By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu
During National Military Appreciation Month, we recognize the role that innovation has played in America’s military strength and honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.
On May 2, we celebrated the 2019 National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) inductees at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Andrew Higgins, the inventor of the LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) known as the “Higgins Boat,” was among the notable inventors honored. Most people recognize the Higgins Boat as the amphibious craft used to land American troops and equipment on the beaches of Normandy and the shores of Iwo Jima. In partnership with the NIHF museum, here at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, we have an actual Higgins Boat on display until the end of July. Visitors are encouraged to board the craft and learn about the “boat that won the war.” The NIHF Museum, also located at the USPTO, offers American flags for visitors to plant near the exhibit to honor the service of our nation’s veterans.
Director Andrei Iancu and Deputy Director Laura Peter plant flags by the Higgins boat on display outside the USPTO headquarters (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
The USPTO is strongly committed to hiring veterans. The qualities the military teaches, in addition to the diverse experiences service members have, means that veterans have a great deal to bring to any team. That is why the USPTO has a robust veterans hiring program. Since the program’s inception in 2012, the USPTO has hired about 800 veterans or transitioning service members, which accounts for 6% of our agency’s total workforce. Our veterans tell us how proud they are that by joining the USPTO after active duty, they can continue to serve their country by protecting American assets – in this case, intellectual property. Veterans contribute to our mission in the areas of science and engineering, information technology, contracts, procurement, finance, administration, project and program management, and customer support. Each day, I see these men and women bring to their work at the USPTO the same spirit of selfless service and love of country that led them to serve in uniform.
On May 23, I and other USPTO employees participated in our annual Memorial Day observance, organized by the USPTO Military Association, which includes the Walk of Thankful Recognition, from USPTO headquarters to the Alexandria National Cemetery. Each participant was provided a card describing the life of a veteran buried at the cemetery and encouraged to pay his or her respects at the gravesite. As always, this was an extremely meaningful and moving event.
This Memorial Day, we join with the rest of our citizenry to honor and remember those who have served and those who have sacrificed for our nation. On behalf of the USPTO, we thank the inventors whose ideas keep our military on the cutting edge, as well as the proud men and women who served in our armed forces.
Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
Charles Kim, Director of the Office of Petitions. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
As the Director of the Office of Petitions, I oversee a talented group of petitions examiners, attorneys, and paralegals that review over 45 different types of petitions and issue approximately 40,000 petition decisions per year. By issuing high quality and timely petition decisions, the Office of Petitions supports the USPTO’s strategic goal of optimizing patent timeliness and helps to promote the reliability and predictability of patent rights.
I was born in Seoul, South Korea. My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was four years old. Like many Asian American and Pacific Islander (and other immigrants) parents, my parents sought to provide a brighter future for their children. With limited financial means and even more limited ability to speak English, my parents understood the uncertainties and challenges that lie ahead. However, they believed that providing their children with better opportunities was worth the risk of leaving behind their families and friends, and venturing out into the unknown.
When we first arrived in Queens, New York, my parents only had about $500 and a Korean-English dictionary. Shortly after we arrived, my father found a job at a local grocery store and my mother started working at a clothing manufacturing company. They worked long, hard hours, but eventually saved enough money to start their own business. We moved to New Jersey when I was about ten years old.
After graduating from high school in New Jersey, I attended Rutgers University, where I earned a B.S. degree in electrical engineering. During my senior year at Rutgers, I saw a newsletter on a table as I walking through the hallway in one of the engineering buildings. The front page of the newsletter had the headline, “The USPTO is Hiring Talented Engineers.” I applied, and a couple of months later, I started my first full-time job as a patent examiner examining applications relating to image analysis.
While working as a patent examiner, I obtained my law degree from George Washington University Law School. After graduating from law school, I was selected as a Supervisory Patent Examiner in the Computer Architecture and Software Technology Center. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to serve on career development details at the Office of Patent Legal Administration and the Office of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. Immediately prior to my current role, I served for two years as a Senior Advisor to the Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy.
Charles Kim providing an overview of petitions practice to IP students visiting from KAIST University.
