NSPE Gateway to Industry Winter 2012
In This Issue of PEI e-News...



Innovative Products Wanted

NSPE/PEI is seeking innovative new products and their inventors for consideration in the New Product Awards program highlighting the contribution of engineers and engineering principles in providing an overall benefit to society. Now in its 29th year, the program was developed and is sponsored by NSPE’s Professional Engineers in Industry. 

The purpose of the New Product Award program is to recognize the societal benefits that come from the research and engineering of new products. These benefits include a direct and unique impact on the public’s health, safety, and welfare; added employment; increased productivity; economic development; the strengthening of the nation’s competitive position internationally; and a significant contribution to the public’s standard of living. This competition recognizes those companies with the pioneering vision and knowledge to bring these new products, and their benefits, to the marketplace.

In addition to the industry recognition and wide acknowledgement of winning products, all New Product Award winners will receive:  

  • Presentation of the award at the NSPE Annual Meeting in San Diego this July and two complimentary banquet tickets;
  • The NSPE/PEI New Product Award crystal;
  • A featured article in the award-winning PE magazine;
  • Media coverage through press release, media materials, social media outlets, and events; and
  • Featured recognition on NSPE’s Web site.     

To review the rules and download an application, visit www.nspe.org/npa. Deadline for entries is February 15, 2012. 
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Support PEI & Get Free Company Advertisement

Become a 2012 PEI Sustaining Sponsor and get exposure, and more business, for your company. By becoming a PEI Sustaining Sponsor, you will help to support the efforts of Professional Engineers in Industry (PEI) as we strive to promote the hard-earned professional engineer designation and enhance the image of the PE in Industry.

As a 2012 PEI Sustaining Sponsor, your company will receive the following promotional privileges:

  • NEW! Free advertisement on NSPE Facebook and Twitter pages: Companies can provide a non-self-promotional tip of the day (250 words or less) to be featured on the NSPE Facebook page and Twitter page with a direct link to your firm’s Web site and/or social media platform. Please e-mail to pei@nspe.org.

  • Free Company listing: Your company will be included in a searchable directory that includes a complete description of your company and link to your Web site. NSPE’s Web site receives more than 75,000 user sessions per month. All PEI Sustaining Sponsors are listed at: www.nspe.org/PEI/Supporters. 

  • Free Company Ad: Company advertisement in NSPE’s PE magazine (circulation is over 40,000) and in PEI e-News, a monthly electronic newsletter sent to more than 5,500 PEI members.

  • Valuable Discounts: 25% discount on ads in PE magazine, NSPE Update, NSPE Web banners, and Job Board postings.

Visit the PEI Web site for sponsorship level details and to register your company as a 2012 PEI Sustaining Sponsor. 

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New NSPE Member Benefit

NSPE is partnering with Professional Résumé Services Inc. to offer the opportunity to receive a detailed résumé critique or a professionally written résumé to compete effectively in today's challenging market. NSPE/Professional Résumé Services Inc. also offers services related to the development of documents pertinent to your individual search campaign including cover letters, follow-up letters, references, and a salary history document.

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Kids Say the Darndest Things

Participation in PEI’s programs for students can really be rewarding. “Kids say the Darndest Things” was a staple of Art Linkletter’s House Party television show in the fifties and sixties, and was reprised by Bill Cosby in the late 1990s. It featured young people being interviewed on-stage, just being themselves (cute), and in the process speaking out forthrightly and innocently about the truisms of daily life. Many of us have humorous stories of things we’ve heard young people say or write. And yet, sometimes, what is said can be profound. 

I was reminded of this the other day as I was going through some abstracts of papers written by students for their projects submitted to local or regional Science and Engineering Fairs. This was in connection with PEI’s Innovative Engineering Award program for which I and other members of PEI have been serving as judges. In the stack of papers were many good projects, and as I read through them I came across the darndest statement that gave me pause to think. The author shall remain anonymous (I’ll call him “Fred”), and I have edited his actual words only slightly for clarity:

“I want to do this project to see if we can vanish those miserable (electrical) cords that are always piling and knotting up. Some days I wish they would just go away. First, I will gather the required materials, and then I will go to my friend Bob who is a complete electrical genius. He and I will assemble the project.”

