United States Patent Office

Updates from America’s innovation agency
  1. By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu

    The United States has a rich history of women whose ingenuity, creativity, and inventions have inspired us, motivated us, and dramatically improved our lives. The stories of these remarkable women speak to the world about the vital role they play when it comes to innovation, and how we must continue our work to unleash the untapped potential of women.

    At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), we regularly showcase the stories of inventors and entrepreneurs whose groundbreaking creations have made a positive difference in the world. Many of these stories have shared the amazing impact women have made across diverse fields.

    For example, in December 2018, Frances Arnold became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work in harnessing the power of evolution. Motivated by the desire to do chemistry in a clean and efficient way, her efforts led to the creation of a new field called “directed evolution.” In the 30 years since she first developed this technology, she has also mentored more than 200 students and been involved in multiple start-ups based on her work.

    Frances Arnold receives the Nobel Prize

    Frances Arnold receives her Nobel Prize from H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at the Stockholm Concert Hall. Photo courtesy of ©Nobel Media AB/Alexander Mahmoud.

    Other extraordinary female inventors include Cherry Murray, who developed lab-on-a-chip and telecommunications devices, and Irina Buhimschi, who developed a life-saving diagnostic test for preeclampsia. The contributions by women such as Sarah Breedlove also stand out. Born in 1867, Breedlove invented a line of hair-care products specifically designed to meet the needs of African American women at the age of 20. She went on to become the first self-made female millionaire in the history of our country.

    Inventor Sarah Breedlove

    Inventor Sarah Breedlove. Photo courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

    This May, the National Inventors Hall of Fame will induct another two women in partnership with the USPTO. Chieko Asakawa invented the first practical voice browser, providing internet access for visually impaired users, while Rebecca Richards-Kortum developed low-cost, high-performance medical technologies for low-income communities.

    Throughout the history of our country, women have helped spearhead astounding leaps in science and technology. The USPTO will continue to recognize and celebrate these women whose stories have inspired the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs.

  2. Guest blog by Damian Porcari, Director of the Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional United States Patent and Trademark Office

    Innovation and the effective protection of intellectual property (IP) rights are vital to the economic health of communities across our country. This is especially so in the Midwest where, as regional director of the USPTO’s Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit, I see the output of American entrepreneurs and inventors, and work with them to protect their valuable IP.

    As the USPTO’s newest regional director, I am making my way across the Midwest to engage with our key stakeholders, who include small business owners, independent inventors, entrepreneurs, and local officials, among others. In December, I met with various business groups and IP stakeholders when I joined several of the USPTO’s IP attachés as they conducted a series of outreach activities in the Chicago area.

    The IP attachés — who are diplomats currently posted to 10 U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the world — work to improve IP systems internationally to benefit U.S. stakeholders. They do this by working with foreign officials to address a wide variety of IP-related issues that arise in their respective regions, and by offering assistance to U.S. companies who encounter problems protecting their IP rights.
    Each year, the IP attachés travel home to the United States, as part of their ongoing effort both to learn about the concerns of inventors and businesses and to make them more aware of the international aspects of IP protection and the role of the IP attachés. In December, Chicago was one of their destinations, and I joined the attachés when they visited business incubator mHUB.

    USPTO IP attaches visit the United States in December 2018

    The USPTO’s IP attachés during their visit to the United States in December 2018. Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO.

    Located at a former Motorola Mobility prototyping center, mHUB opened its doors in 2017 with help from private industry and the city of Chicago. It brings together a unique co-working community of product designers, developers, entrepreneurs, engineers, and manufacturers.

    According to mHUB’s lead for programming, Cynthia Macias, the facility works to foster connections: “At mHUB, we are focused on creating the conditions for product innovation to thrive. This includes reducing cost and barriers associated with entrepreneurship that prevent so many talented innovators from taking the leap. We foster connections between local manufacturers, university researchers, and the blooming entrepreneurial community of makers and innovators in the Midwest. This ecosystem ensures the Midwest region’s manufacturing industry continues to grow, lead, and reduce the cost and barriers to entry for physical product innovation.”

