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Blog Category: Patent and Trademark Office

Spotlight on Commerce: Vikrum Aiyer, Special Adviser, USPTO

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. 

USPTO Honors Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees

The National Inventors Hall of Fame 2013 Class of Inductees (seated) with living inductees attending the 41st Annual Induction Ceremony held at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Alexandria, Virginia. USPTO photo by Amando Carigo

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) had the exciting privilege of honoring 17 of America’s greatest innovators Wednesday night, when they were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in ceremonies held at the USPTO’s Alexandria, Va., headquarters. Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO Teresa Stanek Rea conferred induction medals to visionary inventors whose patented innovations include the electronic synthesizer, flat panel plasma display, iris recognition technology, and the code providing the foundation for 3G cellular systems.

Garret Brown was honored for inventing the Oscar-winning Steadicam camera stabilizer, which made Rocky Balboa’s run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum one of the most iconic moments in movie history. Emmy award winners Don Bitzer, Gene Slottow, and Robert Willson were recognized for their invention of the flat-panel plasma display, which revolutionized home entertainment. Samuel Alderson was honored posthumously for developing the crash test dummy. From its beginnings, the dummy has proven invaluable to designing and testing advances in fields of automobile safety, aviation, and medical technology.

A complete list of the honorees and their revolutionary patented inventions is located on USPTO's website.

The National Inventors Hall of Fame is the premier non-profit organization in America dedicated to honoring legendary inventors whose innovations and entrepreneurial endeavors have changed the world. Founded in 1973 by the USPTO and the National Council of Intellectual Property Law Association, the Hall of Fame has 470 inductees with its 2013 induction. You can visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum in the atrium of the Madison Building on the USPTO campus in Alexandria, Va., Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.

U.S. Department of Commerce Announces Patents for Humanity Winners

Deputy Secretary Blank Speaking during the Patents For Humanity Awards Event

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced the winners of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Patents for Humanity pilot program during an awards ceremony on Capitol Hill supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Launched by the USPTO in February 2012 as part of an Obama administration initiative promoting game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges, Patents for Humanity is a competition recognizing patent owners and licensees who address global challenges in health and standards of living.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director Gayle Smith and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Teresa Stanek Rea delivered remarks at the awards ceremony.

“A strong patent system is crucial to supporting our continued economic growth, and its benefits don’t stop at our borders. Patented inventions are bringing longer, healthier, fuller lives to people across the globe,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank. “As part of the President’s global development agenda, the Patents for Humanity program is a great example of how American innovation is helping solve critical global challenges and creating prosperity in emerging economies.”

Commerce’s USPTO Joins NSF and NBC Network in Launching Educational Series on Innovation

Science of Innovation banner

The U.S. Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) joined the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NBC Learn today in launching an 11-part “Science of Innovation” series to coincide with the 165th birthday of American inventor Thomas Edison. The program represents the latest intellectual property (IP) education efforts by the USPTO and serves as a public-private partnership leveraging the best strengths of federal agencies, industry, and educators to demonstrate the connection between IP and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Narrated by NBC News’ Ann Curry, the series features innovators from across the country, including scientists and engineers working on projects in industries as diverse as healthcare, energy, transportation, agriculture, and more. “Science of Innovation” looks beyond the popular concept of innovation as the result of a single event or brilliant idea. Instead, it examines the processes and steps that anyone from a garage tinkerer to a federally-funded scientist can take to discover new solutions to pressing problems or to add value in new ways to existing products, services or technologies.

“The USPTO has promoted the progress of science and invention since 1790,” said Teresa Stanek Rea, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “Education is the key to encouraging today’s children to become tomorrow’s innovators. These videos and lesson plans are great tools for teachers everywhere to help students learn about intellectual property, while inspiring them to connect the process of innovation with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.”

Segments feature innovators working on cutting-edge innovations, including bionic limbs, biofuels, anti-counterfeiting devices, and 3-D printing. A full list of videos can be found online at http://www.nbclearn.com/innovation/

Spotlight on Commerce: James Smith, Chief Administrative Patent Judge

James Smith, Chief Administrative Patent Judge

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 post by James Smith, Chief Administrative Patent Judge, United States Patent and Trademark Office

It is my privilege to serve as Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I was appointed to the position in May of 2011 by then Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. Prior to taking this position I served as the Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for Baxter International, a Chicago-based healthcare company that develops medical devices and treatments for a wide range of human medical conditions. At the company, I led the part of its operations concerned with its patent, trademark and copyright matters. In the current role at the Board, I am part of – actually lead -- a 300-person team, which includes about 170 administrative patent judges who hear appeals from decisions in which the USPTO denies patent rights to applicants. The Board also hears trials which resolve disputes between patent owners and other parties seeking to have patents revoked. All of our cases bring some element of closure to outstanding patent legal issues, thus helping advance the use and protection of inventions in the United States. Our mission is squarely centered on helping innovative businesses bring about an America with great well-being for all.

For me, taking the position at the USPTO allowed me to return to Washington, DC, after being away for more than 20 years. I grew up in DC, and was a big beneficiary of the many educational things it had to offer, such as its historical sites, museums and wonderful cultural offerings. My parents, who taught in the area schools for decades, made regular use of Washington’s cultural richness in their wider instruction of all three of their children. They were big proponents of education, and always insistent that their children learn and appreciate history, including by knowing of the substantial contributions of African-American citizens to the development of our country.

Deputy Secretary Blank Joins President Obama in Honoring National Medal of Technology and Innovation Winners

President Barack Obama presents Dr. Frances H. Arnold (left), California Institute of Technology, the Medal of Technology and Innovation for her pioneering biofuels-related research that could eventually lead to the replacement of pollutant-causing material.

