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Blog Category: Patent and Trademark Office

General Counsel Kelly Welsh Visits USPTO during Community Day

Celebrating diversity in the workplace is important to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). General Counsel Kelly Welsh joined USPTO General Counsel Sarah Harris in celebrating the USPTO’s 17th Annual Community Day. Annually, the USPTO hosts Community Day to rededicate the importance of diversity and the impact it has in creating innovative approaches in client engagement, team building, and better work product. The event brings the community of the USPTO together to show not only how they differ in individual backgrounds and lives, but how they can come together to form the greatest intellectual property community in the world. General Counsel Welsh also met with the USPTO’s senior leadership, legal chiefs, staff attorneys and support staff. After meeting with USPTO staff, an official program commenced with reflections by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Michelle Lee and Mayor of the City of Alexandria William Euille. Following the program, the community set up booths discussing their organizations and a food fair for the public.

PTO Addresses Importance of Intellectual Property for World IP Day

Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

Today I had the opportunity to discuss the importance of intellectual property during a World IP Day event at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. I want to share my remarks with you through this blog:

One of the challenges I’ve come to appreciate in my own career in IP law, and particularly as Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, is how to facilitate a better and broader public understanding of the importance of intellectual property in our daily lives. Let’s face it: As engineers, scientists, academics, and lawyers, we don’t always do a great job helping get the public as excited about intellectual property as we are, or in helping them see the connection between intellectual property, the products they enjoy, and the IP-related jobs created every year in our innovation economy. As recently as 2012, a Commerce Department study found that IP-intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion dollars to, or 34.8 percent of, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). That’s a huge part of our economy.

As a child of the Silicon Valley, I saw the power of innovation and intellectual property up close and personal. My parents were immigrants, drawn across the Pacific Ocean by the promise of the American Dream. My father was an engineer, and so were all of the dads on the street where I grew up. They worked for tech companies of all sizes, often founded by just one person who grew their businesses through the power of intellectual property. Many of them had the experience of creating an invention, patenting it, and using the protection that patent provided to obtain venture capital funding, hire employees, and begin producing and selling new products and services. Seeing that process as a child made an indelible impression on me, and I never had much doubt about what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” But of course my childhood was shaped by intellectual property in other ways that I didn’t always recognize or appreciate.

Big Data is Big Business for Commerce

Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms (center) along with Erie Meyer, Joel Gurin, Waldo Jaquith, and Daniel Castro at the Center for Data Innovation hosted “The Economic Benefits of Open Data” event

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

Big Data and Open Data are all the rage these days. However, Commerce was into Big Data before Big Data was cool. As far back as 1790, we began collecting data on patents in the U.S. and the Census Bureau conducted the first Decennial Census the same year. In 1870, the National Weather Service was created – which today is one of the biggest data producing agencies around.

Back then, our economy was based largely on agriculture. Over the years, our economy evolved through the industrial revolution, later giving rise to the strong service sector. Today, we are at the nascent stages of the next era in our economic growth, the information age. On a daily basis, there is an ever-increasing amount of data becoming available, and the demand for data is increasing exponentially. We have before us both great opportunity and fascinating challenges to understand how best to harness this national resource. This is a key focus of Commerce’s Open for Business Agenda.

You may not know it, but the Department of Commerce is home to many agencies that are your primary source for data that you likely use every day.

For example:

  • How many people live in the U.S. or in your hometown? You might know the Census Bureau is the authority on population, but did you know the Census Bureau’s data goes well beyond just population? Census also produces huge volumes of data on our economy, demographics, and fascinatingly insightful data describing our communities – or, if you are a business, your customers.
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis is a little know agency that produces key economic data and many of the closely watched economic indicators that move markets, drive investment decisions and guide economic policy. Do you know which industries are the leading sources of income in your community, or to your customers? BEA data can tell you.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is your primary source for weather, ocean and climate data – they are collecting data every minute of every day from land, sea, and even spaced-based sensors. When you hear the local forecast or hear about severe weather warning, that is NOAA data informing you about your environment in real time.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology, locally known as NIST, is our nation’s authority on broad swaths of scientific, cyber, and physical data – including, officially, what time it is.
  • We also have data on patents going back more than 200 years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is a gold mine of inspiration for innovation.
  • Other agencies in Commerce provide data on economic development, minority businesses, trade, and telecommunications and the Internet.