We’ve all known a “Bob” in our lives. Bob is a person who has deep insight into how things work, as well as possessing extensive practical skills engineering and assembling parts into functioning devices. Some famous “Bobs” throughout history have included Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Werner von Braun, and Bill Gates. Fred’s candid admission that he needs Bob to assist in order for his project to succeed is refreshing, and reminds us that working in teams can leverage the respective abilities of individuals to produce better results. While Fred may be pretty good at seeing an engineering problem in desperate need of a solution, and possesses a passion for getting that problem solved, he needs Bob to help him turn his idea into reality. 

I believe that someday, Fred and Bob will change the world. They may go into business together, start a cutting-edge R&D operation in a garage (e.g., Apple Computers), or they may team up someday while both are employed at Honeywell. Perhaps they will develop a multipurpose household robot that transforms society, as the personal computer did a generation ago. Other Freds and Bobs are at work even now on amazing things, such as the production of an economical LED light bulb replacement for the Edison bulb. Because, kids not only say the darndest things, they sometimes go out and DO the darndest things. Our country’s future may depend on how well we nurture that behavior.

Every year, PEI recognizes more than 500 students at science fairs across the country for their exceptional science fair projects exemplifying engineering principles. PEI then chooses one national winner from this pool of science fair recipients who receives a $1,000 PEI Innovative Engineering Award. For more information on the PEI Innovative Engineering Award, visit the PEI Web site.

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Happenings on the Hill

After a five-year battle, NSPE helped overturn an onerous tax-withholding mandate that would have placed significant financial and administrative burdens on engineering firms and other businesses that contract with the government. H.R. 674, which was signed into law on November 21, 2011, repeals a requirement that federal, state, and certain local governments withhold as tax 3% of all payments made to government contractors. The tax would have taken effect on January 1, 2013.

The tax would have provided an interest-free loan to the government while causing cash-flow problems for engineering firms and other businesses, costing them the vital funds needed to conduct day-to-day business. Rather than pay taxes at the end of the year, the government would have withheld 3% of contract fees up front, forcing firms to attempt to recoup their expenses at the end of the year.

Since the withholding requirement's passage in 2006, NSPE has been working with the Government Withholding Relief Coalition and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to repeal the mandate. NSPE also sent a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4) in support of the repeal. In addition to NSPE's advocacy of H.R. 674, NSPE members responded to an NSPE Legislative Action Center alert asking them to contact their senators in support of the bill, helping to build a critical mass of opinion that ensured the bill passed.

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$2,500 PEI Scholarship

Every year, PEI awards a $2,500 scholarship to an exemplary undergraduate engineering student. For more information on how to apply for the scholarship, please visit the PEI Web site.  

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Overhaul of Patent System Creates Better Path for Innovation

The America Invents Act, recently signed into law by President Obama, ends a nearly 60-year drought for enacting major reforms to the nation’s patent system. Moreover, the new statute ends six consecutive years of congressional debate aimed at streamlining operations at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and improving the overall quality of patents that are granted.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ version of the legislation (H.R. 1249) passed last June, identical to the Senate’s measure (S. 23) adopted a few months prior, was approved by the Senate last September. “We cannot stand on a 1950s patent system and expect our innovators to flourish in a 21st century world,” says Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill’s main Senate sponsor. “The America Invents Act will keep the nation in its longstanding position at the pinnacle of innovation.”

In terms of the broad expectations for the new law, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the legislation’s main House sponsor, notes, “It is impossible for any one group to get everything it wants. Inventors, businesses, and other groups interested in patent reform don’t agree on every issue that we’ve debated for the past six years. But our patent system doesn’t affect an individual or company in the same way because each one uses the patent system in many different ways.” 

The recent legislation represents a fair compromise and creates a better patent system than exists today for inventors and innovative industries, says Smith, pointing out that frivolous lawsuits and uncertainty regarding patent ownership have dragged down the nation’s outdated patent system. He also says that unwarranted lawsuits, some costing as much as $5 million for defense litigation, prevent legitimate inventors and industries from creating new products and generating jobs.

