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Blog Category: Patent and Trademark Office

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.

Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Implements Most Provisions of the America Invents Act

Vice Chief Judge Jay Moore of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board explains provisions of the AIA (file photo)

The most significant reform to the U.S. patent system in more than a century is a major step forward as numerous provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 are now in effect. The new rules will spur innovation and economic growth by streamlining the patent application process and introducing new procedures to ensure patent quality. Seven reforms to U.S. patent law went into effect one year after the signing of the bipartisan patent reform legislation by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011. 

Some of the new rules include three new administrative trial provisions—inter partes review, post-grant review, and the transitional program for covered business method patents—will offer third parties timely, cost-effective alternatives to district court litigation to challenge the patentability of an issued patent; a supplemental examination provision that allows applicants to submit additional information relevant to the patentability of an issued patent to the Office in a new procedure that may protect the patent from an inequitable conduct charge; an inventors oath and declaration provision that for the first time allows assignee filing of a patent application; and a citation of prior art and written statements provision will enable the Office to treat the claims in a patent consistent with how a patent owner represents its claims to the courts or in other Office proceedings.

USPTO Hosts Webinar to Discuss Provisions of the America Invents Act that Become Effective on September 16, 2012

USPTO leadership looks on as Judge Michael Tierney of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences addresses Friday’s webinar on changes to patent laws.

In just 9 days, many provisions related to the biggest change in U.S. patent law since the 19th century go into effect, and the senior leadership of the United States Patent and Trademark Office spoke about them in an online webinar this afternoon. The America Invents Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on September 16, 2011, modernizes our intellectual property system, ensuring that the USPTO is sufficiently resourced to operate efficiently, and affords inventors the timely and consistent patent protections they need to spur business growth and hiring.

Many of these new rules and guidelines go into effect on September 16, 2012, and they were created with input and comments from the public over the last year. Participating in today’s webinar were USPTO Director David Kappos, Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino, General Counsel Bernard Knight, Chief Judge James Smith, Lead Judge Michael Tierney, and Chief Communications Officer Todd Elmer.

Meanwhile, USPTO leadership will engage with the public even further when it begins traveling the country on Monday, September 10 for a series of “roadshows.” These roadshows will take place in eight cities—beginning in Minneapolis—and patent practitioners and the public can come to learn about how the America Invents Act is changing the law.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Promotes Innovation in Maine

PTO Director David Kappos addresses the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce in Rockport, Maine

Innovation is thriving in Maine, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Department of Commerce, and the administration are working hard to further foster that environment, Under Secretary of Commerce and USPTO Director David Kappos told the Regional Chamber of Commerce of Penobscot Bay, Maine, on Tuesday.

From 2009 to 2010, the number of patent filings in the Portland, Maine, region nearly doubled, Kappos said. “We’re doing a lot to ensure that creative ideas and groundbreaking innovations, born right here in Maine, can flourish, and that the American innovation system is one that’s built to last.”

Barriers to innovation are being reduced, Kappos said, in part through the Startup America initiative, which includes investment funds, mentoring networks for entrepreneurs, tax breaks for small businesses, and the Department of Commerce’s i6 Green Challenge. That program rewards communities that develop and embrace cutting-edge ideas in green technology development and implementation.

Kappos also highlighted promoting insourcing of U.S. jobs through robust protections of our intellectual property abroad.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Helps Atlanta Kickstart Innovation Opportunities

Director Kappos addressing Startup Atlanta (Photo by Bytegraph.com. Used with permission)

Helping set a stage for success to Atlanta’s entrepreneurs, Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos was in the Georgia capital this afternoon to help launch Startup Atlanta. Created by the city’s economic development agency, Invest Atlanta, the initiative seeks to connect entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed.

A hallmark for Startup Atlanta is an online platform that will serve as a network for entrepreneurs while simultaneously mapping out valuable resources such as incubators, accelerators, service providers and connections.

At the event, Kappos addressed the importance of a vibrant local entrepreneur community. “Not only do the novel ideas of Georgia’s entrepreneurs have the potential to move the pulse of an industry or transform the welfare of a community,” Kappos said, “They can also attract critical resources and capital for additional research and development, creating a host of new markets and new opportunities.”