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The Commerce Blog

Secretary Locke Outlines Administration’s Views on Patent Reform

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today issued a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member John Conyers outlining the views of the Obama administration on patent reform legislation currently being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The America Invents Act increases the certainty of patent rights by implementing a first-inventor-to-file system for patent approval, which reduces the need for cost-prohibitive litigation that often ties up new ideas in court, stifling innovation and holding back job creation. It will also allow the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to set and retain the fees it collects from its users. The USPTO is entirely fee-funded, and this fee-setting authority will ensure high-quality, timely patent review and address the backlog of patent applications that is currently preventing new innovations from reaching the marketplace.

Since the beginning of Locke’s tenure as Commerce Secretary, reforming the U.S. patent system to support the acceleration of American innovation and competitiveness and drive job creation and economic growth has been one of his top priorities. In meetings with CEOs and U.S. business leaders from companies of all sizes, the shortcomings of the U.S. patent system and the need for reform has almost always been a topic of conversation.

During the last two years, Locke has worked with bipartisan Congressional leaders as they have crafted legislation that is widely supported by industry experts, universities, independent inventors, and the business community, because it will make it easier for America’s innovators to produce new technologies that drive economic growth and create jobs.

Partnership with NTIA Bolsters Libraries' Leading Role in Digital Literacy, Workforce Development

Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director, American Library Association Washington Office

Guest blog post by Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director, American Library Association Washington Office

Research confirms that digital opportunity depends not only on access to computers and broadband, but the competencies necessary to successfully navigate the online world and be more competitive in the 21st century. America’s libraries are on the forefront of connecting learners of all ages with formal and informal digital literacy skills training, as well as access to a wide range of technology resources.

For these reasons, the American Library Association is pleased to collaborate with the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to support DigitalLiteracy.gov. This new portal is an important first step in collecting and sharing class materials, research, and online learning tools. We look forward to greatly expanding the content available as librarians, educators and other practitioners engage with the website.

From their inception, libraries of all kinds have had the development, promotion, and advancement of literacy at the core of their mission.  Now libraries combine trained staff, technology infrastructure and robust electronic collections to meet diverse needs that continue to change and grow. School librarians teach the skills necessary to find and evaluate web resources, and they support use of online collaborative tools that help ensure our students leave school ready for higher education and the 21st century workforce. Information literacy is now considered by several accreditation associations as a key outcome for college students.

2010 Census Shows Nation’s Hispanic Population Grew Four Times Faster than the Total U.S. Population, While Overall Population is Aging

Official census taker pushing a doorbell

The U.S. Census Bureau today released two 2010 Census briefs summarizing important demographic trends on the Hispanic population and Age and Sex Composition in the United States over the past decade.

The Hispanic Population: 2010 looks at an important part of our nation’s changing ethnic diversity with a particular focus on groups of Hispanic origin, including Mexican, Dominican and Cuban. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent – four times the 9.7-percent growth of the total U.S. population. The increase was a difference of 15.2 million people and accounted for more than half of the total population increase of 27.3 million people.

Age and Sex Composition: 2010 reports on our nation’s changing age and sex composition and shows that while Americans have gotten older, the male population has grown faster than the female population over the last decade. Of the total 2010 Census population, 157.0 million people, or 50.8 percent, were female and 151.8 million, or 49.2 percent, were male. 

For more information on today’s 2010 Census releases, visit www.2010.census.gov/news.

Commerce’s Commitment to Eliminating Regulatory Burdens in Support of Growth, Competitiveness and National Security

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In January, President Obama issued an executive order outlining his plan to create a 21st century regulatory system that encourages job creation, economic growth and U.S. competitiveness. The idea was to make it simpler, smarter and more efficient, while still protecting the health and safety of the American people.  As a key part of that plan, he called upon government agencies to conduct a comprehensive review of the rules and regulations currently on the books and to remove those that are outdated, unnecessary or excessively burdensome.  

