Ed. note: This post is part of the very first Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting the contributions of Department of Commerce employees who are First Generation Professionals. First Generation Professionals are one of the first in their immediate families to enter the professional work environment. They are professionals with varying socio-economic backgrounds, life experiences, skills and talents that diversify our workforce.
Blog post by Tariq Hafiz, Group Director, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Tariq Hafiz, Group Director, USPTO
My name is Tariq and I am a first generation professional. I came to the United States of America at the age of 10 and immediately attended elementary school without knowing a word of English. I learned the English alphabet in the 4th grade. I was the only immigrant in the whole school.
While growing up being an immigrant and eventually being the first in my family to attend college was not an easy road, it also was extremely fulfilling. Although my parents could not provide me with guidance on how to access and navigate college or give me career advice, they were supportive of my goals. My mother did not speak English and had not even completed grade school, while my father had only completed high school. One of the traits that I acquired from my father was an ethic for hard work. Even though he had a non-professional job, he always went to work, and I rarely saw him take a sick day. In fact, I don’t ever remember him taking a day off except for one week of vacation every August.
When I landed my first professional job after graduation, I was extremely grateful. I knew that I had to work extra hard to show my gratitude and ensure that there was nothing that would jeopardize my job, due to a lack of effort. After a few years with a defense contractor, I came to work at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) where I began my career as a patent examiner. As a patent examiner, my performance was based on objective goals, which was an environment in which I thrived. Thus, I moved up the ladder quickly. I worked my way up to management positions, and after successfully completing the Department of Commerce's Candidate Development Program, I became a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES).
Throughout my career, I have mentored many employees–both professional and non-professional staff–helping them with their career development. Growing up without role models made me appreciate how important they are in a person’s career development. I hope that through mentoring employees, I can be a role model for others in their lives.
On September 12, the Department of Commerce hosted the inaugural First Generation Professionals 2019 Summit, and Tariq participated as a guest speaker. Learn more about the First Generation Professionals Initiative.
Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Laura Peter and Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Office Molly Kocialski
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) have been making significant strides improving access to hearings, ensuring transparency in proceedings, and providing an effective alternative to district court litigation. The USPTO’s four regional offices in Dallas, San Jose, Denver, and Detroit augment these improvements by offering regional hearing facilities for PTAB and TTAB matters.
At the USPTO, we understand that when an attorney advocates on behalf of a client, or when entrepreneurs or small businesses want to protect their investments, there are many IP-related concerns to consider, including the costs of appeals and trials and ease of access to proceedings. This is why we have worked, and will continue to work, to provide local and regional innovators with the tools, information and resources they need to succeed and ultimately, protect their innovations.
As an example of how we are improving our services for stakeholders of PTAB and TTAB services, after a year-long renovation process recently completed in our Rocky Mountain Regional Office (RMRO), the layout now allows for better participation by stakeholders in hearings, and public viewing when available. The RMRO hearing room has been reconfigured for better space utilization, and to have increased capacity. Upgrades such as these will continue in all USPTO offices (including Alexandria Hearing Room D) to, for example, increase the occupancy size to accommodate viewers of public hearings. Along with the space renovations, the audiovisual equipment is also being updated in all of the USPTO offices, as budget allows, to ensure that each and every hearing room continues to provide the dignity the proceedings deserve. This will ensure that every regional office can reach their growing stakeholder needs for such services to the best of their ability.
The hearing room at the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, before construction with a capacity of 12.
The hearing room at the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, newly redesigned, with a capacity of 70.
TTAB allows practitioners to make use of the hearing rooms in the regional offices in their practice before the TTAB. Since time and cost constraints can frequently pose a hurdle to a client’s attendance at TTAB hearings, the regional offices can provide a more convenient and cost-effective venue, so that clients can stay attuned to and be present for proceedings that can significantly affect their trademark interests. The facilities present at the USPTO regional offices in Detroit, Denver, San Jose and Dallas now enable clients the opportunity to now be able to attend the hearings that affect the protection of their brand investments.