    One of the highlights of our visit was a presentation the IP attachés gave on the basics of protecting and enforcing one’s creations and inventions abroad, and a follow-up discussion which I joined regarding various aspects of innovation.

    Damian Porcari speaks to mUB

    Damian Porcari, Director of the USPTO’s Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit, speaks at the Chicago incubator, mHUB, during a visit he and several of the USPTO’s IP attachés made to the facility on December 4, 2018.

    “The information our member companies gained from the IP attachés was extremely valuable and will help them understand the procedures to submit and process patents and trademarks in various regions around the world,” said Jenna Feldman, programs coordinator at mHUB. “Every participant has or will have a product that’ll be sold in at least one of the attachés’ markets, so they were able to seek answers most relevant to their business. In addition, the participants learned that the USPTO is more than just an entity, but a resource with a wide range of services to help entrepreneurs.”

    It was gratifying to hear that during its relatively short time in existence mHUB has already helped a number of companies achieve success. These include such innovators as Cast21, a developer of unique bone-mending aids that can replace casts; OrbitMuse, a platform for space entrepreneurship; and Guardhat, a smart hard-hat designed to protect workers in factories, plants, construction sites, oil rigs, and mines.

    The importance of IP to small innovative firms such as these cannot be understated: There is a large body of research showing that startup firms with patents, for example, are likelier to continue receiving venture capital funding, experience greater growth in employment and investor returns, and have a higher rate of firm survival.

    Our visit to mHUB underlined the critical role that the USPTO plays in supporting the efforts of these innovative startups, by helping them protect their valuable IP both here and abroad. Learn more about the USPTO’s IP Attaché Program.

  3. Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu

    There are currently more than 20 million U.S. veterans, over 1.2 million men and women serving on active duty in our Armed Forces and another 800,000 in the reserves. Many millions more have served in uniform since the birth of our nation, in peacetime and war. Behind every one of them is a story – of struggle, perseverance, camaraderie, triumph, and sometimes even tragedy.

    At the USPTO, we are committed to working with veterans who are transitioning or have recently transitioned from active duty. One way we do this is through our highly successful Veteran Hiring Program. In fiscal year 2018, 8% of new patent examiner hires and 17% of all other new hires were veterans or transitioning service members. Since the program began in 2012, we’ve hired approximately 800 veterans or transitioning service members. Once at the USPTO, we continue to provide a support network through the USPTO Military Association, an affinity group comprised of veterans, spouses of veterans, and employees who support our veterans and those still serving in the reserves.

    Photos from the Veterans Keepsake Project
    Clockwise from top left: Keepsakes from USPTO employees Mary Capodice, Troy Tyler, Dean Dominique, and Cevilla Randle. Photos by Jay Premack/USPTO.

    At the end of October, we unveiled our Veterans Keepsake Project, a photography exhibit highlighting stories and keepsakes of military service from USPTO employees and their loved ones. The intention of this effort was to take something so large and important like the millions of veterans who have served and are serving our nation, and find the individual stories within. The end results are personal and emotional accounts from USPTO employees that foster a reverence for service and sacrifice.

    On November 8, Lieutenant General David Halverson, U.S. Army, Ret., gave remarks at the USPTO’s annual Veterans Day ceremony. Before the event began, we toured the exhibit, and in the process we met many of the subjects in the photographs. Lieutenant General Halverson remarked on the power of stories and shared one of his own.

    Lt.Gen. David Halverson speaks to a USPTO employee in front of the veteran keepsake gallery.
    Lt. Gen. David Halverson speaks to USPTO employee Anthony Twitty about his keepsakes. Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO.

