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Blog Entries from February 2014

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. 

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Supports Economic Cooperation at North American Leaders Summit

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined President Barack Obama and the U.S. delegation to the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico. The trilateral meeting between the Presidents of the United States and Mexico and the Prime Minister of Canada is an opportunity for the three leaders to discuss progress on a range of issues impacting North America, including trade and investment, economic competitiveness, and entrepreneurship. 

As part of the North American Leaders Summit, President Obama signed an Executive Order (EO) on Streamlining the Export/Import Process for America’s Businesses. This action directs the completion of the International Trade Data System (ITDS) by December 2016, in order to reduce the costs of trade and allow companies to ship American-made goods more quickly. Currently, when businesses want to import or export goods, they must submit information, often in paper form, to a number of government agencies. The process of gaining approval on these submissions can take days.  The International Trade Data System will instead allow businesses to electronically transmit the required data through a “single window.” This EO will cut red tape, speed up shipment of American goods overseas, eliminate duplicative and burdensome paperwork, and improve government efficiency. 

During the NALS official meeting, Secretary Pritzker provided an overview of her work with her counterparts, Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal and Canadian Minister of International Trade Edward Fast, on the North American competitiveness work plan. Since being sworn in last June, Secretary Pritzker has been focused on increasing economic integration between the United States, Mexico, and Canada and has specifically worked on a number of issues on the agenda at the North American Leaders Summit. These include: creating a North American Trusted Traveler Program, which would allow vetted individuals to travel more easily between the U.S., Mexico and Canada; harmonizing trade data, consistent with international standards, to make it easier for companies to do business in the three countries; working on joint investment and tourism cooperation initiatives, including exchanging best practices; and creating a Trilateral Research, Development and Innovation Council, which will support the development of a network of entrepreneurs across the North American region. Additional information about the key deliverables from the Summit can be found here.

The North American economic relationship is one of the strongest in the world. The United States and Canada share the world’s largest bilateral trading relationship, with more than $700 billion in two-way trade in goods and services annually and more than $600 billion in direct investment on both sides of the border. Mexico is the United States’ second-largest export market and third-largest trading partner, and bilateral trade between the United States and Mexico was almost half a trillion dollars in 2012. Earlier this month, Secretary Pritzker led 17 export-ready U.S. companies on a five-day business development trade mission to Mexico, focusing on promoting U.S. exports to Mexico and further strengthening the U.S.-Mexico commercial relationship.

Collaborating with State and Local leaders on Cybersecurity

Collaborating with state and local leaders on cybersecurity

Guest Blog Post by Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Patrick D. Gallagher

Protecting our nation’s valuable information assets from hackers and other threats is often dependent on better collaborations—both public-private partnerships and state, local, and federal efforts.

NIST’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence is all about such partnerships. And that’s why I was honored to join U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Montgomery County Maryland Executive Isiah Leggett and Maryland’s Secretary of Economic Development Dominick Murray Tuesday to celebrate a new agreement that  extends public collaboration on this important topic. These same organizations joined me in Feb. 2012 to launch the center’s efforts to address various industries’ cybersecurity challenges and to accelerate the adoption of technologies that are based on standards and best practices. Since that time, the center has been bringing together experts from industry, government and academia to demonstrate integrated cybersecurity that is cost-effective, repeatable and scalable.

Eighteen IT industry leaders have joined our efforts through the National Cybersecurity Partnership initiative. Additional companies—both large and small—have worked with us on specific projects focused on health IT, energy, and financial services, with more to come, including efforts to support the recently released Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.

The agreement signed by NIST, Maryland and Montgomery County provides the center a new home with an expanded footprint, both physical and programmatic, not far from NIST’s Gaithersburg, Md., campus. It encourages technology transfer of government-developed technologies to companies for licensing and from one government agency to another. This collaboration also will help the state and county departments of economic development support new security technology companies and products, as well as to identify future workforce needs and provide opportunities for high school, college and graduate students.

