Inaugural NCEAI Innovation Discussion Underscores Data-Driven, Solution-Based Approach

By La'Cee Conley
January 19, 2021

“Iancu argued that, alongside science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) tracks, there should be an additional and separate innovation education program.”

NCEAILast week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted its first National Council for Expanding American Innovation (NCEAI) Innovation Chat virtually, featuring a discussion between USPTO Director Andrei Iancu and the Deputy Director General for Patents and Technology Sector, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Lisa Jorgensen. A key takeaway was specificity – Iancu and Jorgenson consistently advocated for the NCEAI to be specific in its identification of needs, to strategize specific solutions to those needs, and provide tangible measurements of each solution’s application.

The NCEAI

The NCEAI is comprised of Members from across industry, practice, academia, and government. The NCEAI was established to “help guide the USPTO in developing a comprehensive national strategy to build a more diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem by encouraging participation demographically, geographically, and economically.” Id. This initiative also includes increasing the involvement of women and other underrepresented groups by encouraging, empowering, and supporting all future innovators.

The Council was developed by the USPTO to strategize how best to develop a comprehensive program that would spur interest in innovation and inventing while also providing increased access to innovation itself. As such, the two directors said they hope that the NCEAI will serve as a powerful catalyst that not only increases opportunity but stimulates the international innovation economy as well.

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Inaugural Chat

The discussion was convened in order to address the importance of an intellectual property (IP) ecosystem that is both expansive and diverse and was moderated by Valencia Martin Wallace—the NCEAI Executive Lead and Deputy Commissioner of Patents for the USPTO.

The Development and Composition of the NCEAI

Andrei Iancu

First, Iancu was asked about the developmental discussions that went into the decision to create the NCEAI and why this was a top priority for the USPTO in particular. He noted straightaway that IP intensive industries and companies out-perform their non-IP competitors across job satisfaction, opportunities for growth, and economically. Accordingly, it is important for the United States and each individual who participates in the general economy to prioritize innovation.

However, he also noted that innovation remains highly concentrated geographically, demographically, and economically. For example, he cited a 2019 USPTO Progress and Potential report that showed only 13% of patents have a woman as a named inventor. In order to best serve the country, innovation and IP presents the “best and most tangible opportunity to enhance the economy”, according to Iancu. This priority can then be paralleled internationally.

Next, the composition of the NCEAI was discussed. Iancu argued that in order for there to be an effective model for innovation expansion, there needs to be participation from leaders from a wide range of industry, academia, and nonprofits. Each leader should bring their own unique perspectives and would be tasked with evolving their responses to the innovation economy.

Diversity in the Innovation Economy

Lisa Jorgenson

Jorgensen then discussed her experience at WIPO as the first woman deputy director general for the patents sector and what WIPO’s role must be in the effort to increase diversity for underrepresented groups in the global IP community. She concluded that the effort must be twofold—internally, WIPO should diversify its staff, identify opportunities for women to be in various roles inside WIPO and for them to be involved at every level; and externally, WIPO should provide programming to member states and individuals worldwide. Importantly, she reasoned that an essential feature of innovation economy leadership includes data collection, the identification of ways to use that data efficiently in a meaningful way, and the effective dissemination of that analysis.

Iancu noted that this type of data analysis is currently occurring at the USPTO. He asked Jorgensen what WIPO could do to identify best practices around the world to address discrepancies in data from region to region regarding the innovation economy. More particularly, what can WIPO do multilaterally to extract information and disseminate it among regions when there is a country that is outperforming others? Jorgensen replied that WIPO should be the convener and disseminator of raw and analyzed data for individual countries to use and share.

The Importance of Life-long Innovation Involvement

Another key takeaway was that there must be a system by which individuals have unfettered access to life-long innovation education and encouragement. Jorgensen noted that corporations, practitioners, governments and agencies should start by reaching out to grade school children to educate them about innovation and how they can participate in the innovation economy. Iancu argued that it is critical that innovation education continues and advances in difficulty in depth throughout an individual’s educational career. He further argued that, alongside science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) tracks, there should be an additional and separate innovation education program. That alone would expand the innovation ecosystem both demographically and geographically.

Specificity is Key

Returning to the NCEAI, Iancu said there are essentially three things that the Council should do in order to manifest an expanded innovation economy. The NCEAI is tasked to identify specific issues during particular phases of an individual’s education and occupational development, develop specific solutions to each issue, and provide tangible measurements that the council is held accountable against. When asked how to keep NCEAI relevant and influential, Iancu again cited specificity insofar that a specific schedule must be developed and specific goals must be identified that are executed against that schedule.

How to Participate

Iancu called for participation by everyone, including practitioners, inventors and government leaders. He asked stakeholders to share their experiences, talk about what they have accomplished, what they do on a daily basis, and what has enabled them to be successful, and then to offer their experience to others to exemplify what a great group of professions IP has to offer. Jorgensen also asked stakeholders to enter into mentor-mentee relationships.

Anyone can participate in the NCEAI’s innovation expansion effort by sending comments to NCEAI@uspto.gov or using the hashtag #ExpandingAmerican Innovation.

 

The Author

La'Cee Conley

La'Cee Conley is an experienced international intellectual property attorney and owner of Conley Consulting & Portfolio Advisors. After earning Bachelor degrees in physical chemistry and in neuroscience, she earned her Juris Doctor and Master of Law at Drake University, specializing in international intellectual property and international law. She completed her Master of Business Administration at Iowa State University. She currently specializes in patents, trademarks, and copyrights around the world relating to chemical, nanochemical, small molecule, biological, neurological, pharmaceutical, oil & gas, and general mechanical applications.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 2 Comments comments.