On any given day, the Department will generate in excess of 20 terabytes of data, and sometimes much more. Yet, we think we can do more with this resource. We want to take every step we can to open access to it to the entrepreneurs and innovators of America, as we are pretty convinced that there is huge unmet value and potential. We understand that a huge part of the value of data is when it is not seen alone, but as part of a rich tapestry of information. We believe that there is great opportunity to solve problems, innovate new businesses, and improve data-driven decision-making, and we are committed to that path.

That is why I was so glad to be a part of today’s launch of the Open Data 500 Project, housed out of the GovLab at NYU. This exciting project has verified what we were certain must be true: That hundreds of American companies are using Commerce data every day to innovate and deliver important goods and services to their customers.

US Patent and Trademark Office Now Accepting Applications for 2014 Patents for Humanity Program

Patents for Humanity

The U.S. Commerce Department’s United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced that Patents for Humanity is being renewed as an annual program. Started as a one-year pilot in 2012, the program recognizes businesses, inventors, non-profits, and universities who leverage their intellectual property portfolio to tackle global humanitarian challenges.

2013 Patents for Humanity pilot award winners pioneered innovative business models in frontier markets to deliver much-needed HIV medicine, create more nutritious food products for the poor, and deliver solar energy to off-grid villages, among others. Building on the success of the pilot, USPTO will institute an annual competition to reward entrepreneurs and innovators who deploy patented technologies to address global challenges in five categories that reflect the President's development agenda: medicine, nutrition, sanitation, household energy, and living standards.

The USPTO expects to select about 10 winners this year who will receive public recognition and an acceleration certificate to expedite select proceedings at the USPTO. Honorable mentions will also be awarded with a more limited certificate to accelerate a patent application of the recipient's choosing. USPTO launched Patents for Humanity in February 2012 as part of an Obama administration initiative encouraging game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges. In January 2013, Patents for Humanity received an award for Best National IP and Technology Transfer Policy of 2012 from Licensing Executives Society International (LESI), a leading non-profit that supports IP professionals.

For details on how to apply for a 2014 award, view the Federal Register notice or learn more about the Patents for Humanity program.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Supports IP Protection at Commemoration of 700,000th Design Patent

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and a student at the Langdon Education Campus explore a LeapFrog handheld device, the 700,000th design patent awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office

Intellectual property protections are essential to helping unlock American innovation. Patents and trademarks give entrepreneurs the confidence and security they need to invest in new R&D, new businesses, and new employees. That confidence and security translates into $5 trillion of economic output at year -- a 2012 Commerce Department study found that industries that rely most heavily on IP protections support 40 million U.S. jobs and more than one-third of GDP. In order to help create the conditions for economic growth, the Commerce Department is making the country’s IP laws work even better.  

As part of these efforts, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker joined USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee and Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino today for a ceremony commemorating the 700,000th design patent. The patent was assigned to LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. for the design of “Leapster Explorer,” a hand-held learning and play device for 4-to-9-year-olds, featuring a touch screen and 3D graphics.  At the ceremony, which took place at the Langdon Education Campus in Washington, DC, Secretary Pritzker and Deputy Director Lee presented the patent to Leapfrog Senior Vice President and General Counsel Robert Lattuga. 

Every day, USPTO is awarding more utility and design patents to entrepreneurs and businesses to help them grow, innovate, and compete. Last year alone, USPTO issued 22,000 applications for design patents, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.  A design consists of the visual, ornamental characteristics embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture. Applications in this area cover designs of computer equipment, cell phones and other handheld electronic devices, such as the Leapfrog Design Patent Number 700,000. 

The Obama Administration has been a strong supporter of efforts to make the patent system works more efficiently. President Obama recently announced a number of new executive actions to increase transparency in patent ownership, provide more training to patent examiners, and help inventors and small business owners who unexpectedly find themselves facing patent litigation. 

