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