Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.
Syndicate content

Blog Category: Patent and Trademark Office

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. 

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Selects San Jose City Hall as Permanent Space for Silicon Valley Satellite Office

View of exterior of City Hall (credit: Atsuke)

Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that the San Jose City Hall building will be the permanent location for the USPTO’s Silicon Valley satellite office, and is scheduled to open by the end of 2014.

The selection of a permanent USPTO office in the Silicon Valley is a key part of the Commerce Department and Obama administration’s efforts to strengthen American innovation. As a driver of U.S. competitiveness and job growth, promoting and strengthening innovation is a major priority in U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s “Open for Business Agenda,” which was launched last week.

The USPTO plays a vital role in helping protect cutting-edge, American ideas that drive our economy and keep the U.S. globally competitive. The satellite offices specifically advance the Department’s innovation agenda by helping entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly, provide tailored resources to local start-ups and industries, and create good paying, high-skilled jobs.

USPTO Celebrates Our Next Generation of Inventors

USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea and Winning Inventors of the “PrestoPatch”

Today Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Teresa Stanek Rea, welcomed America’s future innovative leaders to the USPTO headquarters for this year’s Collegiate Inventors Competition.

Introduced in 1990 and co-sponsored by the USPTO and Invent Now, the competition encourages invention, entrepreneurship and creativity in students who are working on cutting-edge inventions at their colleges and universities. Outstanding inventions in science, engineering, mathematics, technology (STEM) and other creative fields are judged by a panel of National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees and USPTO officials.

The competition recognizes inventors and scientists early in their careers, and rewards students’ pioneering ideas as they address the problems of today’s world. Past finalists and winners have gone on to start their own companies based on their inventions, win prestigious fellowships and grants and receive national attention for their work.

This year’s finalists and winners trended strongly towards medical advances. Entries included a next-generation cancer chemotherapy patch; a powered upper body exoskeleton for physical therapy and occupational lifting applications; a mechanical leech for post-surgical treatment of tissue reattachment patients; a DNA sequence-based invention for the early detection of ovarian and endometrial cancers; and an intravenous drip designed to enable clinicians in developing countries to provide dehydrated children with life-saving intravenous fluids without the risk of overhydration.

Commerce Achieves Record Veteran Hiring Numbers in 2013

Veterans Day 2013 - Honoring All Who Served

In honor of Veterans Day, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the Department of Commerce’s commitment to hiring veterans. In Fiscal Year 2013, 13.2 percent of new Commerce hires were veterans and 3.6 percent were disabled veterans, the highest numbers of veterans the Department has employed in over 20 years.

The Department of Commerce (DOC) Veteran Employment Council, made up of volunteer human resources (HR) specialists, advisors, and program managers, plays a major role in hiring and retaining veterans and works with the individuals once they come on board.

“Here at Commerce, we take hiring veterans very seriously,” said Kevin Mahoney, Commerce’s Chief Human Capital Officer and Director, Office of Human Resources Management. “I would like to thank the DOC Veteran Employment Council for their hard work throughout the year, and we look forward to seeing even higher numbers next year.”

This year, the Department of Commerce trained over 3,100 hiring managers and human resources specialists on veterans’ preference and special appointing authorities for veterans and disabled veterans. Top performing agencies in the Department of Commerce for veteran hiring include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at 31.8 percent, the Office of the Secretary (OS) at 20 percent, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at 16.2 percent and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at 13.2 percent.

United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

Annual funding for the government expired on September 30. The Administration strongly believed that a lapse in funding should not occur. The Department is prepared for a lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations. Prior to a potential lapse in funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations (PDF) in the absence of appropriations (a “shutdown plan”).

The plan may be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant. This plan (PDF) complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce. All employees who are Presidentially Appointed, Senate Confirmed will remain on duty.

In compliance with the restrictions of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Department of Commerce will maintain the following services and activities during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Weather, water, and climate observing, prediction, forecast, warning, and support
• Law enforcement activities for the protection of marine fisheries
• Fisheries management activities including quota monitoring, observer activities, and regulatory actions to prevent overfishing
• Essential natural resource damage assessment activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident
• Water level data for ships entering U.S. ports, critical nautical chart updates and accurate position information.
• Patent and trademark application processing
• Operation of the national timing and synchronization infrastructure as well as the National Vulnerability Database
• Maintenance, continuity and protection of certain research property and critical data records
• All services of the National Technical Information Service
• Export enforcement – the ongoing conduct of criminal investigations, and prosecutions, and coordination with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in furtherance of our national security
• Budget operations required to support excepted activities under a shutdown, such as tracking of obligations and funds control.

The following services and activities will not be available during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Most research activities at NIST and NOAA (excluding real-time regular models on research computers used for Hurricane and FAA flight planning)
• Assistance and support to recipients of grant funding
• Technical oversight of non-mission essential contracts
• Services and activities provided by:
−Bureau of Economic Analysis
−Economic Development Administration
−Economics and Statistics Administration
−Minority Business Development Agency
−Bureau of the Census
• Most services and activities provided by the International Trade Administration