At today’s ceremony, USPTO also announced a new Intellectual Property patch for Girl Scouts in the National Capital Region (GSCNC). The new patch was developed as a joint project between the GSCNC and the USPTO, in collaboration with the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation (IPO). The patch is designed to support curriculum and activities that increase understanding of IP, especially as it relates to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Department of Commerce releases FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan

Plan priorities are in direct alignment with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda”

Today the Department of Commerce released its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2014 to 2018. The five-year plan, along with the recently released FY15 budget, provides the pathway for meeting the Department’s long-term goals and objectives. The plan, summarizes the key strategies and initiatives that will drive progress in the Department’s five priority areas:

  • Trade and Investment. Expanding the U.S. economy through increased exports and foreign direct investment that leads to more and better American jobs.
  • Innovation. Fostering a more innovative U.S. economy—one that is better at inventing, improving, and commercializing products and technologies that lead to higher productivity and  competitiveness.
  • Data. Improve government, business, and community decisions and knowledge by transforming Department data capabilities and supporting a data-enabled economy.
  • Environment. Ensuring communities and businesses have the necessary information, products, and services to prepare for and prosper in a changing environment.
  • Operational Excellence. Delivering better services, solutions, and outcomes that benefit the American people.

The creation of the strategic plan was a collaborative effort involving staff from every Department of Commerce bureau and serves as a foundation for economic growth and opportunity. The plan is in direct alignment with the  “Open for Business Agenda,” which reflects the Department’s role as the voice of business, and the Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. Department leaders and employees will use this plan to transform strategies into actions, and actions into results.

Read a summary of the plan or the entire plan.

Files

Spotlight on Commerce: Joyce Ward, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Spotlight on Commerce: Joyce Ward, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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 Joyce Ward, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

I have the honor of serving as the Director of the Office of Education and Outreach at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I am fortunate to work with a dedicated, talented, and passionate team of people who believe deeply in the importance of educating, inspiring, and encouraging students and the people who educate them, whether they are teachers, parents, mentors, or members of the community.
 
Intellectual property (IP)—tangible ideas that can be bought and sold and traded—empowers people and has the potential to change society in ways both big and small. We’ve seen it over and over throughout our history with inventions such as the electric microphone, the artificial respirator, optical fiber, methods for storing blood, and countless other innovations that were developed by people with extraordinary ideas, vision, and sheer tenacity.
 
The Office of Education and Outreach is charged with developing, augmenting, and implementing education and outreach programming that increases knowledge and awareness of IP among stakeholders, and provides capacity building for future generations of inventors and innovators. To carry out that mission, we develop educational materials, build strategic partnerships, conduct professional development workshops for educators nationally, and provide hands-on experiences for students to help them make the connection between ideas and actualization.
 
I grew up in rural eastern North Carolina on Highway 58 between Wilson and Greene counties. The entrepreneurial spirit is in my DNA. Both of my parents were small business owners, and my great grandfather, first generation out of slavery, started his own business, which survived for close to 100 years. My father, a teacher by training, started a moving and storage company that evolved into a used furniture and antique shop. He also supported my mother in her business, which morphed from a gas station, convenience store, and used car lot to a restaurant and night club.

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. 

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).

A New Partner in Implementing Our Innovation Agenda

A New Partner in Implementing Our Innovation Agenda

Guest blog post from Dr. Patrick Gallagher, NIST Director performing the duties of the Deputy Secretary of Commerce 

Yesterday, I had the honor of swearing in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) new deputy director, Michelle Lee. 

Lee most recently served as the first director of the USPTO’s satellite office in the Silicon Valley, which has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of startups and companies in the high tech industry. While serving as director, Lee and her team actively engaged in patent and trademark education and outreach efforts to the vibrant entrepreneur community in Silicon Valley. 

Beyond the Silicon Valley office, Lee has played a broader role in helping shape key policy matters impacting the nation’s intellectual property system, focusing closely on efforts to continually strengthen patent quality, as well as curbing abusive patent litigation. Prior to becoming Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO, Lee served two terms on the USPTO’s Patent Public Advisory Committee, whose members are appointed by the U.S. Commerce Secretary and serve to advise the USPTO on its policies, goals, performance, budget and user fees.

 The USPTO has four satellite offices nationwide, which enable the agency to provide more resources to more area entrepreneurs, tailor programs to local startups and industries, and more effectively create good-paying, high-skilled jobs. 

The satellite offices are just one part of the USPTO’s work to protect the cutting-edge ideas that keep America globally competitive, help entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly, and help empower innovators with more resources to protect and scale their products. The agency’s work also puts them in the critical role of supporting the growth of regional innovation ecosystems.