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Donald Trump And The Uspto

Donald Trump and the USPTO



01 December 201611 min read

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Donald Trump and the USPTO


Donald Trump is a man of many hats. Not only figuratively speaking, but quite literally now. He is a businessman, reality television star, real estate mogul, intellectual property owner, and now our President-elect. 

He is also the owner of many hats, each one affixed with his trademarked slogan, “Make America Great Again.” The exact number is not known, but there is a rough estimate Trump has purchased over 92,000 hats and has made over $600,000 selling them.

Trump definitely knows the power of his brand, and has been relentless in protecting it. (In the past decade, Federal court records revealed that Donald J. Trump -- or a Trump affiliation organization -- had been involved in a half dozen federal trademark lawsuits.) 

While Trump has been a diligent intellectual property owner for his own brand, there is uncertainty of what Trump’s policies while President will mean for IP owners and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).

Role of the USPTO

A week after Trump won the Presidential election, USPTO Director Michelle Lee spoke at a patent conference and stated that she “believe[s] the incoming administration must and will continue our effort to promote innovation fueled by a strong and robust IP system. Support for IP in the United States has a long history of bipartisanship.” 

Michelle Lee went on to explain the USPTO will work with the Trump administration to ensure strong IP protection and enforcement, both domestically and around the world. “This is a President-elect that has promised economic growth and job creation in our country, and IP will necessarily be a key piece in achieving that goal.”

Patent and Trademark Policies

Nearly two weeks after Trump was named President-elect he shared an update on the Presidential Transition, where he briefly outlined his proposals during his first 100 days of office. Trump stated: “whether it's producing steel, building cars, or curing disease, I want the next generation of production and innovation to happen right here, in our great homeland: America –creating wealth and jobs for American workers [...] as part of this plan, I've asked my transition team to develop a list of executive actions we can take on day one to restore our laws and bring back our jobs.” 

And as current USPTO Director Michelle Lee stated, IP is a key component in Trump’s promised economic growth and job creation in this country. Every keen businessperson knows the best way to protect your brand is through trademark registration—a practice to which Trump is no stranger. 

During the hiatus of Trump’s reality television days in January 2004, he filed trademark applications for use of “You’re fired!” (Which, incidentally, he no longer owns.) But he has also filed for trademark protection for “Trump Money,” “Trumpocrat,” and “Trumpublican” just to name a few, among many others.

Trump is a published author of 16 books. (Anyone heard of The Art of the Deal? Trump’s first, and most widely recognized book, Trump: The Art of the Deal, was published in 1987. The book even reached number 1 on The New York Times Best Seller’s list, and stayed there for 13 weeks.) 

Even though Trump has had commercial success as an author, his position and policies on copyrights is unknown. But Trump’s update on the Presidential Transition, where he said he plans to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership would oppose copyright policies such as, limits to fair use, enhanced digital-rights management protection, expanded terms, and criminal sanctions. However, Trump’s position in withdrawing from the TPP is particularly driven by trade issues rather than copyright law.

New USPTO Director

The current USPTO director is expected to vacate the position when President Barack Obama leaves office, therefore the Trump administration has the very important task of appointing a new USPTO director. The new appointee to this position under the Trump administration will greatly influence the direction of the USPTO with their policies and mandates.

Changes to USPTO Website

For over a decade now the website has been a great resource for the public to use, but also has brought about many frustrations as well. Experienced patent attorney Matt Buchanan, has his fair share of frustrations about the site and wants to see the agency improve, however he appreciates the website as well. “They [USPTO] moves on a trajectory that takes decades. In their defense, it is an incredibly complex organization with many employees and it is a hard thing to change, but I would like to see them move a little bit faster.”

Buchanan wants positive change for the agency. And he believes one area of improvement needed for the website is to have an API for accessing patent related information. According to Buchanan there is plenty of information on the site, it is just unbelievably inefficient in how you go about getting it. 

“The patent statute gives the patent office two jobs, one is to examine and grant patents—which is important to inventors, and two, arguably the more important job, is to disseminate patent related information to the public. They do a decent job on the first part, but they do a horrible job at the second,” says Buchanan. “But providing an API for the would help.”


So, what exactly is in the future for the USPTO post-January 21, 2017? To be honest there is not much clarification on President-Elect Trump’s IP agenda. Hopefully, the new Trump administration will work to promote an innovative and robust IP system. Trump ran a campaign promising economic growth and the creation and retention of jobs in the U.S., and IP would undoubtedly be necessary in keeping his promises and achieving those goals.

It will be interesting to see how Trump’s administration team will influence the USPTO and intellectual property in the United States. Trump: Make the USPTO and IP in America Great Again! Should I start that? Too far? It is already great? Ah --yes it is. But there is always room for improvement.

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