Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Andrei Iancu led a roundtable discussion at Scheller College of Business. The engineer and intellectual property attorney was sworn into office last February following nominations by President Donald Trump.
After an introduction by Stuart Graham, Scheller College associate professor of strategy and innovation – which included nods to alumnus Dev Mandavia, two-time winner of the Georgia Tech initiative Create-X and co-founder of Ethos Medical, and Kenneth Cunefare, inventor and professor at the George W. Woodruff School of Medical Engineering – Inacu began by announcing the United States patent system recently shot from twelfth place in 2018 to second in the International Intellectual Property (IP) Index.
“We’re very proud of what we do at the USPTO and we’re proud that the U.S. is ranked so highly in this study,” he said. “A healthy innovation system is very important to us.”
After an overview of the Patent and Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution written over 200 years ago, Inacu stressed that while the system is effective, there is need for improvement. “How we get more folks to invent and how we make it easier to defend their right to invent is key,” he said. “But, we realize that there’s nothing perfect; parts of the system are outdated. We need to identify faults in our system and fix them.”
Inacu also stressed the need for educational institutions to play a larger role in encouraging innovation. ”I think we need more patents and more ideas at a greater quality,” he said. “It’s really important for academia to bring ideas out to the forefront, even if it’s through open-source applications. Academic institutions have so much to work with.”
Inacu continued, “We have to try things, even in face of failure. Failure is part of the beauty of America. I do think it’ll generally be good to at least develop aspirational goals that can be created through a consortium of industry, government, and academia.”
After answering questions from the audience, Inacu ended the discussion by stressing the importance of introducing innovation and invention to students at an early age. “I think high school is too late; students must be involved with inventing and STEM education by middle school or earlier. Children also need accessible role models and educational institutions are the perfect place to play in these spaces.”
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is the federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks, fulfilling the mandate of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution. The USPTO advises the president of the United States, the secretary of commerce, and U.S. government agencies on intellectual property policy, protection, and enforcement; and promotes stronger and more effective intellectual property protection around the world.