Spotlight: PTO

The mission of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is to foster innovation and competitiveness by providing high-quality and timely examination of patent and trademark applications, guiding domestic and international intellectual property (IP) policy, and delivering IP information and education worldwide. The agency advises the president, the secretary of commerce, and other federal agencies on IP policy, protection, and enforcement; promotes stronger, more effective IP protection around the world; and provides training, education, and capacity-building programs designed to foster respect for IP and encourage the development of strong IP enforcement regimes by U.S. trading partners. The PTO’s total spending authority for FY 2011 was reduced to $2.09 billion, about $100 million less than the agency receives in fees.

In addition to granting patents and registering trademarks, the PTO also oversees the Patent and Trademark Resource Centers Program (PTRCP), which administers a nationwide network of public, state, and academic libraries designated as Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. These centers—located in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico—disseminate patent and trademark information while also supporting other public IP needs. The PTRCP began in 1871, when federal law first called for the distribution of printed patents to libraries for use by the public. During the program’s early years, 22 libraries, mostly public and located east of the Mississippi River, elected to participate since 1977, the network has grown to four times its original size. Another USPTO program, the Global Intellectual Property Academy, offers capacity building programs on intellectual property protection, enforcement, and capitalization throughout the United States and worldwide, to patent, trademark, and copyright officials; judges, prosecutors, and police officers; customs officials; and foreign policy makers, examiners, and rights owners.

The PTO headquarters at 600 Dulany Street in Alexandria, Virginia, occupies five interconnected buildings, including four pavilion-style structures and a fifth, signature building crowned with a ten-story atrium set between its two wings.  In addition to PTO offices, the campus contains two parking garages, a 70,000-square foot data center, multipurpose meeting facilities, a daycare center, and a health club. It also houses the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum, a patent search library, a cafeteria, a cafe and concession stand, and a two-acre urban park, all of which are open to the public. The complex, which is arranged in a “U” formation around the park, earned an ENERGY STAR rating for incorporating environmentally sensitive design features and state-of-the-art, energy-efficient equipment, including interconnected decentralized chilling plants. It is within walking distance of two Metrorail stations as well as a VRE commuter train station, making it easy for employees to commute by transit. The natural and cast stone exterior treatment is typical of traditional federal architecture, while the design respects Old Town Alexandria’s Georgian heritage. More than 8,900 PTO employees, including engineers, scientists, attorneys, analysts, computer specialists, currently work there.