Was this page helpful?

Spotlight on Commerce: Van Gilbert, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Ed. note: This post is part of a series for Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW) May 6-12, showcasing the vast and diverse work of Commerce employees collectively working together to deliver important services that are helping the American economy grow.

Guest blog post by Van Gilbert, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

As a patent examiner in the Pro Se Assistance Pilot Program at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), I focus on assisting persons who are filing patent applications for the first time and on their own (i.e., without representation of a patent practitioner licensed to practice before the USPTO).  My job centers on providing publicly available resources and education on the patent examination process to potential and current filers as well as determining patentability of an applicant’s invention, granting patents when warranted.

I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and reared in the Memphis suburb of Olive Branch, Mississippi, where I currently telework full time for the USPTO. I received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Mississippi in 2001, a Master in Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2002 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi in 2005.  I practiced law briefly on the Mississippi Gulf coast until Hurricane Katrina destroyed the firm in August 2005.  From there I moved to Alexandria, Virginia and joined the USPTO in 2006.  In 2017, I came full circle and moved back to Olive Branch, Mississippi with my wife, and we now have three wonderful children.

While living in Northern Virginia, my wife and I were members of Alexandria Presbyterian Church, and we look to join Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis at the next available opportunity.  I am very active with the Freemasons, having been a member since 2011 and serving as the Worshipful Master of Henry Knox Field Lodge, 349 of Alexandria in 2016.  I also volunteered at Marshall Elementary school, where I led a robotics club of fourth and fifth graders through the First LEGO League program. 

The greatest influence in my life remains my father.  He always encourages me and provides me with more wisdom than any formal education.  One of my fondest memories is when we were fishing, and he was providing me his blessing and support as I was finalizing my formal education and entering the workforce.  He told me, “Be a success.  Be the best you can be.  Be the best there is.  However, never forget, my son, at the end of the day you are only worth what time cannot take away and money cannot buy.”  I try to always apply that in everything I do. It helps me enjoy my job as part of a team providing customer service to a community most in need of additional assistance from the government.

The patent examination process is a complex one that can be frustrating for many applicants. My Southern hospitality helps keep me smiling while interacting with a diverse and passionate community of inventors. The Pro Se Assistance Pilot Program allows me to more directly help those I serve and feel the immediate rewards of my service, whether it be by knowing I helped a small business commercialize a product to better people’s lives or by receiving a simple “thank you for your help” from an applicant. I am blessed to have found a career in public service that so seamlessly incorporates my education and core personal values.

Bureaus and Offices