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Patent Office Jumps into Social Media with Both Feet

May 25, 2010

The United States Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") recently jumped into the social media craze with both feet by its launch of a new initiative to further advance the PTO's strategic priority of enhancing relations with its stakeholders. On May 20, 2010, the PTO unveiled its official Facebook® page, www.facebook.com/USPTO.gov. 1 The PTO intends to engage the public and the intellectual property community directly and provide real-time updates including press releases, information on upcoming events, and posts from the PTO's "Director's Forum" blog. The PTO's Facebook page allows Facebook users to provide comments, discuss, and offer feedback to the PTO directly on a wide range of issues and initiatives.

The new Facebook page, however, does not replace the PTO's website, www.USPTO.gov, as the official source of information but, rather, provides a new channel for the public to connect with the agency. In launching the Facebook page, Director David Kappos stated, “I’m confident our Facebook presence will complement the USPTO Web site as a means of communicating and connecting with the public and our stakeholders in the intellectual property community.  With more than 400 million people on Facebook, we knew it was an important place for us to be.”2  Director Kappos also encouraged Facebook users to check the PTO's Facebook page daily for updates and hopes checking this page will become a part of Facebook users' daily routine.3

The creation of the PTO's Facebook page benefits the public, particularly intellectual property stakeholders, as it can be an effective technique for providing feedback directly to the PTO on a wide range of issues, especially the PTO's new initiatives. The PTO, however, does not allow Facebook comments regarding PTO employees or comments regarding a specific patent or trademark application, case, action, or administrative proceeding.4 Moreover, because postings on Facebook are not guaranteed to be anonymous and may be traceable, the intellectual property community should not view the Facebook page as a proper place to discuss or comment on the patentability of a specific patent application or the registrability of a specific trademark application. Instead, the intellectual property community should view this jump by the PTO into social media as an opportunity to stay attuned to the latest news from the PTO and as a way to participate and follow public discussions about the PTO's general practices and policies. 

The PTO's launch into social media appears to be in line with its other recent efforts to enhance relationships with its stakeholders, such as the recent launch of its Ombudsman pilot program.5  Just as private companies are learning to embrace social media, it appears that government agencies, such as the PTO, are also starting to embrace social media to effectively communicate with its stakeholders. Thus, to stay current on activities, procedure and policy changes within the PTO, and to participate in online discussions of such activities, procedures and policies, the intellectual property community is encouraged to "bookmark" or designate as "favorites" both the PTO's website and the PTO's new Facebook page.

Additional details on the PTO's Facebook page are available online at www.facebook.com/USPTO.gov. For further information, please contact your Bracewell attorney or one of the attorneys listed on this update.


1 Press Release, http://www.uspto.gov/news/pr/2010/10_20.jsp (May 20, 2010) (Facebook® is a registered trademark of Facebook, Inc. of Palo Alto, California).

2 Id.

3 www.Facebook.com/uspto.gov (May 20, 2010 wall post).

4 It is unclear if the PTO will pre-screen comments before they are posted to the Facebook page or rather, if, the PTO will delete comments they deem to violate their posting terms and conditions. For more information on the PTO's Facebook posting terms and conditions see, www.facebook.com/uspto.gov (Info tab).
5 Director Kappos stated, "One of the Agency’s strategic priorities is to improve relations with our stakeholders. The newly initiated Ombudsman Pilot Program has been established to assist in meeting that priority." http://www.uspto.gov/blog/ (May 12, 2010). See also Patent Office Ombudsman to the Rescue!, (April, 29, 2010).