INTA’s most recent Brand & New podcast was released on World IP Day, April 26, 2023. In this episode, Audrey Dauvet interviews Kathi Vidal, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Director Vidal is a lifelong learner of IP, advocate for innovation & champion for inclusivity. To read more about her background & journey to her current role at the USPTO, visit here: https://www.uspto.gov/about-us/executive-biographies/kathi-vidal .
With this year’s World IP Day theme of women & intellectual property, accelerating innovation & creativity, Director Vidal was a perfect person to feature. In listening to her interview, it seemed kismet that we decided to sponsor this episode. Not only with the obvious related themes, but our home state of North Carolina also came up as an innovation hub & related to the patent eligibility bill introduced by Senator Thom Tillis. The Director’s comments also align with our core value (I = Innovation & Impact) as we strive to amplify our positive impact on the IP industry.
Here are a few of our takeaways from the interview:
Director Vidal spoke about one of her priorities as “bringing innovation to impact.” This is two-fold. Not only does it relate to encouraging & incentivizing innovation from a broader demographic in an inclusive way, but to also ensure that the system effectively protects innovation & through that protection, enables innovators to thrive by securing the necessary financial support to bring their ideas to fruition, creating jobs & perpetuating prosperity.
Throughout the interview, Director Vidal emphasized her interest in collaboration & learning from others, encouraging those with ideas to contact her directly. She spoke to the echo chamber that is created when we operate within our industry silos instead of reaching out to other communities & networks for their perspectives, experiences & feedback – referencing those who are already within the USPTO system vs. those who may have never submitted a filing before. Her efforts also seek international collaboration, mentioning a recent trilateral meeting with Japan & Europe to consider best practices & how to leverage ideas from other countries on a global scale.
There are a number of ongoing initiatives to explore including Empowering Women’s Entrepreneurship (WE) & the Council for Inclusive Innovation, both created in conjunction with the Secretary of Commerce.
She also mentioned the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP), which gives patent practitioners experience before PTAB. There is a concerted effort to bring more people into LEAP so others may benefit from the hands-on learning opportunity.
Director Vidal referenced statistics related to the number of women named on patents, which is between 12-13%. When educational opportunities & free legal assistance is offered within the communities, the USPTO has noted that 40% of those they have supported are women as well as an increase with other minorities.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as she also touched on the memorandum of understanding with the USIPA, working with IP offices on diversity & inclusion, and the importance of mentoring with the variety of programs through the Council for Inclusive Innovation. Upon listening to this podcast, we intend to learn more about Camp Invention, which has educated 250,000 children between 6-9 years old on innovation, and the Teach-the-Teacher program.
In our opinion — both of these programs seem beautifully aligned with our efforts on INTA’s Anticounterfeiting U.S. Subcommittee & working group to support the Unreal Campaign. As a natural precursor since Unreal focuses on those between 14-23 years old, it seems like this could create a funnel of opportunities for Unreal Campaign presentations, which is one of the challenges in getting the message to the target audiences. Has this already been explored? Is Director Vidal aware of INTA’s efforts?
In such large organizations with proactive agendas, the bureaucracy of connecting the right people in the right places & the fact that we are volunteers (as INTA committee members), it can be difficult to find the most efficient path to creating such synergies. Educating the next generations about the value of IP, the dangers of counterfeits & the importance of protecting innovation are worth the effort. With Director Vidal’s encouragement to reach out directly, we may be so inspired to go straight to the top.
After listening to Director Vidal, we had an opportunity to speak with the host, Audrey Dauvet, & share our thoughts (starts at approx. 26.00 minute mark).
The transcript of our Q&A with the host, Audrey Dauvet, is below for your reading (rather than listening) pleasure.
Host Audrey Dauvet: This episode is sponsored by Vaudra International that provides investigative solutions tailored to address the trademark owner and counsel’s IP concerns & corporate objectives. I am pleased to welcome Tamara Rabenold, its CEO and Owner.
Tamara Rabenold: Thank you Audrey for the introduction & kind welcome.
Dauvet: So, Tamara, could you tell me a bit about Vaudra International?
Rabenold: Vaudra International is a licensed private investigation company, offering brand protection & related investigation services on a global basis – both online in the virtual world & on the ground in the physical one. Dedicated to the Intellectual Property industry for over 20 years, we support clients with relevant & effective investigative strategies. IP is our heart & soul – along with a relentless pursuit of the truth.
Our philosophy centers around developing authentic collaborative relationships, while providing exceptional service & value-enhancing solutions.
Dauvet: How do you relate to the sentiments shared by Kathi?
Rabenold: Beyond being based in North Carolina along with Senator Tillis & appreciating her reference to our state as an innovation hub, so much of what she said resonated with me & is consistent with our core values – specifically bringing innovation to impact & expanding reach.
At Vaudra, we innovate to amplify our impact and are committed to continual improvement & learning, which is more critical than ever with the frenzied pace of today’s world.
To us, this means leveraging AI as part of our processes, enhancing services & resources based on our clients’ evolving needs & updated regulations – like the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 & our deep dive into understanding the USPTO’s definition of a reasonable investigation & the components of the verified statement in order to best support our clients efforts.
Similar to Director Vidal passions, we are also actively seeking additional ways to benefit our communities. By communities, I’m referring to those in the IP realm through our participation in INTA & related industry groups, like providing brand authentication trainings to law enforcement or speaking to a law class about how investigations can be used to support an IP practice as well as through our professional involvements within the investigative & security profession as a whole – by raising standards, adapting & innovating with the changing demands & laws impacting our field & working to better protect the general public.
Dauvet: What does this year’s World IP Day theme of “Women & IP – Accelerating Innovation & Creativity” mean to you?
Rabenold: I feel like we live & breathe it every day. As investigators, innovation & creativity is in our DNA and it is a tool that we sharpen & polish with every case. It literally has to be in order to stay a step ahead of the counterfeiters & infringers – as they are innovators too & fast to adopt new technologies, constantly devising ways to defraud, deceive & threaten our client’s IP assets.
As first announced on World IP Day last year, we are certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, also known as WBENC, the nation’s largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the US. We are also certified as a Women Owned Small Business by the SBA.
Like Director Vidal’s statistics about the low percentage of women on US patents, women are in the minority within the investigative profession too. We recognize the commitment to supplier diversity that is embraced by many companies and wanted to better support their efforts to add diversity to their supply chain by obtaining these certifications – also making it easier for them to prove compliance with DEI initiatives to their stakeholders.
Based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) or NAKES, there are over 10,000 U.S. entities classified as offering Investigation Services – and of these, there are only about 100 WBENC certified firms. To our knowledge, we are the only one with a corporate focus dedicated to the IP industry. I’d say that embodies women & IP.
All of this is just another reason why we are happy to support INTA by being part of this podcast & appreciate the opportunity to share our thoughts.
Dauvet: Thanks again for being the sponsor of this episode of Brand & New.