Dr. Hazel N. Dukes (Courtesy Image)

Marcus Delgado is the rumored favorite of the Biden administration to be the nest director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO).  It’s time that President Biden made the nomination rumor a reality, so the Senate can swiftly confirm him.

If you’re wondering why I care enough to speak out about this highly technical, legal position that most Americans rarely, if ever, think about, it’s because I’ve lived through the last year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic like you.  I felt frustration and anger when our children’s homes were turned into their virtual classrooms, yet only 1 in 3 African American homes with school-aged children had high-speed internet.  I worried about what life after the pandemic would look like for long-term medical treatments and technologies that might be out of financial reach for our poorest communities in the name of protecting pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property and bottom lines.  Issues like the digital divide, medication and medical technology pricing, and a host of others that affect all our lives land at the doorstep of the director of the USPTO.  The USPTO protects and regulates all the intellectual property and new technology that we can’t live without.  That’s why I care who President Biden and the US Senate puts in that seat.

You may not yet know Marcus Delgado, but in the world of patents and trademarks, he’s an accomplished and respected household name.  In fact, there’s probably a piece of technology in your home or office whose patent history includes the name Marcus Delgado.  What has Marcus Delgado done to earn my praise?  He’s the proud son of a single mother educator, product of Chicago’s South Side who taught himself computer programming before he was finished with elementary school.  At every major turn in his life, he did what every successful African American in this country has had to do: when folks told him all the things he couldn’t do, he said “just watch me.”  When he was told that getting a degree in physics from Boston University then a JD from UCLA Law was beyond his capabilities’, he got those degrees anyway.  When he was discouraged from pursuing patent law – one of the hardest specialties there is – because it would be too much for him, he passed the California patent and trademark bar on his first try.  The, for more than 20 years, he served as the chief intellectual property and patent counsel for Fortune 100 companies like AT&T and Cox Enterprises.  But most importantly for me, Marcus Delgado lives what I’ve been preaching my whole life:  lift while we climb.  For example, while he was at Cox Enterprises, he launched its first career pipeline program for African American college students.

I’ve been in this fight for equal representation and opportunity for more than seven decades.  I’ve seen too many talented and qualified African American men and women overlooked because they didn’t fit the mold of those in positions of power and influence.  Or they don’t look like who preceded them.  It wasn’t just a shame for those who remained invisible to those in power; it was a loss for all of us for the leadership, innovation, progress, and solutions they could’ve offered us.

Mr. Delgado wants to lend his intellect, imagination, and experience to public service and that’s an offer we’d be foolish to turn down.  Furthermore, the USPTO must earn the confidence of the titans of technology in this country and abroad, watchdog groups, and basement entrepreneurs with big dreams.  Mr. Delgado is the Director who can do this from Day One.

President Biden and US Senators:  Marcus Delgado has earned and deserves our support not just because he’ll be the first African American director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office-but because he’ll be the director who will see the challenges we face as another opportunity to prove the doubters wrong.

Dr. Hazel N. Dukes serves as the President of NAACP New York State Conference. She is a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors, NAACP Executive Committee, and a pioneering civil rights advocate.