Harold Pyon is a KAIPO member who retired in Dec 2020 after serving at the USPTO for 35 years.
Q: Tell us about your background.
I immigrated to the US in 1969 after finishing middle school in Korea. My father came to the US before the rest of my family did, and we have been in the Washington DC area since. I went to Wakefield High School where there were only three Korean students at the time, and I joined the Army after graduating from my high school. After serving in the Army as a Vietnam War veteran, I was supported by the G.I. Bill to receive my Bachelor’s in Chemistry at the Virginia Commonwealth University, and then completed my Master’s in Chemical Engineering at the University of Virginia. I also received a Graduate Certificate in Advance Public Management from the Syracuse University Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and attended the Juris Masters Certificate Program at the George Washington Law School while working at the USPTO.
Q: When did you join the USPTO and how did you learn about the career as a patent examiner?
After getting my Master’s, I worked for a pharmaceutical company named E.R. Squibb & Sons in North Carolina as a Technical Service Manager. But when the company was merged with the pharmaceutical company called Bristol-Myers, I was asked to relocate to England. Since I wanted to stay close to my family, I decided to quit and move back to Washington DC. One day after moving back home, I was working out at a gym and met a gym mate who suggested that I apply to be a patent examiner at the USPTO. I honestly was not familiar with patents and did not know that the USPTO existed at the time! But I applied and joined the USPTO in 1985, began learning about patent prosecution, and improved a lot in my writing skills during the first two years.
Q: What are some noticeable differences in patent examining process or the USPTO between 35 years ago and now?
As some of you may have heard, back in the days, examiners physically lined up at their SPE’s office for approval of each case, hand off the approved rejections or allowances to a typewriter, wait about a week, and double check on the typewriting before mailing off to the applicants. Nowadays, we no longer have this process. I also observed the transformation of prior art searching from physically searching in shoe boxes to digitally on EAST, WEST, and APS (Automation Patent Search).
Q: What is one of your mottos or principles that you abided by in order to stay focused and motivated every day and out?
I always ask myself: how can I be a better examiner? I have long been striving to be better, and I have been able to do so thanks to very helpful colleagues around me. Also, whenever I can be a help, I dedicate to help others.
Q: Do you have any memorable patents that you’ve allowed?
Before becoming a SPE, I examined in the chemical arts, and a memorable patent that I examined was the urine pregnancy test. It was novel at the time and required a very involved examination: its 1.131 declaration involved consideration from my SPE and director at the time. Although it may not sound so novel now, I am proud of having examined it.
Q: What are some of the things that you wish you had done differently if you were able to wind the clock back? Any particular time you would like to go back to?
I don’t know if there’s a particular time I’d go back to, but looking back, I would’ve put more efforts into networking and helping other, if I could go back. I realized that helping others certainly helped me learn and grow! I hope everyone helps and be kind to each other as much as they can.
Q: We learned that you were involved in founding APANET. Can you share your story about the foundation, and give any warm advice to KAIPO leadership?
When other APANET co-founders and I decided to establish APANET, there were only three affinity groups at the time at the USPTO: POPA, OCR, and SPECO. We wanted to find an affinity group to represent and support the growing number of examiners with Asian background or any interest in the Asian culture. We started APANET with about 100 members, and as you may already be aware, we observed APANET grow to where it now has near 900 members and become the largest single Government Agency Affinity group in the country. We cannot be more proud! Based on my experience as a founder and leader in APANET, my warm advice to the KAIPO leadership is to be open and embrace every member. Remember that KAIPO cannot survive without its members.
Q: What are your plans for the next chapter of your life?
I plan to help the local Asian American communities. As I have found APANET and been with KAIPO, I want to be active in the Asian American community. I may be on the news in the next few years, so be sure to be on the lookout 🙂
Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for your colleagues at the USPTO?
As I emphasized earlier, help and be kind to each other. Especially during this unprecedented time. We are all going through this unprecedented time together. Helping others means helping yourself to learn and grow. Keep that in mind!