This review has led agencies, including the Department of Commerce, to identify initiatives that have the potential to eliminate tens of millions of hours in reporting burdens and billions of dollars in regulatory costs. Today, the results of each agency’s review is being made public and posted on Whitehouse.gov. 

Here at the Commerce Department, we focused our plan on those bureaus with the greatest regulatory activity: the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the International Trade Administration (ITA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

NIST: New Software Tool Helps Evaluate Natural Cooling Options for Buildings

Image of Climate Suitability Tool graphic

A new, free software tool from Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) could prove to be a breath of fresh air for architects and designers of ventilation systems for "green" commercial buildings.

With the Climate Suitability Tool, building design teams can evaluate whether the local climate is suitable for cooling a prospective building with natural ventilation or requires a hybrid system that supplies supplemental cooling capacity. The tool is based on a model of the heat-related characteristics of a building configured to take full advantage of ambient climate conditions and natural air movement. It incorporates an algorithm—or problem-solving procedure—that crunches hourly weather data (downloaded from annual datasets for U.S. localities) and uses standardized criteria for rating the comfort of building occupants.

"We think this tool will be useful during the early stages of design, when decisions on the form of a building and its components are being made," explains NIST mechanical engineer Steven Emmerich. "It provides estimates of ventilation rates for preliminary design calculations. You can approximate how many air changes per hour will be necessary to offset heat gains due to the occupants, equipment and lighting so that comfortable conditions are maintained."

The effects of direct natural ventilation and a nighttime cooling procedure are assessed using a method devised by James Axley, Yale University professor of architecture and engineering. When the outdoor temperature is below an accepted threshold, direct ventilation through open windows and by other means can deliver the cooling to maintain the comfort zone. When the outdoor temperature exceeds the threshold during the day but drops below it after sunset, the cooler nightime air can dilute heat gained during the day and build a reserve of cooling potential for the day to come.  Read NIST's Tech Beat story

U.S. Tourism is Big Business at International Pow Wow

Chart showing growth in travel and tourism

Guest blog post by Francisco Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

The U.S. Travel Association’s International Pow Wow is the travel industry’s premier international marketplace and the largest generator of USA travel.

The three-day event is action-packed and filled with pre-scheduled business appointments, with more than 5,000 attendees expected and international and domestic buyers and representatives from more than 70 countries will be attending. The business negotiations that take place result in the generation of more than $3.5 billion in future USA travel.  In other words, Pow Wow is a big deal. 

We at the Commerce Department have enjoyed a close relationship with Pow Wow for years and added the conference into the Department’s International Buyer Program in 2011. The International Trade Administration (ITA) recruited qualified buyers from all over the world to attend Pow Wow.  There are currently 1,135 international buyer delegates, including delegations from emerging markets like China and the Czech Republic, and 1,047 U.S. companies registered for the show this year.

U.S. Census Bureau Reports Housing is Top Reason People Moved Between 2009 and 2010

Graphic of pie chart

The U.S. Census Bureau reported today that among those who moved between 2009 and 2010, more than four out of 10 did so for housing-related reasons, including the desire to live in a new or better home or apartment.

Family concerns, such as a change in marital status, and employment needs were other factors cited as reason for moving in the new report, Geographical Mobility: 2010.

“Tracking mobility allows us to examine shifts in demographic trends in the population for the nation, regions and metro areas as a whole,” said David Ihrke, survey statistician in the Census Bureau's Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.

In 2010, 37.5 million people 1 year and older in the United States had changed residences within the past year, a rate fairly similar to that in 2009. Among those who moved, 69.3 percent stayed within the same county, 16.7 percent moved to a different county in the same state, 11.5 percent moved to a different state, and 2.5 percent moved to the United States from abroad.