With regard to PTAB, Notices of Hearing will now include a QR code printed on the notice to allow recipients to more easily access the recently published PTAB Hearings Guide. The PTAB Hearing Guide provides an easy reference guide for any hearings-related questions including scheduling for both ex parte appeals and American Invents Act (AIA) trials. The Hearings Guide also includes instructions on how to exercise the option to attend or view hearings not only at headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, but also at any of the regional offices. This allows stakeholders across the country the ability to be more active in the protection of their intellectual property rights, and also to stay more acutely attuned to recent Board proceedings and decisions.
Hearings in AIA trials are scheduled as set forth in an order issued by the adjudicating panel. The scheduling order generally will indicate if a panel is available to hold a final hearing in a regional office or location outside of Alexandria, Virginia, and will provide guidance on how a party may request a location preference. If a location preference is requested, the hearing date choice will take into account a judge’s schedule in the requested regional office.
In both TTAB and PTAB hearings, including for ex parte appeals and AIA trials, the client can request to view the hearing in the regional office, regardless of whether their legal counsel is presenting arguments at USPTO headquarters or at a different regional office–meaning the client can view the hearing at the office most convenient for the client. In addition, for oral hearings open to the public, the regional offices hearings facilities allow for increased opportunity for practitioners and law students to attend and observe oral arguments to further their own education and skillsets. Patent Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) hearings will also be streamed from headquarters to the regional offices for public viewing in the hearing rooms.
If you are interested in attending a public hearing at a regional office, the information is available in the Hearings Guide, or you may contact our regional offices directly through the information found on their respective sections of the USPTO website. For further questions about any of these improvements, please contact your local USPTO regional office.
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Andrei Iancu, and Director of the Rocky Mountain Regional Office Molly Kocialski
Five years ago this summer, we opened our Rocky Mountain Regional Office (RMRO) in the Byron G. Rogers Building in downtown Denver. It was a huge day for both the USPTO and the people of Denver, whose great city is home to 24 federally funded research laboratories, four major research universities, and a creative and innovative environment full of start-ups. It also helped fulfill a key promise of the America Invents Act, to better connect inventors and entrepreneurs around the country with the resources of the USPTO.
Since that day in 2014, the RMRO has engaged with more than 90,000 regional stakeholders through over 1,260 outreach and education events in Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado.
The Byron G. Rogers Federal Building in downtown Denver- home of the Rocky Mountain Regional U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
The RMRO is paving the way on regular educational programming like our quarterly Trademark Tuesday and Path-to-a-Patent programs. These are broadcast region-wide through the help of our very engaged Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. Another way we have removed obstacles and increased access to IP resources is by encouraging more personal interactions with the USPTO. Today, inventors and entrepreneurs can walk into the RMRO, use the public search facility, and easily obtain answers to their questions. Additionally, IP practitioners and their clients can conduct examiner interviews, participate in Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) hearings, or view other public hearings, all from our office.
Recruiting and retaining local talent is a key goal for the USPTO, with the added benefit of providing jobs for the local community. The last two classes of examiner recruits had 425 applicants for 25 jobs in 2018 and 317 applicants for 17 jobs in 2019, respectively. Such demand for our available positions is impressive for a state with approximately a 2.5 percent unemployment rate in each of those years, and we hope to answer more of that demand as we grow in the years to come. In addition, there are 94 employees in the Rocky Mountain Regional Office plus 246 examiners hoteling throughout the region—quite a change from 49 hoteling examiners prior to the regional office opening in 2014.
The RMRO is the first USPTO regional office to have representation from all technology centers, allowing for improved communication and sharing of resources between examiners and stakeholders. We also have seven classes of new patent examiners as well as 10 PTAB judges, an outreach officer, and support staff. In addition, our physical space in the Byron Rogers Federal Building has grown, with updates and improvements to a public search facility, interview room, and newly redesigned hearing room.
People truly want to be in Denver, and if you are here for even a short time you will understand why. We are proud of the role the USPTO is playing in the “Mile High City” and the connection with the local community that we have built in such a short time. We look forward to continued growth, partnership, and innovation here and throughout the Rocky Mountain region in the next five years and beyond.
Guest blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter
As a former Silicon Valley intellectual property attorney for more than 20 years, the potential of disruptive technology has long been of special interest to me. Artificial intelligence (AI) promises to be one of the most important innovations that powers many disruptive ventures and brings exciting changes to our legal system. AI is already influencing the way we work, travel, shop, and play.
