The nation’s leading inventors and companies rely heavily on the United States Patent and Trademark Office to issue invention patents and register trademarks for product identification and intellectual property. The agency has started to adopt increasingly emerging and advanced technologies in recent years to fulfill its mission, and now it is also undergoing large-scale modernization.
USPTO Chief Information Officer Jamie Holcombe is working to help make the agency’s systems “better, cheaper and faster”.
Holcombe joined the agency at the request of the Undersecretary for Trade in Intellectual Property and director Andrei Iancu, who immediately articulated his goals of “boosting the USPTO for the next decade”.
“He wanted to ensure that all the updated business tools were available to USPTO examiners, so that we could conduct our business in the most advanced way possible,” said Holcombe. Nextgov in the last episode of the Critical Update. “And so, with this challenge, I joined.”
IDLENESS began his career in the Army, where he served as commander of the company in the 1116th Signal Battalion, and also said that he was the first graduate in computer science from the Military Academy at West Point. He went on to work in various positions in the industry and, before his current federal position, he was the executive director of a cybersecurity startup. With his roots in the army, communications and security, one of the first moves Holcombe made as a CIO was to elevate the head of information security to report directly to him. In the episode, he highlights the impacts that the exchange had on the USPTO staff.
“We have everything very safe,” he said.
Holcombe described the various modernization efforts on a daily scale and shared his approach to “stabilizing the base” and “removing the technical debt”, in addition to other key components of the transformation process. He also offered a glimpse of the agency’s efforts in running a center of excellence for robotic process automation, through which it seeks to obtain all use cases and requirements from all insiders to automate its processes – and still use RPA. Artificial intelligence and user-centered design is also being launched at the USPTO, and Holcombe had a lot to share about the results the agency and its workforce are seeing from the work.
He detailed, for example, how applying a user-centered approach to innovation can not only spur broader adoption of new technologies, but also “help with the viral nature of acceptance” of new tools and resources.
In the midst of this continuous innovation, the USPTO is one of several agencies that continue to use COBOL – a computer programming language developed in the 1960s, but which still supports some critical government systems. Holcombe offered some reasons and also reflected on what he learned about modernization through several decades of modernization.
Spoiler alert: “You just need to convince people,” he said.