USPTO services and practices were at forefront amid historic challenges 

2020 hindsight can be valuable, especially after a year many of us would like to forget. However, historic advances in innovation reminded us of invention’s essential importance for humankind.

Scientific and technological achievement were front and center in the development of COVID-19 vaccines—begun and completed during the same year in which the pandemic crippled the world. Moderna, one of the companies that developed a vaccine in 2020, said intellectual property including patents and trademarks “will protect and enhance our ability to continue to invest in innovative medicines.”

Teamwork was seldom on such prolific and inspirational display. Masks, ventilators, and testing equipment were among the life-saving devices assembled; companies facilitated teleworking to help keep economies running.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office—the center of all things IP and long a leader in federal government telework—made this transition so quickly that in 2020 it examined patent applications faster than the year before.

Speed was so crucial during the worldwide race to a vaccine that the USPTO instituted the COVID-19 Fast Track Program, allowing smaller entities to accelerate COVID-related applications at no charge. The USPTO also waived many patent- and trademark-related deadlines for situations in which an applicant could not meet a deadline or make a payment because of the pandemic.

Beyond the pandemic, the USPTO launched two major programs: the Expanding Innovation hub, designed to provide information for demystifying the patent process; and the National Council for Expanding American Innovation, which seeks to increase participation of women and other underrepresented inventors. (You can view a Federal Register Notice, seeking public input for the NCEAI national strategy, at The deadline for comments is Feb. 8, 2021.)

Also, the Trademark Modernization Act of 2020 provides significant relief for trademark owners’ efforts to fight trademark fraud. Further, the USPTO’s ongoing effort to prevent unauthorized use of IP was marked by the launch of its anti-counterfeiting campaign (Go for Real: #GOFORREAL), a collaboration with the National Crime Prevention Council.

Through presentations from experts, Invention-Con 2020 provided an encouraging and informative display of the importance of IP protection for inventors, makers, and entrepreneurs.

The annual event—all virtual last year—attracted nearly 4,000 people from 45 U.S. states and 28 countries. That was more than three times the number from 2019. Online average viewership reached almost 15,000, nearly six times the amount from the previous year.

Save the date for Invention-Con 2021: Aug. 18-20, 2021.