Patent office holds first cybersecurity partnership meeting

At a meeting between federal officials and members of the tech community, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Deputy Director Michelle Lee emphasized the part her office can play in fighting a “multibillion-dollar crime wave” sweeping the globe.

“We at the USPTO embrace our role in helping cybersecurity suppliers and providers bring their products and services to the market quickly and efficiently,” said Lee, a former Google Inc. executive, in a televised message at the meeting.

She made the remarks Friday at what was the patent office’s first cybersecurity partnership meeting. Held in Silicon Valley, the meeting brought together patent office staffers and members of the tech industry to discuss protecting cybersecurity intellectual property and encouraging the use of cybersecurity tools.

The goal of the partnership, Lee said, is to ensure the office issues timely, high-quality patents. She also noted that some patents could protect the U.S. and countries abroad from cybercrime.


Among the topics on the event agenda were how Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International, a recent Supreme Court case on what is patent eligible, applies to cybersecurity; deciding between seeking patent protection for cyber technology or keeping innovations as a trade secret; and computer/network security patent applications.

Presenters also discussed the voluntary Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, which was released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology nine months ago as a result of an executive order. The guidelines were created with collaboration from private industry.

Like Lee, presenter Nestor Ramirez, ‎director of USPTO’s Patent Technology Center 2400, noted that cyber weaknesses pose a major risk.

“The national and economic security of our nation relies on the function of our critical infrastructure,” Ramirez said. “Cybersecurity threats have the potential to destabilize our critical infrastructure.”

But he said the patent office was eager to examine strategies to better address the threat. Looking ahead, Ramirez told attendees that at the beginning of next year the patent office plans to host a roundtable for cybersecurity startups. Also, the agency is evaluating patent examiner training opportunities specific to emerging cybersecurity technology and best standards.


“We want to ensure that our examiners are kept up to date and abreast on the current state of the field so they have the knowledge and tools that they need to make sound patentability decisions,” he said.

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