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The Pace of Innovation

Today, the business of innovation moves at lightning speed, is not constrained by international boundaries, and is limited only by the extent of one’s imagination.

Whether it’s smart fabrics, driverless cars or drones, each new breakthrough redefines what it means to be on the cutting edge of innovation.

As America’s Innovation Agency, it’s incumbent upon us at USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) to keep up with the pace of business by adapting quickly to the needs of the innovation community. To accomplish this, we are working diligently with stakeholders, including small businesses and startups, and collaboratively across government agencies to help ensure a thriving innovation ecosystem.

The basic compact of the patent system is that new information begets new innovation— allowing each inventive step to stand on the shoulders of prior discovery. In April, the USPTO made a great leap into exposing the world to one of the largest repositories of data on the development of technology trends by launching the USPTO’s new Developer Hub. The uses and applications for this data are limitless.

You need look no further than the vice president’s Cancer Moonshot initiative to see how impactful this data can be. Through this big data approach, government and research entities will soon be able to pour through and assess which areas are showing the most promise, pinpoint what tech is most germane to cancer treatments, and fast track those treatments through the process. This could spur R&D activity, help surgically direct funding of U.S. government investments, and possibly patients with better tools to fight the pervasive disease, all rooted in the power of intellectual property (IP). With data now in easily reviewable formats, the sky is the limit for innovators.

Another important part of ensuring a thriving innovation ecosystem means providing IP owners with appropriate safeguards including legal remedies when one’s IP has been illegally appropriated. This May, after strong leadership from the Administration (including the teams at both USPTO and the Department of Commerce), we saw the passage and signing of the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA). An important piece of legislation, the DTSA helps protect American companies against the theft of trade secrets by creating a federal civil cause of action. With an estimated annual loss of $300 billion attributed to trade secret theft, this new cause of action provides yet another arrow in the quiver of IP protections by empowering companies to develop their trade secret protection strategies with increased confidence that they have correctly predicted needs and outcomes as a result of the uniformity of protection across state lines.

Another area of safeguards for IP is ensuring the right policy and process surrounding each registration, application, and use around copyrights, trademarks and patents. On the copyright policy, the USPTO is taking a leading role to ensure balance in our copyright system. This spring marked the release of the USPTO co-authored “White Paper on Remixes, First Sale Doctrine, and Statutory Damages”, which, for the first time since the 1990s, provided valuable observations and legislative recommendations on a host of copyright issues. On the trademark front, we continue to take a leading role in the global discussion on trademark policy through our participation in international gatherings like TM5 and ID5 (forums of the five largest trademark offices in the world that promote cooperation and collaboration between members).

Finally, USPTO’s Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative continues to improve our strong patenting process. Marking one year since an array of initiatives were announced, USPTO hosted a Patent Quality Community Symposium to update the public on the programs, introduce developing programs, and collect feedback from stakeholders. By making such improvements, we are increasing the certainty of the patents issued and decreasing the likelihood that these patents will be litigation in coming years. These initiatives will undoubtedly help cement our IP system as the gold standard.

These steps strengthen the fabric of IP protections, which have been the cornerstone of American ingenuity, allowing CTA members to continue building and reimagining the way we interact with the world. We can accomplish this by working in concert with our stakeholders and we look forward to this important collaboration.

Vikrum Aiyer, Chief of Staff, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office