    After his parents had both passed, he read the letters his father had sent to his mother during World War II. “That was a whole different man than I had ever grown up with. He never talked about his experiences in the Pacific on the landing craft. He never talked about it being hit by a Kamakazi. He never talked about him with all of the beach heads he had to hit as a gunner as people went there for maybe the last time in their life - all scared, all not knowing - but he put that in words and thoughts of the commitment to the love of my mother, why he was fighting, and the hope that he had to come home.”

    I encourage everyone to stop by and view the Veterans Keepsake Project through December 3, located on the concourse level of the Madison building on the east side of the auditorium at our headquarters in Alexandria. If you are unable to come in person, you can also view the photographs on the Veterans Keepsake Project page of the USPTO website. Also featured at the USPTO is the Visionary Veterans® exhibit at the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I, focusing on stories of five WWI veterans responsible for innovations that continue to benefit our world.

    It is important to remember and tell the stories of those who serve and who have fallen. As Theodore Roosevelt said in 1910, “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

  4. Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, Andrei Iancu

    Top down photo of a record player on a grey background.
    The institutional knowledge of the USPTO spans beyond patents and trademarks and provides a resource to other government bodies on many aspects of intellectual property, such as music copyrights.  


    As part of our work here at the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) we also provide deep expertise that can help advise other government bodies on all aspects of intellectual property. As significant legislation was passed by Congress over the past few weeks on a host of IP issues, we stood ready to help and offer further guidance.

    First, on October 11, President Trump signed the Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act. This bi-partisan bill passed both chambers of Congress unanimously. The new Act updates copyright law to reflect the realities of music licensing in the digital age and also seeks to adequately compensate legacy artists and music producers for the fruits of their labor.

    The law combines three separate music copyright bills: the Music Modernization Act (MMA), the Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society (CLASSICS) Act, and the Allocation for Music Producers (AMP) Act. Title I, the Musical Works Modernization Act, creates a blanket license for the reproduction and distribution of musical works by digital music providers who engage in digital streaming, and creates a new entity to administer the license and distribute royalties. Title II, the CLASSICS Act, brings pre-1972 sound recordings into the federal copyright system. Before this legislation, performers like Smokey Robinson did not have to be compensated for performances of songs like “Shop Around” or “I Second that Emotion.” Finally, Title III, the AMP Act, helps to compensate music producers by codifying and improving an already existing process for royalty payments to be distributed.

    I was pleased to attend and represent the USPTO at the signing ceremony for this legislation developed during multiple sessions of Congress. Throughout its development, USPTO staff was able to contribute to make this landmark law a reality – among other things, providing technical assistance to Congress, facilitating public forums at which music stakeholders discussed marketplace challenges, and producing reports for the Department of Commerce that identified online licensing problems to be addressed.

    President Trump recently also signed legislation implementing the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The Marrakesh Treaty aims to reduce the global shortage of print materials in accessible formats for the many millions of Americans and others throughout the world who are blind or visually impaired. This Treaty meaningfully increases the number of books available to this under-served population. In addition to its work on MMA, the USPTO helped in negotiating the treaty in 2013 and then assisting with the drafting of legislation to implement its terms.

    Congratulations to the copyright community and all who have worked tirelessly for years on these significant accomplishments.

  5. Blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

    Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Hispanic Heritage Month.

    Guest blog post by Nestor Ramirez, Technology Center Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

    Nestor Ramirez

    Technology Center Director Nestor Ramirez

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office is one of those amazing places in government you may not be familiar with. The Patent Examining Corps, in particular, is filled with over 9,000 scientists, engineers and other professionals who labor every day to reward our nation’s drive for creativity and innovation and in turn contribute to the development of our economy.
    I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At the urging of my parents, I decided to seek my college degree in the mainland U.S. where I obtained a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Florida Tech. I certainly did not know much about the Patent Office until they came to visit my school campus about 29 years ago. I signed up for an interview and shortly afterwards, got an offer. Getting a job at the USPTO was, of course, the first opportunity this agency would give me but it would not be the last. At that point, I knew one thing, I was heading to Washington D.C. to begin my career at the USPTO!