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank joined President Barack Obama Friday, February 1 at a White House ceremony honoring the recipients of the 2011 National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation. These medals are presented each year by the President of the United States.

The Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) administers the National Medal of Technology and Innovation honoring those that deliver technologies that are changing society and improving the quality of life. The National Medal of Technology and Innovation is this country’s highest award for technological achievement.

The medal is awarded annually to individuals, teams, companies or divisions of companies for their outstanding contributions to America’s economic, environmental and social well-being. By highlighting the national importance of technological innovation, the medal also seeks to inspire future generations of Americans to prepare for, and pursue technical careers to keep America at the forefront of global technology and economic leadership.

Commerce’s PTO Wins Award for Program Encouraging Patent Holders to Address Global Humanitarian Challenges

Patents for Humanity

The Commerce Department’s Patent and Trademark Office was honored yesterday for its Patents for Humanity initiative, a pilot program designed to encourage the use of patented technology to address humanitarian challenges. USPTO Director Kappos launched Patents for Humanity in February 2012 as part of a series of Obama administration initiatives to promote game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges. The program is an awards competition recognizing patent owners and licensees who address humanitarian needs around the globe.

“We are honored to be recognized for our Patents for Humanity initiative, which recognizes those who use patented technology to aid the less fortunate,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “In an increasingly interconnected world, the ability of technology to transform lives is real and powerful. This program plays a key role in advancing President Obama’s global development agenda.”

Entrants compete in four categories: medical technology, food and nutrition, clean technology, and information technology. Winners receive accelerated processing of select matters at the USPTO. Applications to the pilot were accepted through Oct. 31, 2012, with winners to be announced at an awards ceremony later in 2013.

The non-profit Licensing Executives Society International (LESI) presented the National IP and Technology Transfer Policy Award to the USPTO at a ceremony in Geneva Switzerland at LESI’s annual Global Technology Impact Forum (GTIF).

Characters Featured at the USPTO’s Trademark Expo Visit the Children’s National Medical Center

Dr. Bear ® and T.Markey, the USPTO's trademark mascot, at 2011 visit to Children's National Medical Center.  Photo by Roberto Ortiz.

The costumed characters featured at the USPTO’s upcoming Trademark Expo visited the Children’s National Medical Center today.  Volunteers passed out Trademark Activity Guides, helped children complete activities involving characters that are registered trademarks, and taught children about familiar trademarks.  The visit included an introductory statement by Commissioner for Trademarks Deborah Cohn, a musical parade of costumed characters, a presentation challenging children to identify the goods and services for which characters are registered, and visits by some of the characters to children on the hospital floors.  The children’s faces lit up with joy as they watched the characters parade around and dance to music!  T.Markey, the Trademark Expo’s own mascot, was  joined by Spuddy Buddy, Crayola “Tip,” Chester Cheetah, and GEICO’s Gecko. 

An even larger cast of costumed characters will parade in front of the USPTO’s Madison Building at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 19, to begin the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 National Trademark Expo.  Representatives from Mattel, NASCAR, Inc. and the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital will join Deputy Under Secretary and USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea, Alexandria Mayor William Euille, and Commissioner Cohn in giving brief remarks. 

Commerce Announces Partnership with Cornell NYC Tech to Help American Entrepreneurs Innovate, Grow, and Create Jobs

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank announces a first-of-its-kind campus collaboration that will provide Commerce resources directly to students, faculty and industry (photo credit: Lindsay France/University Photography, Cornell)

First-of-its-kind campus collaboration will provide USPTO and Commerce resources directly to students, faculty and industry, help accelerate commercialization of new technologies

Today Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank was joined by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos and Cornell University President David J. Skorton to announce a groundbreaking agreement between the Commerce Department and Cornell University that will promote growth for American businesses and entrepreneurs. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and New York City Deputy Mayor Robert Steel also participated in the event.

Acting Secretary Blank announced that for the first time, the resources of a U.S. government agency and a major research institution will join forces to give students and researchers at Cornell’s New York City Tech Campus (Cornell NYC Tech) direct access to resources that will help them bring their ideas to market and grow their businesses.

By installing a permanent staff member of the U.S. Commerce Department at Cornell’s NYC Tech campus, the department will be bringing its full suite of resources to the university community, helping connect students, faculty and mentors to early-stage investors, intellectual property strategies, export assistance tools, government grants, and academic partners. The partnership will help Cornell’s new academic institution break down the traditional boundaries that exist between graduate education and the research and development of technology products.  Press release

USPTO Deputy Director Rea Participates in University of Michigan Law School Panel

Deputy Under Secretary for Intellectual Property and Deputy U.S.Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Teresa Stanek Rea participated today in a panel titled, "The State of Patent Litigation: A Conversation with the Federal Circuit Court" at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor. The event included a keynote presentation by the Honorable Randall R. Rader, Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The America Invents Act (AIA) was the main topic of the panel discussion. Rea described how its historic reforms drive growth in both jobs and exports. Most of the AIA’s rules went into effect on September 16th, and create new avenues to ensure our patents are of the highest quality. The AIA was signed into law by President Obama last September. 

Given Ann Arbor’s proximity to Detroit, it’s not surprising that many audience members were curious to learn more about the USPTO’s first-ever satellite office in Detroit. It opened on July 13th, but examiners there are already working on patent applications from regional inventors. Rea also noted that the USPTO is hard at work looking to open additional offices in Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, and Silicon Valley.