The Silicon Valley USPTO hosts an interactive question and answer session with the Trademark Assistance Center (TAC). During this virtual meeting with TAC, participants will learn about the trademark registration process and be able to ask questions of experts through our video teleconferencing capability. The Trademark Assistance Center, located in Alexandria, Virginia, provides general information about trademarks.
IP5 Heads of Office and Industry Meeting Remarks
Remarks By Director Michelle K. Lee at the IP5 Heads of Office and Industry Meeting
USPTO Director Michelle K. Lee
IP5 Heads of Office and Industry Meeting
May 31, 2017
Thank you, President Battistelli. Why don’t I jump right into an update from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office?
The USPTO remains dedicated to carrying out its core mission – issuing the highest quality patents as quickly and efficiently as possible. Which is why I’m proud to report that we have reduced our backlog of unexamined patent applications by almost 30 percent from its peak in January 2009, despite a 32 percent increase in applications over this time. We have brought down our first action pendency by 43 percent — from 28 months in 2011 to 16 months today. Our total pendency is down by 26 percent – from 35 months in 2010 to 26 months. We were able to achieve this even though our utility, plant, and reissue filings increased more than 5% in fiscal year 2016 to over 650,000 applications. Our backlog of ex parte appeals – that’s not AIA proceedings, but our internal appeal process to the Board after the examiner issues her decision – has also gone down. We have reduced our inventory of ex parte appeals by 45 percent from a high of about 26,000 in 2012 to about 15,000 today. And, we have reduced the average pendency for appeals by 30 percent from 28 months in 2016 to 19 months. In short, our backlog and pendencies are now lower than they’ve been in more than a decade, and they will continue to go down.
Our shrinking backlog, along with greater finances, and strong support from the public, has allowed the agency to engage in an exceptional effort to enhance patent quality. Our Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, or EPQI, was established in 2015 to provide dedicated resources to enhance overall patent quality. Based on feedback from internal and external stakeholders, we have launched 12 EPQI programs which can be grouped into four areas: Search and training, prosecution, post-examination, and evaluation.
Some of our recent efforts have focused on improving consistency across our over 8,000 examiners. We use a number of different means to identify examiners or areas that may not be applying our policies and procedures in a consistent manner. One such effort started in FY 2016. Each of our technology centers identified examiners employing best practices or having quality concerns with respect to reopenings of prosecution, rework of Office actions, and consistency of decision making. The technology centers performed a root-cause analysis involving the work of over 1,000 examiners. Main root causes of negative performance were identified to be 1) improper claim interpretation and 2) failure to identify/apply the most appropriate prior art. Some of the main best practices were 1) searching both the claimed invention and the inventive concept set forth in the specification and 2) identifying allowable subject matter early in prosecution. The technology centers are currently planning to conduct focused training for the examiners who were found to need that help, and developing further training based on the identified root causes and best practices. This particular effort is just one of the many different ones that we’re exploring in our effort to achieve further consistency in examination.
Military Invention Day Remarks
The Invention Imperative: Remarks by Chief Administrative Officer Fred Steckler at Military Invention Day
USPTO Chief Administrative Officer Fred Steckler
“The Invention Imperative”
May 20, 2017, 12:00 p.m.
The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, National Museum of American History
Thank you, Director Daemmrich, and good morning everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here. I bring greetings on behalf of the 13,000 dedicated employees of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
I’m especially thrilled this is being held in the Lemelson Center and the Museum of American History—with which the Patent and Trademark Office has a great, collaborative relationship. And it’s an honor to be sharing this section of today’s program with Director Daemmrich and General Milley.
As a military veteran myself—of the U.S. Navy—and as Chief Administrative Officer of the USPTO, I’m very proud of the fact that our agency has a robust Veteran Hiring Program. In 2012, we launched a comprehensive and aggressive Veteran Hiring Program. Since then, we’ve hired more than 600 veterans. And recently, we’ve focused on establishing partnerships with Operation Warfighter and the Wounded Warrior program.
Our veterans even have an affinity group called the USPTO Military Association. Their motto is “Continuing to Serve”, which I think is entirely appropriate since they bring to their work at the USPTO the same spirit of selfless service and love of country that led them to serve in uniform as young men and women. So in that sense alone, this connection between innovation, intellectual property, and the military is nothing new to many of us who work at the USPTO.
We’ve seen the importance of innovative technologies both in and out of uniform, and we all have a strong interest in, first, making sure our nation continues to be a world leader in innovation, and, second, ensuring that our nation’s military continues to benefit from that competitive edge.
Since the purpose of this portion of today’s program is, in part, to offer some historical perspective on American inventions and the role of intellectual property in promoting innovation, I’ll start by answering an important question some of you may have: What is intellectual property?
Simply put, the term intellectual property—or IP, as we call it—refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce. The three most common forms of IP are patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
When talking about IP in relation to invention and technology, as we are today, what we’re really talking about is patents. And here’s something that may surprise you: the U.S. patent system is as old as our nation itself. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power: “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
What that means is that in exchange for a temporary monopoly granted by the government, which provides a financial incentive to invent, the inventor shares the details of his or her invention with the public at large, which in turn encourages and enables more innovation by other inventors seeking to improve on that invention. That, in a nutshell, is the concept behind patents and our patent system more broadly.
As the Lemelson Center and Museum of American History do such a great job highlighting, it’s a concept that’s worked out quite well for our country. You can see the evidence of our patent system’s success on display in some of the current exhibitions in this building, including American Enterprise, which traces our country’s development from a small, dependent agricultural nation to one of the world’s most vibrant economies.
And you can see it on display in America on the Move, which traces the evolution of American transportation, from the railroad to street cars and modern automobiles—all of them created from patented technologies.
In fact if you’re a fan of automobiles, I’m going to put in a shameless plug here: You should come visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria. It’s not nearly as big as the Museum of American History, mind you, but it does have a one-of-a-kind display you won’t see anywhere else: a Ford Mustang—one half of it from 1965, and the other half from 2015—welded into a seamless whole. Sitting in the car, you can see with your own eyes how 50 years of patented technological innovations have changed automotive technology and the way we interact with our cars.