Updating Guidance on Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards to Promote Smarter Regulation, Collaboration, and Technological Innovation

Editor's note: This has been cross-posted from the Office of Management and Budget

The computer, tablet, or smartphone you are using to read this blog is comprised of parts and components that were developed, manufactured, and assembled in different locations around the United States and the globe, yet was carefully designed to ensure that your device is safe and interoperable with other devices. We don’t spend much time thinking or worrying about how our electronics work or if they are safe, due largely to the ingenuity of the companies that make these products and their willingness to collaborate with each other to develop technologies that are safe, innovative, and interoperable. While these companies do an excellent job in designing our products, it is important to remember that governments also play a critical role in ensuring the products that impact our daily lives are safe, effective, and protective of the environment.

Since the enactment of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act in 1995, U.S. Federal regulatory agencies have been guided by the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Circular A-119, “Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities.” In 1998, OMB issued a revised version of Circular A-119, which has been guiding agencies on the use of voluntary consensus standards in regulation and on conformity assessment ever since.

Over the intervening years since those revisions, the scope of economic activity and technology innovation has become increasingly global, and its complexity requires governments to collaborate more closely with the private sector, other stakeholders, and each other. Many of the regulations that U.S. agencies issue every year rely on the work of standards developers and providers of conformity assessment services in the private sector. Many of these regulations impact companies, workers, and consumers both inside and outside the United States. As the worlds of regulation, standards, and trade increasingly intersect, and domestic and international interests increasingly overlap, close collaboration within the U.S. government on these issues has become critical, as has a more comprehensive approach.

Census Bureau Releases Valentine’s Day-Related Facts and Statistics

Census Bureau Release Valentine’s Day-Related Facts and Statistics

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day today, the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau released Valentine’s Day-related facts and statistics.  Expressing one's love to another is a celebrated custom on Valentine's Day.  Sweethearts and family members present gifts to one another, such as cards, candy, flowers and other symbols of affection.  Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released statistics on businesses that benefit from Valentine’s Day as well as statistics about married couples and the number of dating service establishments.

1,148:  Number of U.S. manufacturing establishments that produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2011, employing 35,538 people. California led the nation with 122 of these establishments, followed by Pennsylvania, with 109.

393:  The number of dating service establishments nationwide as of 2007. These establishments, which include Internet dating services, employed 3,125 people and pulled in $928 million in revenue.

29.0 and 26.6 years:  Median age at first marriage in 2013 for men and women, respectively.

23,394:  The estimated number of jewelry stores in the United States in 2011. Jewelry stores offer engagement, wedding and other rings to couples of all ages. In February 2013, these stores sold an estimated $2.8 billion in merchandise.

15,307:  The total number of florists' establishments nationwide in 2011. These businesses employed 66,165 people.

For more Valentine’s Day statistics, please go to the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features: Valentine’s Day 2014

Van Nuys-Based Louroe Electronics Travels with U.S. Secretary of Commerce to Mexico for First Trade Mission

Richard Brent, CEO of Louroe Electronics

Guest blog post by Richard Brent, CEO of Louroe Electronics

I remember getting the call from U.S. Department of Commerce extending an invite to my company, Louroe Electronics, to accompany Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on her first-ever trade mission to Mexico. I was truly humbled and enthusiastic about this unique opportunity.

I’ve served as the CEO of Van Nuys-based Louroe Electronics, the world leader in audio monitoring technology, for more than 5 years now and was thrilled to receive the call. I was beyond excited to learn that Louroe was handpicked by the Department of Commerce - the only Southern California and sole security company- along with 16 other export-ready companies, to be a part of The Secretary’s historic trade mission. The mission specifically focused on promoting U.S. exports in key industry sectors including advanced manufacturing, information and communications technology, and security products.

From February 3-7, I personally traveled with Secretary Pritzker to Mexico City and Monterrey alongside other leading companies including: IBM Corporation, Motorola Solutions, Inc., Oracle Corporation, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, and Deloitte Consulting LLP.  Our mutual goal was to promote U.S exports. This trade mission helped facilitate introductions to key government and private sector decision makers in Mexico who shared with us key initiatives and how US companies can assist with development and growth.