  1. Josh Malone January 19, 2021 1:15 pm

    What do U.S. patents have to do with innovation? I don’t see the connection. New innovators should not waste their scarce resources on wall decorations or lawsuits. They will be more successful if they utilize their resources for technology and business.

  2. Jeff Hardin January 27, 2021 1:10 pm

    “The NCEAI was established to ‘help guide the USPTO in developing a comprehensive national strategy to build a more diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem by encouraging participation demographically, geographically, and economically.’ Id. This initiative also includes increasing the involvement of women and other underrepresented groups by encouraging, empowering, and supporting all future innovators.”

    Until the USPTO provides underrepresented groups the ability to defend and enforce their innovations, I fear that encouraging these groups to participate will not only be seen as wasteful by them, but unethical. This sentiment is not unfounded, but is based on the very testimony of those underrepresented groups. They see today’s “patent bargain scales” being grossly tipped against them, and if this is not corrected, their resentment will only grow.

    Focusing on the front-end patent pursuit with things like the NCEAI, without focusing on the post-grant problems on the back end, is being seen by them as the government bulldozing on with their own separate agenda and ignoring the very inventors they say they want to help. In fact, at a recent NCEAI meeting, it was clearly expressed by leadership that no effort will be given by the NCEAI to solve the underrepresented inventors’ post-grant concerns at the PTAB. In the SUCCESS Act study (what the USPTO says spawned the formation of the NCEAI), opinions from underrepresented individuals were sought, and they specifically expressed that the pursuit of a patent today is futile.

    These underrepresented inventors stated in that study that post-grant enforcement concerns are a barrier to participating in the patent system. They also provided ways to solve the problem. The inventors then wrote a letter to Congress saying that the USPTO ignored their concerns and recommendations in the SUCCESS Act report requested by Congress. https://usinventor.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Inventor-Letter-to-Rep-Velazquez-re-SUCCESS-Act.pdf

    The inventors I have spoken with question “who in their right mind today would pay the government for the ‘privilege’ of the government sharing their invention with the world, offering false protection in return?” To the knowledgeable inventor, this aptly describes today’s “patent bargain”, and to them, it is not worth pursuing.

    Just read and listen to the individual comments they provided during the SUCCESS Act study. Below are just a few.

    “What good is a patent if one cannot defend it? … Although pursuing equal opportunity with women, minorities, and veterans in obtaining a patent is a valuable effort, if it does not coincide with equal outcome in one’s ability to utilize the patent once received, regardless of the person’s financial state, telling women, minorities, and veterans that they stand to benefit from a patent will simply be false doctrine.”
    – Patricia Duran

    “I myself am in a minority group, but I would encourage others to stay far away from the patent system in its current form. Businesses cannot be built on false promises of exclusive right and patent enforceability. … Without that additional protection, the USPTO should not encourage more women, minorities, and veterans to file for patents, or its effect will be like a trap, or even a fraud, because after spending so much money and time obtaining a patent from our government, the patent can be easily infringed or even invalidated by an agent of the same government, without any compensation.”
    – Ronald Zhang

    “Patents have become liabilities for independent inventors thanks to the PTAB and lack of strong enforcement in court. If the recommended legislation does not include increased protection of patents, we will end up destroying the lives of the very individuals we intend to help.”
    – Kip Azzoni

    “Independent inventors risk thousands of dollars in developing and patenting their products only to find that the greatest liability is to have a product reach success in the marketplace. Under our current weakened patent system, large corporations with deep pockets and teams of attorneys can easily infringe on a small, independent inventor’s product, swamping the inventor with litigation costs and extreme financial stress in trying to protect their own USPTO issued patent.”
    – Laura Myers

    “These days, however, the risks and costs taken on by a patent holder can outweigh the advantages. With extremely high PTAB invalidation rates, patents offer little protection to the inventor. Many independent inventors, particularly those from underrepresented classes, are unable to pay to defend a patent in an IPR, which has been estimated by the AIPLA at $450,000. Patents only have value if they are a dependable right without the risk of being so easily revoked.”
    – Bob Zeidman

    “The Request for Comments poses the following interesting question: ‘What social and private benefits to small businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans would you identify as resulting from increasing the number of patents applied for and obtained by those businesses?’

    None. It would be a liability to them.
    Encouraging women, minorities and veterans to obtain patents under the current system is to encourage them to take great financial risks with a low chance of any reward. The patent granting process is already fraught with cost and risk, however this risk is understandable and quantifiable – patents should be granted on genuine innovation. However the subsequent risk of, after having paid and worked to obtain a patent reviewed by a qualified patent examiner, only to have struck down arbitrarily by the PTAB at the whim of a large financially rich corporate entity unwilling to pay the lawful royalties that the patent is supposed to award the inventor, is too great.
    The PTAB IPR system needs to be overhauled to redress the balance in favor of the individual inventor. That was the whole point of the ‘patent deal’ between inventor and state, and this crucial aspect has been lost.”
    – Dr. Keir Finlow-Bates

    “If patents can’t be defended, big tech just steals them, and using their huge markets and deep markets, massively commercializes them.
    The USPTO set up the PTAB skewed to invalidate huge percentages of the very same patents that it just granted….These are the patents that inventors have put their trust in, betting their careers and sometimes their entire life savings to commercialize or license them, only to have that trust betrayed, and then to lose everything.
    We all want women, minorities, and veterans to climb the social and economic ladders, but to do that, we must have a patent must be capable of attracting investment. It must be presumed valid, exclusive right, and can’t cost so much to obtain and defend that nobody can do it as it does today.”
    – Paul Morinville

    All comments are available here: https://uspto.gov/successact