From autonomous vehicles to improved medical diagnostics to voice assistants, AI is increasingly at the forefront of innovation. As a continuation of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) policy leadership in the field of AI, the USPTO convened a conference on Artificial Intelligence: Intellectual Property Policy Considerations on January 31 this year. With six panels featuring IP specialists from around the world, the USPTO considered AI’s impact on our innovation ecosystem.
The USPTO continues to promote and protect AI-technology innovations and entrepreneurship. With respect to AI inventions to date, the USPTO has issued thousands of patents on AI technologies, and the future grows more exciting every day as new AI technologies are developed. However, with excitement comes change and the potential for uncertainty. Therefore, the USPTO must continue to ensure the appropriate balance in the administration of our IP system.
With this in mind, the USPTO looks forward to working with the AI academic and industrial community. Working together, we will continuously improve the USPTO’s efforts to foster innovation, competitiveness, and job growth.
I am also excited to announce that we will be publishing a notice in the Federal Register that poses questions regarding the intersection of patent law with AI that the public may respond to. This first step will allow us to gather information on AI patent policy issues for purposes of evaluating whether further guidance is needed and informing the development of any such guidance. Questions the public is invited to reply to include:
This is just a sample of some of the issues on which the USPTO is seeking input regarding AI patent policy. And this is only the first step. In addition to patents, in the coming months and beyond, the USPTO will examine the full spectrum of intellectual property policy issues that have arisen, or may arise, as AI technologies become more advanced. From AI’s impact on existing intellectual property rights, including copyright and trademarks, to considering if new legal rights are needed in the wake of more advanced AI, the USPTO will continue our thought leadership on AI-related intellectual property policy issues.
Guest blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter
“Sitting back in the evening, stargazing and stroking your dog, is an infallible remedy.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
The “dog days of summer” have arrived! According to the Farmer’s Almanac, they traditionally take place from July 3rd to August 11th. You may be surprised to learn that the phrase “dog days of summer” originated with the Greeks and Romans and is derived from the “dog star” Sirius and its position in the sky during this time. These days may be the hottest days of the year, depending on your latitude on Earth.
Intellectual property (IP) rights power the U.S. economy across many industries, including the pet sector. Patents on technical innovations and trademarks on branding are critical assets in the pet industry. In fact, legal specialization to support the pet industry has taken off: a number of law firms have now launched practices around food, beverage, and pet issues, representing a wide array of industry leaders on matters ranging from litigation, regulatory, and IP rights. Similarly, government oversight over the pet industry has grown to agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Federal Trade Commission.
Growth in the pet sector has soared, and shows continued economic strength, even during times of recession. Currently, sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet. Over 43 million of those households own dogs. In 2018, the pet industry in the United States was $72 billion; it is estimated to exceed $75 billion in 2019. The largest sector of this industry is pet health care, with $18 billion spent on vet care and $16 billion spent on supplies and over the counter medication. A close second is the pet food sector, which grossed $30 billion last year. Dog owners spend almost $1,300 a year on their pets.
Underpinning the powerful growth of the pet industry economy is strong IP protection. While we may be familiar with some of the big brand names in the pet retailer space, we are also seeing record-setting growth and entrepreneurial activity and inventions by new innovators. Entrepreneurs launching start-ups and building new businesses rely on patent protection and trademark registration as a means of differentiating their products and attracting customer loyalty. Also, IP protection wards off infringers and counterfeit goods. However, even though legally empowered with intellectual property rights, sadly, the threat of counterfeiting now requires the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators to post frequent warnings about the dangers of counterfeit pet medicines and/or pet food that can harm pets, as well as nascent businesses.
So let’s take a closer look at some examples of innovations driving this thriving industry.
Morrison patent for "flying disc toy."
Tesla has created a “dog mode” where pets can be left in a car for a short time with the air conditioning (or heat) on. (Photo courtesy of Tesla)
Carl Creamer patent for "mobile sling for crippled animals."
Throughout the “dog days of summer,” including National Dog Day on August 26th, follow the USPTO on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more examples of pet-related inventions and trademarks, as we celebrate the ways in which these inventions have made our pets — and us — happier, healthier, and safer.
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.