    I started working as a Junior Patent Examiner examining applications in photocopying machines. As an examiner, I saw the transition of an entire industry into the digital age. I saw them transition from basic analog machines into systems with digital capabilities. I saw the proliferation of image editing, color capabilities and the advent of ink jet and laser printers. Fellow examiners in other groups were seeing patent applications on digital cameras, cell phones, televisions and millions of other inventions that would eventually change the world we live in. Most great inventions start with a patent and working at the USPTO gave me the opportunity to see technological innovation up close.

    Whether you examine patent applications or work on any other branch of government as federal workers in general, we have the opportunity to help the United States become a more prosperous nation. Every single day we have the opportunity to make a difference!

    Throughout my career, I got the opportunity to serve as a managing partner in charge of overseeing the USPTO’s transition to a paperless environment. I got the opportunity to expand my education and mentor hundreds of examiners and see them grow into successful professionals. I got the opportunity to become the first Hispanic Senior Executive in the USPTO helping shape the future of this office. I also got the opportunity to join the ComSci Fellowship Program participating on a one year assignment to the Executive Office of the President where I was assigned to the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the White House and served as the Executive Director of the National Science and Technology Council. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I never ever thought that someday I would shake hands with a President of the United States.

    Today, we celebrate our Hispanic culture and heritage and recognize the many contributions Hispanic Americans have made to our nation. We come from many different backgrounds; South American, Central American and the Caribbean, we have very diverse histories, and very strong ties to family and to our ancestral homelands. We are an integral part of the diverse fiber of this country. We have had a significant role in our nation’s history and will have an even greater role in shaping its future. We are embracing that responsibility.

    As I reflect on my experience, I have enjoyed the benefits of opportunities and most importantly, I see the promise of opportunities for our future generations, opportunities for a great career, and opportunities to make a difference. The Department of Commerce and its bureaus and offices provide vital services to our nation and they are brimming with opportunities for future generations to enjoy a bright career and a prosperous future. Opportunities are out there and it is up to us to take advantage of them.

  6. Blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

    Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Black History Month.

    As the Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (OEEOD) at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, I provide strategic direction and guidance in carrying out the Agency’s equal employment opportunity and civil rights initiatives.

    In June, I will celebrate a decade as the Director of OEEOD. Among my most proud accomplishments is the organizational transformation of a small Civil Rights office nestled within the agency’s administrative directorate, to a new Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity. Through this organizational transformation, I became the principal advisor to the Under Secretary and Director of the USPTO on equal employment opportunity, reasonable accommodation, civil rights compliance, and diversity strategies. 

    Prior to becoming the Director of OEEOD, I was the Supervisory Attorney Advisor and Assistant Director of the USPTO’s Office of Civil Rights from July 2003 until June 2008. Before joining the USPTO in 2003, I served as a civil rights attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Office of Federal Operations, where I drafted hundreds of federal sector appellate decisions adjudicating the merits of complaints of employment discrimination, and provided training throughout the federal sector on civil rights law. Previous to my federal service, I was a trial attorney for the City of Baltimore, Maryland.

     Bismarck Myrick meets with employees.

    Bismarck Myrick (center) meets with staff at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Alexandria campus.

    I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from Florida State University in 1993 and a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of Missouri in 1996. I am a member of the bars of the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland. In 2008, I completed Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Senior Executive Fellow program. I entered the Senior Executive Service in 2012.

    I am a second-generation federal executive. My father’s job in the United States Army and the Foreign Service required us taking up residence in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monrovia, Liberia, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Alexandria, Virginia, to name a few places. I admire my father’s professional accomplishments rising out of poverty in Portsmouth, Virginia, to achieve two consecutive, Senate-confirmed, ambassadorial appointments to the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of Liberia. Despite all of this moving around, I consider my mother’s hometown, Columbus, Georgia, home. Growing up, she was the most influential person in my life. She always expects more than what can immediately be seen. I believe that to be one of the most important characteristics of effective leaders.

