U.S. Commerce Department Highlights New Initiatives to Strengthen Patent System and Support American Innovation

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Submitted on February 20, 2014 - 5:35pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 20, 2014
CONTACT OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
202-482-4883

The U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) along with the White House today announced major progress on a series of Administration initiatives to strengthen the  patent system and foster innovation. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, joined by Gene Sperling, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council; Todd Park, Assistant to the President and U.S. Chief Technology Officer; and Michelle Lee, USPTO Deputy Director discussed the importance of improving the U.S. patent system and protecting innovators from “patent trolls.” Secretary Pritzker made the following remarks at today’s White House event:

“As someone who has worked in business for 27 years, I know first-hand that protecting and promoting our ideas-driven economy is essential to economic growth. Today’s executive actions show President Obama’s recognition of the work we must do to constantly strengthen our intellectual property (IP) system. Intellectual property-intensive industries account for over one-third of our nation’s Gross Domestic Product and nearly 28 percent of jobs, according to the latest data. Clearly, IP protection is a pillar of the U.S. economy, and we should be doing everything possible to ensure a smart, 21st century patent system. Overall, the goal of these executive actions is to enable America’s entrepreneurs and businesses to focus their time and resources on what they do best – drive innovation, increase U.S. competitiveness, and create jobs – not wasting money in courtrooms.”

White House Executive Actions on Patent Reform

The three executive actions announced today aim to help American entrepreneurs and small business owners more effectively deal with abusive litigation practices and help ensure the U.S. patent system keeps up with the evolving needs of industry. Specifically, those actions are:

  • Crowdsourcing Prior Art: The USPTO will harness the power of crowdsourcing by partnering with the innovation community to identify technical and hard-to-find information, known as prior art. This will help patent examiners make more informed decisions about whether an invention is worthy of a new patent. 
  • Pro Se/Pro Bono Support: The USPTO will create a public-private partnership that aims to provide nationwide pro bono

    support and resources for inventors and small business owners who apply for patents without legal help. This action will help level the playing field for such individuals, enabling more entrepreneurs to more easily navigate the patent application process and get their goods to market faster.

  • Robust Technical Training and Expertise: The USPTO will strengthen patent examiners’ knowledge base by expanding an existing training program. This will improve the quality of patent examinations and ensure examiners have the most relevant and current information.

The USPTO also announced today significant progress in implementing four executive actions the White House called for in June 2013. The executive actions were designed to increase transparency of patent ownership information; tighten scrutiny of patent claims; provide resources to help consumers and small-business owners defend themselves against patent infringement claims; and expand dedicated outreach and study to build consensus on patent policy and laws. 

As part of Obama Administration and Commerce Department efforts to support the innovation economy, Secretary Pritzker, Deputy Director Lee and several other Commerce Department officials will travel to Silicon Valley, California next week to highlight efforts to spur U.S. economic growth. Support for innovation and competitiveness, including protecting intellectual property, is a key pillar of the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”

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