America is an innovation nation. Consider just one evolution of invention that developed and grew here -- the telegraph, the telephone, the television, the personal computer, to the very Internet on which you're reading these words -- and look for the common denominator. What was it about the United States that spurred inventors -- American-born citizens and immigrants alike -- to innovate here on our soil?
One clear answer is an intellectual property system that the Founding Fathers knew would "promote the progress of science and the useful arts" by providing time-limited protections for innovation while empowering others to examine and build on that innovation. That phrase comes from the U.S. Constitution, and one of the actions of the very first U.S. Congress was the passage of the Patent Act of 1790, which unleashed 225 years of innovation.
I'll soon witness the next evolution of innovation at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, from January 6th to 9th. I'm told it may be the first time in the Show's nearly fifty-year history that the Director of our nation's "Innovation Agency" -- the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO -- has attended. Given the importance of intellectual property, or IP, my visit seems well overdue.
But I'm not arriving alone. A solid team of IP professionals will be exhibiting at the Show, there to educate innovators at all entrepreneurial levels -- from a solo startup to a mature and growing enterprise -- of the value of IP and the many resources the USPTO offers to innovators.
Our booth is located a stone's throw from CES's unique "Eureka Park," a section of the Show that houses innovative start-ups who are at the very early stages of developing, manufacturing and marketing their inventions. The entire panoply of IP -- patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets -- all offer benefits to these entrepreneurs. There couldn't be a better location for our top-notch IP experts -- Elizabeth Dougherty, Craig Morris, William Vaughn and Josh Hallock -- who will be educating attendees on many agency initiatives, including:
Assistance in filing patent applications without the potentially costly compensation of an attorney. The Pro Se Assistance Program, supported by the White House, helps small businesses and independent inventors obtain the same IP protections accessible to their more well-funded competitors.
Pairing an inventor with a patent attorney willing to help with the patent filing process without charge. The Patent Pro Bono Program connects eligible inventors with patent attorneys, allowing an inventor with limited resources access to the skill and experience of a seasoned professional.
Assisting patent applicants with issues that arise during the examination process. The Patents Ombudsman Program offers agency experts who can help applicants navigate the examination process from start to finish.
Answering key questions about the examination process. The Inventors Assistance Call Center is staffed by former patent examiners who answer a wide range of questions patent examining policy and procedure.
Assistance in learning if your invention is new. The USPTO maintains a nationwide network of Patent and Trademark Resource Centers at public, state, and academic libraries. Experts on site help the public search to learn what inventions are already out there and potentially patented, as well as offering other services.
In addition, the USPTO has for the first time in our nation's history opened regional offices in all four continental U.S. zones. These "embassies of innovation" in Dallas, Denver, Detroit, and San Jose bring USPTO officials and resources closer to home. Our officials in those offices engage in robust outreach across all of the regions of the country, including popular and free "Saturday Seminars" that cover the basics of patents and trademarks and connects attendees with more resources. The director of our West Coast Regional Office, John Cabeca, is part of the USPTO team on the ground at CES.
I'm excited to walk the miles of CES exhibit space -- trust me, I'll be wearing sensible shoes -- and take in the latest and greatest in innovation. I look forward to talking with innovators, hearing their stories, and learning how intellectual property is better enabling them to compete in the 21st Century global economy.
Of course you don't have to attend CES to engage with the USPTO and make use of its resources. I encourage you to visit the "Inventors & Entrepreneurs Resources" or "Startup Resources" pages at www.uspto.gov. But if you are going to CES, I hope we cross paths.