    I struggle with providing career advice because I think of my career as being unconventional. Here are two pieces of advice for young professionals. First, work hard trying to leave more than you take; this is the only way to pay back the sacrifices which led you to a place of remarkable opportunity. Second, appreciate the counterintuitive fact that the greater your reputation for selfless service, the more likely you are to receive promotion and recognition. 

  7. Blog by Joe Matal, Performing the Duties and Functions of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

    Throughout history, independent inventors have transformed our lives with their innovative ideas and played a key role in the growth of the U.S. economy. Regardless of whether these ideas spawned small family businesses or large corporations, the work of small inventors is part of the fabric of American innovation. Think of names like Dupont, Ford, Kellogg, and Wright; and technology such as the telephone, the electric lightbulb, the steam engine, and the airplane. A disproportionate number of the most important technological advances started in the minds of small-scale, independent inventors, and their ideas have helped create new jobs, businesses, and even entire global industries. Today, the importance of small inventors and small business endures. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), two out of three net new jobs in the U.S. are created by small businesses.

    The resourcefulness and resilience of today’s independent inventors are indeed impressive, and at the USPTO, and because they’re responsible for so many great technological leaps, we want to help them succeed. The USPTO needs to hear about the real challenges they face as they work to protect and manufacture their innovations and start and grow their own businesses. In the months I’ve been leading this agency, I’ve made time to meet with inventors to hear their stories and learn how they believe the USPTO can help them overcome roadblocks. Just recently, for example, I attended a meeting of the Tampa Bay Inventors Council. Some of them expressed concern about the fairness of the IP system, and some criticized the USPTO’s post-issuance review proceedings, arguing that they are stacked against patent owners.  Others noted that they found the process of obtaining a patent to be too lengthy, cumbersome, and cost-prohibitive. They’re also extremely concerned about the ease in which their product ideas can be copied and sold into the United States from other nations.

    After a meeting with members of the Tampa Bay Inventors Council, Joe Matal (left) speaks with Steve Gordon, the inventor and manufacturer of the INSTANT-OFF Water Saver. (Photo by Paul Morinville)

    Our policies and processes throughout the USPTO are intended to drive entrepreneurship and innovation, and create a fair, accessible, and easy-to-use system for all inventors. As I explained in Tampa, there’s always room for improvement at the USPTO. Every aspect of our agency is continually being refined to better serve the patent and trademark owner community. Hearing from them helps us identify ways we can make that happen.

    To that end, the USPTO has a wide variety of resources designed to help independent inventors. They can take advantage of our Patent Pro Bono Program and Pro Se Assistance Program, which help applicants who seek patents without the assistance of a lawyer.  Historically, USPTO has found that pro se applicants have substantially higher abandonment rates than do other applicants.  The agency has recently begun expanding its pro se assistance program in order to ensure that every pro se inventor who wants to can be assisted by this art unit, in which examiners play an active role in guiding the inventor through the prosecution process. The USPTO also offers its Track One program, which provides expedited patent prosecution, and does so with significant discounts for small, independent inventors. Our Inventors Assistance Center, which is staffed by former patent examiners, intellectual property specialists, and attorneys, can answer general questions concerning patent examining policy and procedure.

    In addition, our four regional offices, located in each of the U.S. time zones, serve to make our services more readily available to local communities, and their unique industry and innovation needs, whether it be an event on the basics of patents and trademarks, or meeting directly with an examiner to discuss an application. Representatives from across the USPTO regularly meet with groups of inventors, startups, and businesses. I encourage you to browse our list of all upcoming events to find one that interests you.

    I look forward to continuing the discussion with inventors to learn what we’re doing well, what we can do better, and how best to serve their needs. Only by working together will we achieve the best outcomes for our nation’s inventors and entrepreneurs, and help grow our economy, create new jobs, and build new industries.

