Less than a year ago, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) officially opened the doors to its new Texas Regional Office in Dallas. This regional office provides outreach services for inventors and entrepreneurs in the state of Texas, as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee. David Carstens (DC) recently had the opportunity to interview the Director of the Texas Regional USPTO, Ms. Hope Shimabuku (HS), to discuss the benefits of having a regional office so close to home.
DC: Will the Texas Regional Office be hosting any open house events for patent or trademark applicants to come see where the office is located and learn more about it?
HS: One of the missions of the Texas Regional Office is to provide outreach and to bring events and services to our local stakeholders. We hold workshops, trainings, conferences, roundtables, and events on a regular basis for K-12 students and educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, legal practitioners, and university and corporate stakeholders. For example, the Texas Regional Patent and Trademark Seminar is held at the Texas Regional Office and is a class designed to educate inventors and entrepreneurs about patent and trademark basics. Each month we host onsite Meet the Trademark Experts and Meet the Patent Experts, as well as provide public tours. Some of our upcoming events include an Advanced Patent Seminar and a Texas Regional Patent and Trademark Seminar in Spanish.
DC: Does the Texas Regional Office make it easier for applicants and their counsel to interact with patent examiners?
HS: The Texas Regional USPTO has an examiner interview room where applicants and/or their counsel can meet face-to-face with the eventual 110 examiners who are located at the USPTO Texas Regional Office. They can also meet with any examiner anywhere in the country using our secure video link capability in the examiner interview room.
DC: Will the Texas Regional Office speed up the patent or trademark application process?
HS: One of the strategic goals of the USPTO is to reduce patent pendency, and in order to meet this goal, the USPTO is hiring patent examiners to increase its capabilities. The Texas Regional Office will eventually hire hire approximately 100 new patent examiners, hiring about 25 patent examiners every 4 months. Currently, the Texas Regional Office has 47 new examiner and 25 new patent examiners, our third class of examiners, will start on September 19, 2016. Our fourth class of patent examiners will begin in January 2017.
DC: With the Regional Offices opening, will they reduce the cost of filing a patent?
HS: The USPTO assesses its fees based on how much it actually costs for the USTPO to process and examine the patent application. There have been situations in which we have reduced fees because we have found our cost to be less than what is actually being assessed.
DC: How can a patent or trademark applicant most effectively utilize the Texas Regional Office?
HS: The Texas Regional Office has a number of services available to patent or trademark applicants. Inventors, entrepreneurs, startups, researchers and others can attend a workshop, training, conference or roundtable at our office. Events are listed on our website at www.uspto.gov/texas. Applicants can use our interview rooms to connect with patent examiners working at the Texas Regional Office or anywhere else across the country. Applicants can search existing patents and trademarks on designated workstations using the same software tools that our patent and trademark examiners use. Additionally, the Texas Regional Office also has a hearing room so that applicants and other interested stakeholders can attend and/or participate in live oral hearings.