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Interim USPTO Director Sees DFW’s Innovation Side

The United States Patent and Trademark Office Interim Director Joe Matal made a stop in North Texas last week. During his stay he visited corporations and innovation centers and led a patent discussion between local leaders.

United States Patent and Trademark Office Interim Director Joe Matal visited North Texas last week. 

The stop was part of his barnstorming tour of sorts. He’s already visited the USPTO’s Midwest regional office in Detroit and the Silicon Valley Regional Office in San Jose, California.

Matal and USPTO staffers from the Dallas-Fort Worth area stopped by intellectual property heavy weights in their rounds.

Matal moderated a panel discussion about patents that included Dallas Regional Chamber Chair of the Board and Jones Day intellectual property litigator and partner-in-charge Hilda Galvan, Robokind Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Richard Margolin, and UT Southwestern Medical Center Vice President of Technology Development Frank Grassler.

“This is the third regional office I’ve visited, and I’m struck by the strength of the IP community, and the depth of the corporate presence in this region.”

Joe Matal

“This is the third regional office I’ve visited, and I’m struck by the strength of the IP community, and the depth of the corporate presence in this region,” Matal said, prior to the panel. “You folks are lucky to have all these established companies, both the established ones, and these exciting new startups,”

His destinations in DFW included a visit to the AT&T Foundry in Plano, where he met with leaders from Tech Titans, Fossil, and Toyota’s new North American headquarters in Plano.

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United States Patent and Trademark Office Interim Director Joe Matal (far left) moderates a discussion at the Dallas Regional Chamber last week. [Photo: Dallas Regional Chamber]

USPTO EXPANDING SUPPORT FOR STARTUPS, INDIVIDUAL INVENTORS

During the panel discussion at the chamber, Matal — a patent litigator who helped write the America Invents Act — said as important as major industries are in developing intellectual property, efforts of startups and individual inventors are equally important.

“There’s just something about the culture of a small entity or even an independent inventor that allows people to pursue what might turn out to be the most revolutionary and path-breaking ideas.”

Joe Matal

For that reason, Matal said the USPTO is expanding its staff to allow individual and smaller inventors to submit patent claims.

“We found out they have a really high abandonment rate,” he said. “Twenty-five percent of all small, pro se inventors ended up getting a patent.”

That led the USPTO to expand its pro se office to 30 examiners, which help inventors with less money and know-how to navigate and meet the requirements established for securing patents.

“We’ve found again and again, dealing with different industries, that so many of the most innovative ideas come out of these little startups,” Matal said. “There’s just something about the culture of a small entity or even an independent inventor that allows people to pursue what might turn out to be the most revolutionary and path-breaking ideas. There’s just something to be outside of the corporate culture … where someone can pursue a hunch.”

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Robokind Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Richard Margolin (far left) talks during the patent panel last week at the Dallas Regional Chamber. [Photo: Dallas Regional Chamber]

ON THE GROUND AT DFW CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS

Before the panel discussion, Matal spoke of his sojourn across North Texas’ IP landscape.

“I knew there were a lot of corporate headquarters here,” he said. “(But) it’s fun to see it in flesh and blood. Toyota really has moved everything down here. It’s kind of a little city.”

Matal said he and other USPTO staffers even hopped aboard a test-track simulator at Toyota — with mixed results.

“We saw one of their potential self-driving cars. And got to test one of their test-track cars. They have a test car that’s a simulator; the regional assistant director and I both gave a shot at it,” he said. “Based on our performance, neither of us is quitting our day jobs to drive for NASCAR any time soon.”

The USPTO, whose headquarters is in Alexandria, Virginia, has a fourth regional office in Denver.

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