07/19/2013 04:39 pm ET Updated Sep 18, 2013

Talking leadership with the Patent and Trademark Office's Teresa Stanek Rea

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently implemented the America Invents Act, a 2011 law designed to encourage innovation and spur economic growth that represents the most significant change in the patent system in 60 years. Teresa Stanek Rea, the acting under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and acting director of the USPTO, was deeply involved in putting the new law into effect. She spoke with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership, the vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and heads the Partnership's Center for Government Leadership.

Q. What has surprised you most in your role?

A. I found the job to be far bigger, more challenging and more important than I had imagined. We are a big player in the international scene with the America Invents Act--we're hoping that other countries will also modify their substantive patent laws to more closely align them with what we consider to be our best practices.

How did you prepare to transition into your position as acting director?

I had the opportunity to work with the previous director, David Kappos, for almost two years on a wide variety of projects as deputy under secretary and deputy director. He set up an outstanding leadership team that will be strong enough to take us through several administrations. So now it's my task and my goal to carry on the innovative leadership spirit, which he infused in this agency.

I would advise someone preparing for a leadership transition to try to understand the agency, the leadership and the personalities, and to get as much mentorship from as many people as possible. This is a rather large agency, with many moving parts, so building relationships and working to understand each of our leaders was incredibly beneficial to me.

Read More