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Blog Category: Patent and Trademark Office

Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force Releases Report on Digital Copyright Policy

Report cover

Department Publishes Green Paper on Updating Copyright Policies for the Internet Age

The U.S. Department of Commerce today released a green paper on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy (Green Paper) to advance discussion on a set of policy issues critical to economic growth. The Green Paper discusses the goals of maintaining an appropriate balance between rights and exceptions as the law continues to be updated; ensuring that copyright can be meaningfully enforced on the Internet; and furthering the development of an efficient online marketplace.

The Green Paper released today is the most thorough and comprehensive analysis of digital copyright policy issued by any administration since 1995. The report is a product of the Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) with input from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Through the IPTF, the USPTO and NTIA will solicit further public comments and convene roundtables and forums on a number of key policy issues.

“Copyright law strikes a number of important balances in delineating what is protectable and what is not, determining what uses are permitted without a license, and establishing appropriate enforcement mechanisms to combat piracy, so that all stakeholders benefit from the protection afforded by copyright,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “Ensuring that our copyright policy provides incentives for creativity while promoting innovation on the Internet is a critical and challenging task. The Green Paper released today is an important step toward ensuring that the United States’ creative industries continue to have a substantial impact on strengthening our nation’s economy.” 

Copyright has been a vital contributor to U.S. cultural and economic development for more than two hundred years, fostering the production and dissemination of the valuable expression that has put America at the forefront of the global creative marketplace. Maintaining a balanced and effective copyright system should continue to drive the production of creative works while at the same time preserving the innovative power of the Internet and the free flow of information. The Green Paper provides a comprehensive review of current policy related to copyright and the Internet, and identifies important issues that call for attention and development of solutions. The solutions may entail a combination of legal remedies, technology, private sector cooperation, and public outreach and education, along with the continued development of options to legally access copyrighted works.

Readout of U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s Visit With Commerce Employees in Denver, Colorado

Secretary Penny Pritzker Meets with Commerce Employees in the Denver Office

While in Denver, Colorado, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Pritzker met with the heads of the Commerce Department’s local offices, including: International Trade Administration’s U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), the U.S. Census Bureau, the Inspector General (IG), and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). In addition to these meetings, she also spoke to employees about their work and ways in which their efforts are supporting economic growth and development in Colorado.

Today’s discussion in Denver served as an extension of an employee town hall she held yesterday in Boulder. The secretary emphasized how their work is crucial to creating a better quality of life for Americans and more opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses. She also asked employees for their input in the department’s ongoing efforts to protect, promote, and inform what America needs to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century.

These employee engagement opportunities are part of the secretary’s overall efforts to serve as a bridge to the business community so that the public and private sectors can work together to create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.

Spotlight on Commerce: Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, USPTO

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 Frederick Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

As the Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) I am responsible for the delivery of all administrative service support functions for the USPTO including human capital strategy, human resource management, telework policy and programs, facilities management, safety and security, transportation, asset and records management.  I am fortunate to work with a team of nearly 200 professionals in the delivery of these vital services to our colleagues at the USPTO.  My team and I pride ourselves on being a customer-centric and service-oriented team.  

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and when I was nine years old, after one particularly bad Cleveland winter, my mother, grandmother and I moved to Boca Raton, Florida. So I really grew up there.  I am a proud graduate of Boca Raton Community High School.  

After high school, I attended Duke University and earned a Bachelor’s degree in economics. Growing up near the water led to being interested in a career with the U.S. Navy. I was a member of the Duke Navy ROTC battalion and upon graduation was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. My first station was as part of the commissioning crew of the USS Vandegrift (FFG-48). I later went on to serve as Second Company Officer at the U.S. Naval Academy and Executive Assistant to The Commandant of Midshipmen. I left the Navy in 1989 and went to work as a junior consultant for Coopers & Lybrand and while working earned a Master of Business Administration from The George Washington University. Today, I am married to my partner of 20 years, Robert Murphy, and we live in the District of Columbia with our black lab, Sammi Jo.

Commerce Bureaus Play Key Role in Intellectual Property Accomplishments and Future Priorities

The Obama administration today released its 2013 Intellectual Property Enforcement Joint Strategic Plan. Since the issuance of its first Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement three years ago, the administration has made major accomplishments toward strengthening intellectual property (IP) enforcement, including increasing its use of trade policy tools, reducing online infringement and supporting American entrepreneurs and intellectual property-intensive industries that strengthen our economy.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Office of General Counsel's Commercial Law Development Program (CLDP) all play important roles in these efforts.

The USPTO undertakes a wide range of policy, legal, operational and regulatory efforts and initiatives that enhance intellectual property protection both at home and abroad. For example, USPTO provided technical assistance to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to ensure that Colombia, Korea and Panama implemented IP rights enforcement provisions in our free trade agreements with the three countries. USPTO has also conducted several capacity building initiatives and training programs, including several with foreign judges, countries and organizations to facilitate more effective IP rights enforcement systems abroad.

To help small and medium-sized American businesses interested in doing business in China, the USPTO has conducted several events nationwide providing information on patents, trade secrets, trademarks, copyright and enforcement. The USPTO also has IP attachés who actively work to improve the protection of U.S. intellectual property rights overseas. In addition to experts in the U.S., these attachés have sponsored training seminars teaching best practices in applying and enforcing intellectual property laws with representatives from nearly 20 countries. To assess the impact of intellectual property on the U.S. economy, the USPTO collaborated with Commerce’s Economic and Statistics Administration (ESA) to publish the Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus report, which found that the top IP-intensive industries in the U.S. support at least 40 million jobs and contribute more than $5 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product.

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.