  8. A blog post about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce.

    Americans will spend an estimated 9.1 billion dollars on Halloween this year, and yet many trick-or-treaters remain unaware that this holiday is crawling with countless examples of intellectual property (IP), from the registered trademarks protecting the candy you eat and the costumes you wear, to the utility and design patents behind the tools to carve pumpkins or manufacture Halloween decorations. As in past Octobers, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) uses social media as a fun and timely way to educate the public about the importance of IP and how it impacts their everyday lives.

    Seven years ago, the USPTO decided to explore the deepest and darkest corners of more than two centuries worth of patent and trademark archive to unearth some particularly Halloween-appropriate patents and trademarks, in a campaign that became known as “Creepy IP.” Whether it’s the trademark for Ghostbusters®, Count Chocula® cereal, a sound mark for Darth Vader®, or patents for the electric extraction of poison or a flesh brushing apparatus from the 1880s, the USPTO’s public records are full of interesting inventions and commercialized products, some of which would fit right in at your local haunted house.

    Since its initial launch in October 2011, the #CreepyIP hashtag remains one of the USPTO's most successful interactive social media campaigns, with other federal agencies, private companies, the press, and members of the general public routinely using the hashtag to share the IP they find spooky, creepy or downright strange. This year, the USPTO has even gotten other international IP offices searching their archives for Creepy IP. 

    USPTO Creepy IP Team

    USPTO Creepy IP Team

    Part of the USPTO’s mission is to educate the public about the importance of IP, and Creepy IP generates tremendous awareness by highlighting how patents and trademarks are ingrained in our daily lives. Innovation and creative endeavors are indispensable elements that drive economic growth and sustain the competitive (and sometimes creepy) edge of the U.S. economy. In turn, IP protection provides incentives to invent and protects innovators from unauthorized use of their creepy inventions. The importance of IP to our economy is illustrated by a major study by the Economics & Statistics Administration which found that in 2014, IP-intensive industries directly and indirectly supported over 45 million jobs (nearly a third of all U.S. jobs) and over 38% of our national GDP.

    On October 31 at 9:30 a.m. ET, the kooky minds behind Creepy IP at the USPTO will be hosting a Reddit “Ask Me Anything.” Join the discussion to ask questions about the weirdest and most memorable creepy patents and trademarks that they’ve discovered over the years. Follow the USPTO on Twitter and Facebook for more spooktacular IP, and from all of us – Happy Halloween!

  9. Blog about the USPTO from the Department of Commerce

    Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting contributions of  Department of Commerce employees during Hispanic Heritage Month.

    Guest blog post by Juan Valentin, Education Program Advisor, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

    If you had told me ten years ago that in October of 2017 I would be traveling across the United States educating children and adults alike on how important intellectual property (IP) protection is for the development of our youth and nation, I would have laughed you out of the room. Growing up as one of the only Hispanics in a small, Upstate New York community, one thing that was always important in my life was my Puerto Rican ancestry. The music, food, culture and the family life-force was sewn into my soul at an early age. 

    I started my career as a patent examiner, putting my engineering degree from Clarkson University to good use, examining patent applications in the field of optical measuring and testing devices. Two key events in my life were the catalysts that set me on my current career path. The first took place about five years into my USPTO career when a friend invited me to Langdon Elementary School in D.C. to make slime with third graders. This was for a program called RESET that takes volunteers and matches them with local elementary schools to do hands-on science and engineering activities with the students. My life was changed that day. I was hooked, first as a volunteer, then as an activity lead, then as a team lead who developed new activities and was responsible for finding new volunteers.

    My mother had a huge impact on this change of direction. Some of my first memories are of her giving spirit, of the sacrifices she made for not only me but for those in need around her.  My mother not only worked in public service, she volunteered and as a single parent always had me at her side, helping with activities. For me, seeing the excitement, smiles, and appreciation on the students’ faces after doing educational activities brought back childhood memories of giving back to my community and it showed me there’s a need for this type of service in underrepresented communities. It reminded me of the potential my mom saw in other people and her willingness to help.