One of the biggest motivating factors for me is when I look back and think about the sacrifices that my parents made so that I could have a brighter future. I am determined to succeed so that their sacrifices were not in vain. I suspect that this is not a unique motivating factor for many 1.5 generation Asian American and Pacific Islanders (Note that the term “1.5 generation” refers to people who immigrated to the U.S. as children). And in many ways, this is what Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month means to me. Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is an opportunity to reflect on the perseverance, sacrifice, and hard work of the many Asian American and Pacific Islanders that came before me to help build the foundation for future Asian American and Pacific Islander generations to become successful leaders across business and government, and to continue to advance our great nation.
One quote that has had a meaningful impact on my leadership approach is attributed to Peggy Focarino, the former Commissioner for Patents. During her retirement ceremony, Peggy stated that it is important to recognize “Mission First; People Always.” This phrase has stuck with me because it reminds me that regardless of your organization or your title, the one thing that is common (and most important) to all leaders is the people (that they lead).
My advice for those starting their career is to motivate yourself to step outside of your comfort zone. Picture your comfort zone as a circle. If you position yourself slightly outside the circle, your circle (i.e., comfort zone) will eventually grow. By continuing to stay slightly outside the circle, you will experience continuous growth and improvement, which is a recipe for success!
Secretary Ross spoke at the National Inventors Hall of Fame induction ceremony on May 2, 2019 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
Last week, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross joined the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in inducting nineteen of America’s greatest inventors into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) which was held at the historic National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. At the event, Secretary Ross addressed the important role that innovation plays in transforming and advancing our society.
Television personality Danica McKellar moderated the event, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu delivered remarks, and Director Iancu presented induction medals. Nine living inventors were inducted, and another ten were named posthumously.
The inductees’ patented innovations revolutionized their industries and changed people’s lives. Those honored included Chieko Asakawa for creating accessible technology for visually disabled individuals; David Walt for developing microwell arrays that could analyze thousands of genes simultaneously; and S. Duncan Black and Alonzo G. Decker for laying the foundation for the modern power tool industry with their invention of the portable hand-held electric drill.
At the ceremony, Secretary Ross stated, “For those being inducted today, we greatly admire your grit in persevering through the trials and errors needed to turn your ideas into reality, and for your contributions to humanity.” Read Secretary Ross' full remarks.
USPTO Director Iancu stated, “When we humans harness that most unique of human qualities—the power to reason, to work together, to invent, to create—we are capable of the most remarkable things. That is what inventors do, and that is what we celebrate tonight.” Read Director Iancu’s full remarks.
In partnership with the USPTO, the National Inventors Hall of Fame has impacted 2.2 million children, educators, college students, and inventors since 1990, and 200,000 in 2018 alone. To be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, one must hold a U.S. patent, as well as contribute significantly to the nation's welfare and the advancement of science and the useful arts. NIHF was established in 1973 to honor U.S. patent holders whose inventions created new industries that employ millions of people and helped to stimulate economic growth for our nation and beyond.
View a complete list of the honorees and the stories behind their inventions online.
By Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu
From left: Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter, USPTO CFC Campaign Manager LaShawn Fortune, and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu. Photo courtesy of Amando Carigo/USPTO.
Every year, federal government workers nationwide join in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) to donate funds and volunteer time to thousands of local, national, and global charities. The recently concluded 2018 campaign, which ran from September 10, 2018 to February 22, 2019, was no exception, and I want to publically commend the employees of the USPTO for continuing their proud tradition of giving.
The CFC is a 57-year federal tradition that has raised more than $8 billion for charitable organizations. It is one of the world's largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaigns, with 36 CFC zones throughout the country and overseas raising millions of dollars each year. In the 2018 campaign, the total amount raised was over $35 million and participants pledged more than 56,000 volunteer hours.
The USPTO was honored to be the lead agency for the entire Department of Commerce (DOC) during the campaign. Under the guidance of the USPTO CFC Campaign Manager LaShawn Fortune, Deputy Campaign Manager Alexa Neckel, and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s Troy Tyler, who served as campaign manager for the Department of Commerce, we raised more than $1.1 million, or roughly 45 percent of department’s total contribution. This is incredibly impressive!
