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Remarks at World Intellectual Propery Day Event

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AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
Thursday, May 5, 2011
CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
202-482-4883

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
Remarks at World Intellectual Propery day Event

Thank you, and good afternoon.  It is an honor to welcome you to our 2011 World Intellectual Property Day celebration. 

I want to thank House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith for hosting us today, and the sponsors of this event:

  • The American Intellectual Property Law Association;
  • The World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO; and,
  • Our U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

And I want to thank all of you for joining us.

The first World IP day was held back in 2000, and it's been held every year since with events like this throughout the world.

In fact, I understand that WIPO is now collecting the current celebrations on its Facebook page so you will be able to see just how widespread this outreach is.

Everyone here understands how important innovation is to the United States and indeed the global economy. 

As President Obama said recently, we need to out-innovate the rest of the world if we’re going to win the future. 

An efficiently operating patent system is critical to this goal. 

Strong and clear patent rights are especially vital to small and new businesses, which create 2 out of every 3 American jobs.

Successful inventors need to secure patent rights to access capital, hire employees, and lift their companies off the ground. 

At the Commerce Department, we have been focused intensely on improving America’s IP system through major reforms at our Patent Office.

Personally, I have been deeply engaged.  Since taking office, I’ve been working closely with David Kappos, director of the USPTO, to help bring the U.S. patent office into the 21st century.

Since David Kappos took over the patent office almost two years ago,  he has made tremendous strides in fixing a system that everyone agreed wasn’t working as efficiently or effectively as it needed to. 

We had a patent application backlog of more than 750,000; and an average three-year wait time for patents to be evaluated at the outset of the Obama administration.

David Kappos is turning this around.  The backlog of patents is decreasing for the first time in years, even as new applications increased by 7 percent last year.

And Director Kappos has worked with unions to completely reengineer management systems and processes to make the patent process more accessible and responsive to inventors and innovators.

But our work is not done, and it won't be done until we get patent reform legislation through Congress.  Patent reform is critical to the well-being of our patent system and the effectiveness of the USPTO, which are so vital to American companies and our economic well-being.

And I want to commend Chairmen Smith and Leahy for their strong support of this legislation, which will give Director Kappos and future directors the tools they need to fully reform the patent office. 

This bipartisan legislation won't cost taxpayers a single dime, is even more important in ensuring USPTO has the ability to tackle the backlog and to support American innovation, in light of the current fiscal environment in Washington.

Of course, the examination and issuance of patents and trademarks is just one-half of a strong IP regime.

The other is ensuring that IP rights are protected and respected around the world.  That is a serious and ongoing challenge.

Counterfeiting and piracy are taking a huge toll on U.S. industry and workers, costing billions of dollars and thousands of jobs every year, according to some estimates.

I know some people will argue over the size of those losses.

But when over 80 percent of all software installed on computers in China is counterfeit and when first-run movies continue to appear on rogue web sites as soon as they show up in the theaters – then we know the problem is still grave.

At the Commerce Department, we continue to work aggressively to combat this theft problem by:

  • Assisting in U.S. Government efforts to negotiate stronger IP enforcement disciplines;
  • Ensuring our trading partners are complying with existing IP disciplines in trade agreements;
  • Actively engaging foreign leaders; and;
  • Conducting a range of outreach efforts. 

In my meetings with my foreign counterparts, I consistently stress the need for our trading partners to vigorously protect and enforce the intellectual property rights of those who hold patents, trademarks, or copyrights.

And at Commerce, we have a group of intellectual property attachés – technical specialists in the area of IP law and policy – who are deployed to key commercial locations around the world. 

Our attachés play a critical role in working with our trading partners to develop effective rule of law and IPR enforcement regimes. 

Ultimately, intellectual property laws are only as good as the effectiveness of their enforcement.

Better enforcement by our trading partners will result in benefits to U.S. innovators, helping to create and maintain American jobs, increase exports, grow revenues, and also protect our citizens from harmful products. 

That is a goal we all share. 

And to talk a bit more about these issues, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the next speaker, my friend and colleague, Ambassador Ron Kirk, the United States Trade Representative, who will address the importance of IP to U.S. trade policy.