving a federal registration. I have made educational outreach a priority since becoming Commissioner. We are speaking with attorneys, students, small business owners and other professionals about the importance of trademarks and their value.

The intellectual property (IP) law field continues to grow, especially as a result of the Internet, social media, advances in technology and the increasingly global economy. There are many exciting career opportunities in IP and specifically in trademarks. I encourage both women and men who are interested in a career in trademarks to take an in-depth look at the area. Our website at www.uspto.gov provides a great deal of information for anyone who would like to learn more on the subject.

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