People in the Northeast were the least likely to move at a rate of 8.3 percent in 2010, followed by the Midwest at 11.8 percent, the South at 13.6 percent, and the West at 14.7 percent. While principal cities within metropolitan areas experienced a net loss of 2.3 million movers between 2009 and 2010, suburbs saw a net gain of 2.5 million movers. Release

EDA Helps Launch Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge to Promote Regional Growth, Competitiveness

Unprecedented initiative leverages resources of 16 federal agencies to create jobs and economic prosperity

UPDATE: Read Gene Sperling and Ginger Lew's post on this subject on the White House blog.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), along with 15 other federal agencies within the Obama Administration, today announced a $33 million Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge to drive innovation-fueled job creation and global competitiveness through public-private partnerships in at least 20 regions around the country. 

The Challenge will award funds to regions with high-growth industries that support a wide range of economic and workforce development activities.

The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration will invest up to $20 million for technical skills training; EDA will invest up to $10 million in Economic Adjustment Assistance funds; and the Small Business Administration will invest up to $3 million in technical assistance. 

The Obama administration is committed to smarter use of existing federal resources to foster regional innovation in support of sustainable economic prosperity. Strong industry clusters – like the Research Triangle in North Carolina or Silicon Valley in California – promote robust economic ecosystems and the development of a skilled workforce, both of which are critical to long-term regional success.

“Regional innovation clusters bring together the knowledge and financial resources that America needs to compete in the global economy,” said NationalEconomic Council Director Gene Sperling. “The Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge will help regional innovation clusters produce the nextgeneration of innovative products and drive sustainable economic growth and job creation.”

The deadline to apply to the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is July 7, 2011. Details about the application process are available here.

Commerce's Patent and Trademark Office Announces Government-Wide Intellectual Property Training Database

Graphic of globe

New database to store and share intellectual property rights training materials across federal agencies to promote more effective international enforcement training

The United States Patent and Trademark Office, in cooperation with the Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, today announced the launch of a new online database where U.S. government agencies can now post information about the intellectual property rights (IPR) training programs they conduct around the world. 

“The database is intended to facilitate more efficient use of limited IPR training resources by sharing training materials among U.S. government agencies, avoiding duplicative programs, and identifying IPR enforcement training deficiencies,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. 

Working closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other agencies that conduct international enforcement training, the USPTO established the database for storing and sharing training materials among federal agencies.  The database is fully searchable and includes each program’s title, location, description, participants by country, background, and more. To date, more than 100 training and technical assistance programs that relate to protecting intellectual property rights have been entered into the database. Release  Web site

Secretary Locke Lauds West Paw Design's Export Success at APEC 2011 Meetings

Secretary Locke Lauds West Paw Design's Export Success at APEC 2011 Meetings

On the heels of the APEC 2011 meetings in Big Sky, Montana, Secretary Gary Locke and Senator Max Baucus visited West Paw Design today, a Montana-based manufacturer of eco-friendly pet toys, beds and apparels.  Touring its sustainable manufacturing facilities, Locke praised West Paw for its green manufacturing methods and efforts to export its products to foreign markets.  Promoting green growth among businesses of the Asia-Pacific region is one of the key goals of APEC 2011.

“West Paw exemplifies the kind of green growth and aggressive exporting that we need from small- and medium-sized businesses to reinvigorate our economy,” Locke said.  “It is the export successes of companies like West Paw that are going to help our economy grow, create jobs and meet President Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years.”

West Paw, which exports its products to 28 foreign markets, showcased its best sustainable manufacturing practices to more than 70 participants during the tour, including APEC trade officials and private sector representatives from the 21 APEC economies.

West Paw Design integrated sustainability into its manufacturing processes and product design by using recycled and organic materials. The company has 46 employees and has more than doubled the size of its manufacturing facility in 2010 in order to handle the growing demand for its products.  It has utilized several federal government resources to help boost its exports, including the Commerce Department’s U.S. Commercial Service, Manufacturing Extension Partnership and loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.