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The U.S. Patent Office's Dallas Director Wants To Speed Up The Patent Process


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office opened a regional branch in Dallas to a lot of fanfare within the entrepreneurial community. Its arrival is at a time where there’s a major backlog of patents waiting to be issued. 

Hope Shimabuku is the director of the new Dallas office. Before helping inventors file patents as an intellectual property lawyer, she was a mechanical engineer.

Interview Highlights: Hope Shimabuku…

…On why a regional office was set up in Dallas:

“The Dallas regional office in particular was of interest and the location was of interest because of all the innovators that are here. It has a large proportion of engineers, it has an extremely high amount of patent grants and patent applications and above-average veteran military population from which we could draw from.”

…On problems in the patent process:

“I do think patent-pendency – how long it took to be able to get a patent through the system - was probably one of the bigger frustrations that I had [as an intellectual property lawyer]. The two-year patent pendency period before even a patent can be looked at, I do believe is too long. Sometimes even the biggest technologies take five years before a patent is even issued and gets through the U.S. Patent Office, and by then, technology has changed, especially with the software industry.

What would be nice is if we could keep up with the technology; that we’re able to review things and get through them before the technology has changed.”

…On developing an interest in technology:

“I grew up in Houston, Texas, about 15 minutes away from the Johnston Space Center. When I was growing up, I was surrounded by engineers, astronauts, computer scientists, everyone who worked for the Johnston Space Center. My mom actually worked for NASA as a computer programmer.

…I would stand outside, whenever the space shuttle returned back from its flight, it would circle and do a salute to mission control, which was in Houston. So I would stand outside as a young child and wave as the space shuttle returned home. I think those memories were key in formulating my desire to be an engineer.”  

…On being a woman of color in male-dominated fields:

“I think it was tough, to be honest. There wasn’t a lot of people who looked like me who I was able to be mentored by, but even the people who didn’t look like me - the male professors that I worked with - really encouraged me to push through and to rise to where I am now.”

Hope Shimabuku is the director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Dallas. Before working as an intellectual property lawyer, she was a mechanical engineer. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.