As a result of my participation in the trade mission, I was able to successfully identify five new pilot projects for Louroe that will focus on improving public safety throughout Mexico City and Monterrey. This is great news not only for Louroe but also for the Los Angeles economy as the pilot programs will require us to increase our current staffing by approximately 10 percent, ultimately creating more jobs.

EFJohnson: Participation in Mexico Trade Mission was a Positive Experience

Categories:
 Rudy Torres, Director of International Business for all Government Public Safety Radio Communication for EFJohnson Technologies

Guest blog post by Mr. Rudy Torres, Director of International Business for all Government Public Safety Radio Communication for EFJohnson Technologies of Irving, Texas.

Established in 1923, EFJohnson has a long history of providing mission critical communication solutions and is one of only three companies in the land mobile radio industry today that has developed a full line of Project 25 products. EFJohnson focuses on delivering the highest quality, innovative, and cost-effective Project 25 solutions for public safety, military, and government entities.

Being a representative on the trade mission to Mexico was a very positive experience. The inclusion of small and medium business was very important to us. Secretary Pritzker provided equal access to all companies on the mission regardless of size. It was a great opportunity for a medium company like ours to show its agility and focus to an audience normally reserved for larger companies.

Secretary Pritzker’s commitment and presence at all functions brought out the higher levels of government officials and administrators. All participating companies were provided access to key policy makers and business leaders. Secretary Pritzker also opened her personal network of business associates and introduced the delegation to top leaders of the business community both in Mexico City and Monterrey.

Cities Launch Prize Competitions to Spur Economic Development Planning

SC2 Challenge logo

Last week, Greensboro, NC; Hartford, Connecticut; and Las Vegas, Nevada launched economic development competitions as part of the SC2 Visioning Challenge (SC2 Challenge). Created by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the SC2 Challenge selected the three cities to receive $1 million each to solicit innovative strategies that advance local economic development planning.

Through a fair and open process of participation, these competitions are expected to attract a wide range of new approaches to help the communities succeed in reaching their economic and job growth goals. Leveraging an extensive array of innovative ideas from a diverse field of participants is a key benefit of challenge initiatives. 

The SC2 Challenge is part of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative (SC2), launched by the Obama administration in June 2011. SC2 is aimed at creating new partnerships between federal agencies and localities to spark economic development in communities that have faced long-term development challenges. 

A Vision for Mexico’s Future

Anne Altman, general manager of IBM US Federal Government and Industries, and Dan Pelino, general manager of IBM's public sector business

Guest blog post by Anne Altman, general manager of IBM US Federal Government and Industries, and Dan Pelino, general manager of IBM's public sector business.

IBM believes in a vision of economic development and vitality where technology helps drive more active and engaged communities through citizen-based services, including health care, infrastructure, public safety, supply chain and education, all enabling "smarter" regions and societies.

The dominant cities, regions and countries around the world today are planning for long-term growth to build their economic competitive advantage.  They are doing this by collaborating across levels of government, industry and academia - working across political, social and technological divides to achieve bigger, better and more sustainable outcomes in jobs, business environments and citizen quality of life.

This is why we were honored to be part of the U.S. business delegation to Mexico - deepening our relationships with government and business leaders, some of which we’ve held for many years, since IBM first opened for business in Mexico in 1927.  We share Secretary Pritzker’s belief that Mexico is an important growth market on its own, a key trade partner to the USA and perhaps the world.  This is why we are investing in opening up a cloud computing data center in Mexico City later this year. We believe that Mexico can benefit from the adoption of new technology to enable their cities and States for the future.

As the general managers of IBM’s public sector and Federal business units, respectively, we are always looking for opportunities to share best practices in business and government and learn from the experience of others.  Mexico is our neighbor and partner, and it was rewarding to spend several days in such insightful discussions with the leaders in business, academia and government.

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).