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National Academy Of Inventors Holds Inaugural Annual Conference

February 28, 2012

US Patent and Trademark Office Director Kappos speaks on changes, improvements to patent process

Speaking at the Inaugural Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors ® (NAI), held Feb. 16-17 at the University of South Florida in Tampa, David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, spoke on changes and improvements at the USPTO since he was appointed director by President Barack Obama in August, 2009.

“We’re building out a dynamic IT infrastructure and we’ve been hiring more examiners to aggressively tackle our patent backlog,” said Kappos. “We have made superb progress in reducing the backlog, with an emphasis on resolving the oldest cases as expeditiously as possible. While reducing the backlog is an important goal in itself, it is absolutely critical to our agency’s mission of fostering innovation, competitiveness and economic growth. Our daily work is vital to the nation’s economic recovery. ”

As head of the USPTO, Kappos advises the President and the Secretary of Commerce on matters of intellectual property. He directs more than 10,000 employees in an agency that provides incentives to encourage technological advancement and helps businesses protect their investments, promote their goods and services and acts to safeguard against deception in the marketplace.

The USPTO is fully self-funded, receiving no federal dollars.

Kappos was introduced by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

“When the President selected David Kappos to lead the USPTO, he knew he was choosing someone who would shake up the agency,” said Buckhorn. “Mr. Kappos is the ideal person to lead the USPTO when it is charged with implementing the America Invents Act, milestone legislation passed last year that brings the most sweeping changes to patent law in generations.”

Before joining the USPTO, Kappos served as vice president and assistant general counsel for intellectual property at IBM, where he managed worldwide property operations. He has served on numerous boards and held other leadership roles in the intellectual property field. He received his law degree from the University of California Berkeley in 1990 and has over 23 years of experience in intellectual property issues.

NAI Conference Highlights

The two-day conference featured an address by Dr. Thomas J. Fogarty, famed heart surgeon, entrepreneur and pioneer inventor of the cardiac balloon catheter, who was inducted as the NAI’s first Fellow. Fogarty spoke about roadblocks to innovation and gave a frank assessment of the institutional barriers to innovation that can exist in top notch research environments. Drawing from his own life experience in the discovery of the balloon catheter, he emphasized the need for persistence in the face of naysayers and the importance of making connections across different problems. He also paid tribute to his mentors, who were crucial in his quest for innovative solutions.

The conference also featured a poster session and reception with 75 posters presented by inventors from the NAI’s Charter Member Institutions, including posters from 33 undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who received fellowships to attend.

Twenty-four oral presentations by Charter Members focused on outstanding science and technology transfer. Among them were:

“Innovation and the Value Balance”

Creativity, invention and innovation, often used interchangeably, are not the same, argued Len Polizzotto, vice president of Draper Laboratory. What is creative is new to many, but not to those ‘skilled in the art;’ invention is something novel but not obvious to someone skilled in the art; innovation is both creative, inventive and has ‘customer value.’ Five elements to ‘value’ include customer value; organizational value; employee value; investor value; and environmental value. These five values must be in balance or the system collapses.

“Accelerating the Innovative Economy by a Strong Coupling of the Academic Research Enterprise to Industry”

According to M.J. Soileau, vice president at the University of Central Florida, two important questions are: Can the university research base be better coupled to industry in order to accelerate the innovative economy? And, if the answer is yes, what collaboration approaches are needed? The answer to the second question begs questions about the ‘boundary conditions that constrain universities.’

“Faculty Entrepreneurship at a State-Funded University: A VP for Research Perspective”

Sandra Degan, former vice president for research at the University of Cincinnati, discussed rewarding faculty entrepreneurship and supporting economic development initiatives in Ohio. She noted that due to budget cuts, the intellectual property office had to develop a new way of doing business that was both responsive and creative in identifying and using resources.

“Development of a Strategic Plan for a Technology Transfer Office”

Michael F. Moore, associate vice president at the University of North Dakota, highlighted the need for strategic planning in an academic-based technology transfer office. He reported that a committee at the University of North Dakota comprised of faculty, technology transfer officers, and state and local economic development professional identified five key goals: developing a campus wide culture that supports technology transfer and economic development; contribute to public benefit; serve the faculty; facilitate economic development and; license technology for fair value.

“This was a great first meeting to bring together our Charter Member Institutions to set the stage for our organization’s future growth and provide an opportunity for NAI members to work with the USPTO,” said Dr. Paul R. Sanberg, president of the NAI. “We greatly value the growing relationship between the NAI and the USPTO. In addition to their active participation in the conference, we are pleased that the USPTO has started to contribute an article to each issue of our journal.”

All of the abstracts, along with invited papers from the conference, will be published in the journal, Technology and Innovation — Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors. The NAI will hold their second annual conference in Tampa in February 2013.

“The NAI is a breakthrough for our country,” said Kappos. “It couldn’t be more timely to have an organization like this to be championing innovation.”

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