Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) (Federal Agency Profiles)
PARENT ORGANIZATION: Department of Commerce
ADDRESS: 2121 Crystal Dr. Arlington, VA 22202
PHONE: (703) 308-4357
TOLL FREE: (800) 786-9199
TDD (HEARING IMPAIRED): (703) 305-7785
FAX: (703) 305-7786
COMMISSIONER OF PATENTS AND TRADEMARKS: Bruce Lehman
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF PATENTS AND TRADEMARKS: Lawrence Goffhey
WHAT IS ITS MISSION?
The mission of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is derived from the U.S. Constitution, which states that "Congress shall have the power .. . to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to .. . inventors the exclusive right to their . . . discoveries." The PTO seeks to promote industrial and technological progress in the United States, and to strengthen the national economy, through three general activities: administering the laws relating to patents and trademarks; advising the secretary of commerce, the president, and the administration on patent, trademark, and copyright protection; and advising them on trade-related aspects of intellectual property.
(The entire section is 3087 words.)
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Patent and Trademark Office (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is a federal agency that grants PATENTS and registers TRADEMARKS to qualified applicants. A division of the COMMERCE DEPARTMENT, the PTO was named the Patent Office when it was established by Congress in 1836. In 1975 it was renamed the Patent and Trademark Office to reflect its dual function. The PTO is now organized pursuant to 35 U.S.C.A. § 1 et seq.
Under the direction of the secretary of commerce, the PTO is run by the commissioner of patents and trademarks, a deputy commissioner, several assistant commissioners, and a support staff of more than 1,000 employees. The primary job of the commissioners is to review the merits of patent and trademark applications. Patents are typically issued upon a showing that a particular applicant has discovered or developed a new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, chemical composition, or other invention. Trademark protection is typically afforded to applicants who are seeking to identify their commercial goods by means of a distinctive word, name, symbol, or other device.
Trademark applications must be submitted with a drawing of the proposed mark; patent applications must be accompanied by a detailed description of the invention. A filing fee is also required for both...
(The entire section is 768 words.)
Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) (Encyclopedia of Small Business)
The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is responsible for administering all laws relating to trademarks and patents in the United States. It has thus been an important agency for several generations of entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as for larger corporations and universities. The PTO describes itself thusly: "Through the issuance of patents, we encourage technological advancement by providing incentives to invent, invest in, and disclose new technology worldwide. Through the registration of trademarks, we assist businesses in protecting their investments, promoting goods and services and safeguarding consumers against confusion and deception in the marketplace. By disseminating both patent and trademark information, we promote an understanding of intellectual property protection and facilitate the developments and sharing of new technologies world wide."
In addition to handling the nation's patents and trademarks, the PTO also has a notable advisory function. It serves as both a developer of intellectual property policy and an advisor to the White House on patent/trademark/copyright policies. In addition, the PTO provides information and guidance on intellectual property issues to international commerce offices such as the International Trade Commission and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In 1999 the PTO was established as an agency within the Department of Commerce.
By nearly all accounts, the PTO has historically done a laudable job of protecting the intellectual property rights of businesses and individuals while simultaneously encouraging the growth of business. "Since its inception, the patent system has encouraged the genius of millions of inventors," wrote Inventor's Desktop Companion author Richard C. Levy. "It has protected these creative individuals by allowing them an opportunity to profit from their labors, and has benefited society by systematically recording new inventions and releasing them to the public once the inventors' limited rights have expired Under the patent system, American industry has flourished. New products have been invented, new uses for old ones discovered, and employment given to millions."
LEGAL UNDERPINNINGS OF THE PTO
The fundamental principles of the modern American patent system were first codified into law in 1790. Guided by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson in its early years, the patent office grew quickly, and in 1849 the Department of the Interior was given responsibility for maintaining it. In 1870 the powers of the patent office were expanded dramatically; the commissioner of patents was given jurisdiction to register and regulate trademarks. The office thus came to be responsible for all American trademarks, even though the word "trademark" would not appear in its name for another 105 years (the Patent Office became the Patent and Trademark Office on January 2, 1975). In 1926 responsibility for the Patent Office was handed over to the Department of Commerce, where it remains today.
The PTO currently touts the following laws as the primary statutory authorities guiding its programs:
- 15 U.S.C. 1051-1127ontains provisions of the Trademark Act of 1946, a law that governs the office's trademark administration
- 15 U.S.C. 1511stablishes the PTO as a subordinate agency of the Department of Commerce
- 35 U.S.C.rovides the PTO with its basic authority to administrate patent laws
- 44 U.S.C. 1337-1338ives the PTO authority to print trademarks, patents, and other material relevant to the business of the Office
In 1991 the PTO underwent a significant change in operation. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1990 included provisions to make the Office a self-supporting government agency that would not receive federal funding. In order to provide the PTO with needed operating funds, Congress raised the PTO's patent application fees to cover operating costs and maintain services for inventors. The PTO has been funded solely by fees since 1993. In 1999 it was formally established as an agency within the Department of Commerce.
As part of its efforts to process its patent applications in a timely manner, the Patent and Trademark Office established and opened an electronic patent application filing system open to all inventors in October 2000. The PTO's web site (www.uspto.gov) now allows inventors to assemble all components of a patent application online, including calculate fees, validate content, and encrypt and transmit the filing. At the same time, the PTO raised its patent fees to match current rates of inflation. This increase, the first since 1997, was needed to pay for the electronic system and other expenses associated with processing the huge volume of patent and trademark applications that pass through the PTO's doors every year (the Office experienced an annual 10 percent growth in patent applications during the 1990s, and in 1999 alone, the PTO issued more than 160,000 patents and registered more than 100,000 trademarks).
Chun, Janean. "Patent Leather." Entrepreneur. June 1997.
Hoover, Kent. "Patent Office Opens Electronic Filing to All." Sacramento Business Journal. November 3, 2000.
Levy, Richard C. "The Patent and Trademark Office." In The Inventor's Desktop Companion. Visible Ink, 1995.
SEE ALSO: Inventions and Patents