USPTO in Silicon Valley

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
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On Tuesday, 14 October 2014, I attended a panel discussion and reception / networking event for Intellectual Property (IP) professionals at Santa Clara University. The panel featured the following speakers:

  • John Cabeca, United States Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO);
  • Dan Ovanezian, Lowenstein Sandler LLP;
  • Laura Norris, Santa Clara University (SCU);
  • Joseph Wang, Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner PA.

John Cabeca was also the keynote speaker for the event, and gave several updates on the USPTO. Laura Norris was also the panel moderator.

John Cabeca's talk was very informative. Here are some notes of interest:

     - USPTO now #1 place to work out of 300+ federal agencies (up from #172 in 2007)
     - ranking improvement driven by focus on employees, diverse workforce, telecommuting options, and law school tuition reimbursement
     - hired 1,000 new scientists/engineers in 2013, for a total of 8,500 scientists/engineers at the agency (agency employs 12,000 total)
     - current attrition rates at historic lows of ~4.5%
     - key effort continues to be the reduction in patent examination backlog
     - USPTO is about to open its Silicon Valley Office (SVO) in San Jose; office will move from its temporary digs in Menlo Park to its permanent location in San Jose City Hall (see photo below) in early 2015
     - the USPTO-SVO will be one of four satellite offices, together with Denver, Detroit, and Dallas (Dallas also opening in 2015)
     - the USPTO-SVO will have about 80 examiners and provide a variety of services to the local IP community (see more below)

City Hall in San Jose, California, the future home of the
USPTO Silicon Valley Office

I asked John Cabeca what was the main motivation behind the establishment of a regional office of the USPTO in Silicon Valley, and what are some specific initiatives and programs that the new office will support. His answer:

     - tap into Silicon Valley talent pool (to recruit new examiners for USPTO)
     - provide services for applicants, such as:
          - interview rooms for 1:1 meetings with examiners
          - hearing rooms for hearings with patent trial and appeal board judges
          - teleconferencing rooms for remote meetings and hearings 

     - outreach:
          - STEM-focused IP programs
          - conferences and webinars for startups

     - regional coordination of pro bono efforts:
          - new America Invents Act program for under-resourced inventors 
          - read about the California Inventors Assistance Program

The panel discussion produced a number of interesting personal career stories from the speakers, as well as practical advice to the many law students in attendance. All of the speakers started their careers with technical degrees, and each recounted their transition to legal and IP practice. Laura Norris additionally mentioned the program she heads at SCU, the Entrepreneurs' Law Clinic, which offers a variety of services to entrepreneurs in the community. 

Image credit: USPTO


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