An administrative agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce charged with overseeing and implementing the federal policy on intellectual property, specifically patents and trademarks, and disseminating public information on them.
Congress established the USPTO under 35 U.S.C. §§ 2–3. 35 U.S.C. §2(b)(2) delegates to the Office the power to make regulations to accomplish the following tasks, among others: govern the Office’s adjudicatory proceedings; establish the process for processing patent application; govern the agents of the Office; ensure access to the U.S. patent system. § 2(b) also delegates to the Office, among other powers, the ability to advise the President on intellectual property issues and to conduct studies or exchanges to develop intellectual property protection.
In addition to registering patents and trademarks and promulgating regulations on intellectual property, the USPTO also has an adjudicatory body, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which hears certain cases on intellectual property. The PTAB hears appeals from patent examiners and adjudicates such appeals. It consists of administrative patent judges and the Directors and Commissioners of the USPTO.
35 U.S.C. § 3 establishes the structure of the USPTO. § 3(a) creates the director of the USPTO, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, who is appointed by the President by and with the consent of the Senate and may be removed by the President without cause. That is, the USPTO is a purely executive administrative agency, as opposed to an independent agency. The Director’s role, per § 3(a)(2), is to provide policy direction and management supervision for the USPTO, which includes appointing other officers, such as the Commissioner for Patents.
[Last updated in May of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]