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Spotlight on Commerce: Vikrum Aiyer, Special Adviser, USPTO

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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. 

Though such policies are vital to an economy that’s built to last, I can’t say that I ever knew I’d be working to bolster the Commerce Department’s innovation agenda. In fact, after studying political science at UC Berkeley and doing graduate work at George Washington University, I dedicated much of my time toward speech writing and developing communications plans for a range of elected officials. But no matter the debate, or the issue, my efforts were always rooted in an ethic of community empowerment. Having lost my biological mother at a young age, and being part of an immigrant family, I realized early on how much we relied on our surrounding community for assistance and support. And being Asian American, that recognition of community was deeply rooted in a culture that taught me to honor our heritage and differences by listening to those around us and working toward a common purpose. So while I’m proud to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I’m even prouder to be able to help reduce barriers to entrepreneurialism—a spirit so many AAPI-owned businesses have leveraged to create ample jobs and opportunities in their own neighborhoods and communities. 

As a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and a steering committee member of Refugees International, I’ve learned to appreciate that advocating on behalf of others isn’t just a matter of offering someone help. Instead it demands engaging in a real partnership to collaboratively get at the heart of a challenge, and chart a path forward in the appropriate direction. That’s true whether you’re working on behalf of American businesses, tutoring a student in your neighborhood or advocating for a refugee abroad. Only when we genuinely listen to one another will differences be exposed, and individual needs be addressed. That’s what this administration’s efforts are rooted in. That’s what this country has been built on. And that’s what this month is all about.

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