I was proud to see that our agency, which is charged with protecting and promoting innovation, itself put innovation into practice for this campaign. The USPTO’s campaign combined special events, videos, custom graphics, employee testimonials, and regular agency-wide promotions on behalf of those in need. Via the USPTO Weekly, employees shared their personal CFC cause, from local food banks and after school programs to raising awareness of, and finding cures for cancer and HIV/AIDS.
This creative determination earned Campaign Manager Fortune as an individual and the USPTO as a whole CFC Innovation Awards, which go to “the department, agency or campaign manager that implemented new and creative practices that resulted in increased contributions, participation, or education about the CFC.”
During the CFC charity fair we held in December, employees had the chance to learn firsthand about the great charities involved in the campaign. In addition, we found that charities benefited from meeting each other. For example, at the fair, a charity that sent regular support shipments to Africa met a charity that made inexpensive but critical light sources for people in Africa that was having issues reducing shipping costs. Through some conversation, they decided to work together so that the light manufacturer could add his product to the other’s support shipments for little to no cost.
From the beginning, the USPTO’s campaign emphasized how there are people all across the nation and the world, who need just a little help. A small donation can fund tutoring and job training sessions, provide food and shelter, help wounded veterans, bring adoptive families together, and so much more. The CFC gives us a chance to pull together and help each other to reach new heights, and we look forward to doing so again in the 2019 campaign.
Thank you for your contributions and hard work.
Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees during Women’s History Month.
Guest blog post by Laura Peter, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
This past November, I was appointed Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and since then I have been actively supporting our agency priorities and working with our high-caliber employees.
Deputy Director Laura Peter (right) is sworn in by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu on November 14, 2018. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
I grew up in California and pursued math and science from a young age. My father was a vice president at Hughes Aircraft Company, and when I was a young girl they were launching the first geosynchronous satellites into orbit. So when I was about three years old, I decided I wanted to be an astronaut! I have since learned that I don't like heights very much, and so, being an astronaut was not in my future. I was also interested in puzzles and mathematics, and that naturally led into engineering.
I always had a very strong interest in technology and policy, so when I finished my engineering degree at Cornell University, I went on to the University of Chicago and received my master's in public policy studies. I was interested in how legislation and policies should be developed in light of changing technology, and eventually I became a full-time lawyer. After practicing in the private sector for many years, I came to the USPTO – returning full circle to actualize the dream that I dreamt so many years ago.
The level of diversity at the USPTO is amazing, and this agency has done a phenomenal job of encouraging people from all walks of life to join the USPTO community to pursue their careers. Coming from the world of intellectual property in Silicon Valley where I was often the only woman in the room, this is especially refreshing and something the private sector could learn from.
Deputy Director Laura Peter meets with members of the Supervisory Patent Examiner and Classifiers Organization in her office. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
One issue that is tremendously important to the USPTO is increasing the number of women inventors and expanding the innovation ecosphere. According to a study published last month by our Office of the Chief Economist, women inventors comprised only twelve percent of all inventors on patents in 2016. This needs to change!
In addition, there have been so many women inventors throughout history that we don’t talk about enough. For example, take National Inventors Hall of Fame inductee Harriet Strong, whose inventions in water storage in 1887 enabled the construction of the Hoover Dam, or Hedy Lamarr, who patented a frequency-hopping technique that paved the way for developments in modern wireless communications. Especially during Women’s History Month, but really all throughout the year, one of the most important things we can do is share stories of women inventors, past and present, who can serve as role models for all women and help inspire them to create and innovate.
Many people have pushed me to excel and take chances throughout my life -- from my math teacher in elementary school encouraging me to take an advanced math class, to my choir teacher insisting that I sing the solo. My mother always told me “When something doesn’t work out, try something else, and then try something else, and never give up.” And I truly believe in this.
The most important advice I would give to other women is: 1) be in the room and participate, and 2) do not give anyone an excuse to take you out of the running -- build your resume, get that advanced degree, and make yourself the strongest candidate you can be.
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 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. 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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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 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.”
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, Andrei Iancu
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.
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)
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.