    Juan Valentin (center) with students during Engineering Week

    Juan Valentin (center) with students during Engineering Week

    The second event came in 2009 when I co-founded the first ever U.S. federal government chapter for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) at the USPTO. Members of SHPE are a family. We take pride in helping new employees transition to the agency, while creating a community of learning here at the USPTO. As the SHPE President for past two years, I have really seen the impact of the organization over the last eight years, helping mentor and support Hispanic employees in their growth as leaders at the USPTO, while also giving back to the community. We’ve recently been focusing on ways to help the areas ravaged by the hurricanes, and have organized a donation drive for supplies to be sent to Puerto Rico. This year’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month is “Shaping the Bright Future of America,” which is very fitting for the tremendous work I’ve been blessed to be a part of through SHPE.

    In 2011, I applied for and was accepted to a detail to work on K-12 IP educational initiatives at the USPTO’s Office of Education and Outreach (OEO), for eight months. That eight months went by so fast I remember thinking, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could do this full time?” As my detail came to an end, a full-time vacancy was announced for an education specialist. I was determined to apply for the position and was hopeful that through my experiences I would be given the opportunity to help expand innovation, invention, and IP outreach at the USPTO. Life doesn’t always go as planned and I didn’t get the position, but I knew that showing students how to be innovative problem solvers and critical thinkers was my future; now I just needed to make it a reality. I was determined to build up my resume so I would be ready when the next opportunity opened up. My patience was well worth it; three years later another position became available and I was selected.

    I still pinch myself from time to time when the fast pace of my life slows down just enough for a moment of self-reflection on the past three years. Not everyone is lucky enough to say they have their dream job. As an education program advisor at the USPTO, I can proudly say without a doubt, I have found my dream job, or rather it has found me!  My career advice to others is not to get discouraged by setbacks, but to be determined and pursue what you love to do.

  10. Blog by Joe Matal, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

    As students are starting the school year, teachers are heading back with new lesson plans, some of which include intellectual property concepts. Last month, more than 50 K-12 educators from across the nation took part in the 4th Annual National Summer Teacher Institute (NSTI) on Innovation, STEM, and Intellectual Property. This year’s NSTI was hosted by the USPTO’s Office of Education and Outreach in Denver, Colorado in collaboration with the University of Denver’s Project X-ITE Team. NSTI is a week-long innovation and entrepreneurial boot camp designed to help teachers unleash the innovative potential of their students.

    Teachers participate in hands-on activities at NSTI

    The central focus of this year's Institute was on the creation and protection of intellectual property. Educators were broken up into teams and took part in a wide range of hands-on activities designed to inspire and motivate America’s young innovators, entrepreneurs, and “makers”. These activities encouraged participants to seek innovative solutions to a broad set of problems ranging from food and cooking to sports, design, and protecting the environment. Teams were supported by IP subject matter experts from the USPTO and innovation professionals from industry, academia and government agencies. At the end of the event, teams pitched their inventions to a panel of esteemed judges led by Molly Kocialski, Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Denver, Colorado.

    For students interested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, computer science, innovation, and entrepreneurship, a strong understanding of the IP system is critical for success. The NSTI works to give teachers the tools and training they need to get students excited about innovation and IP protection. Teachers will now return to their communities ready to encourage students to innovate and invent.

    This year’s class of educators now joins a growing network of NSTI grads dedicated to applying their training to improve their students’ understanding of the IP system. As past NSTI participant Yolanda Payne explained, “Attending NSTI is a life changing experience. It is a lot of hard work, but it’s fun learning new things...At NSTI, you learn things you and your students will benefit from. It will make you a better teacher. Anything that captures students’ attention is winning for a teacher.”

    Do you want to learn more about the experiences of past NSTI participants? Read about how a former athletics coach from Massachusetts lead his InvenTeam to the White House Science Fair or about how a science teacher from Maine gets her students excited about innovation.