Leahy emphasizes that the patent system reforms will “improve patent quality and limit unnecessary and counterproductive litigation costs, while making sure no party’s access to court is denied.” Perhaps most significant, the new legislation will convert the nation’s patent system to a first-inventor-to-file operation and provide USPTO with the necessary financial resources to improve quality and efficiency by providing the agency with fee-setting authority, subject to congressional oversight.

“The patent system envisioned by our founders focused on granting a patent to be awarded to the first inventor to register an invention, as long as it was not in public use when the inventor conceived of the invention,” Smith explains.

Provisions of the 152-page America Invents Act were also crafted to address “true patent certainty and ensure that small businesses are able to compete with the larger companies on a global scale,” which the current patent system does not encompass. Specifically, USPTO will establish a Patent Ombudsman Program to provide services to small business concerns and independent inventors on matters regarding patent filings.

Of interest to manufacturing and technology industries, the new law addresses pre-issuance submissions by third parties, introduces enhanced post-grant review procedures within USPTO, establishes special post-grant review for business method patents, and extends the deadlines for filing post-grant opposition. The threshold for instituting inter partes reexamination will also be modified, according to intellectual property attorneys Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP, headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Virginia, as well as in Europe and Asia.

The new threshold, Finnegan notes, calls for a finding “that there is a reasonable likelihood that the requester would prevail with respect to at least one of the claims challenged in the request.” Equally notable, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will serve as the only appeal route for ex parte reexamination decisions.

Although the America Invents Act was enacted September 16 of last year, numerous provisions will not be effective for as long as 18 months after enactment, requiring USPTO to promulgate regulations for implementation. However, already in effect is a 15% increase of all USPTO fees, but the agency does have some discretion in offering a new “micro entity” discount of up to 75%.

Finally, under the patent system reforms, Finnegan cites “substantial changes to the false marking statute,” but also says patent holders may now use virtual marking via a Web site. Also noteworthy, patent challengers who file proceedings may no longer rely on “best mode” as a defense to infringement.

How the new legislation will mesh with the intellectual property perspectives of NSPE’s Professional Engineers in Industry interest group remains to be seen. PEI’s past policies primarily have addressed intellectual property agreements or relationships between an employee and his or her employer (company). In summary, the following have become basic tenets for professional practice:

  • The professional employee should cooperate fully with the employer in obtaining patent protection for any inventions;

  • The professional employee should not divulge proprietary information;

  • The employer should clearly identify proprietary information and should release those inventions and information generated by the employee that are not useful to the employer;

  • The employer should have an established method and formula for compensation over and above salary and fringe benefits for the professional employee who generates inventions, patents, and other proprietary information for the employer; and

  • The employer should provide for accelerated promotion and extra compensation for superior performance and/or special accomplishments, including generation of proprietary information and patents.

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NSPE Continuing Education on Sale!

Celebrate the New Year with big savings on your next on-demand course purchase. NSPE is offering an almost 30% discount on all of our on-demand courses. Choose from a variety of topics available 24/7.

Also, don't miss NSPE's live webinars slated for Spring 2012... 

Communicating Clearly
This session presents tips for developing a concise and clear voice in written and verbal communications. During the session, participants will receive suggestions for making their presentations, e-mails, spoken, and written communications more compelling. Throughout, examples drawn from the presenter’s varied military experience will be shared.

February 23, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.)

Engineering Ethics: A Conversation About Conflicts of Interest Issues
Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwarz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a discussion covering payments of engineers' travel expenses by vendors, serving as a manufacturing expert, design and construction of a house in a flood area, reviewing work of another engineer and thereafter performing engineering services for that client. Polling questions and a Q&A will allow opportunities for audience interaction. 1 PDH

March 14, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.) 

Engineering Ethics: A Conversation About Expert Witness and Engineering Review Issues
Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwarz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a discussion on the obligation to reimburse a payment advance, limiting the scope of an engineering review, working for a law firm client involved in litigation with a former law firm client, and a forensic study dependent upon work of engineer in dispute with a client. Polling questions and a Q&A will allow opportunities for audience interaction. 1 PDH

April 18, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.) 

Engineering Ethics: A Conversation About Business, Employment, and Licensure Issues
Join NSPE Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Arthur Schwarz and a panel of engineering ethics experts for a discussion on the signing and sealing of a subcontractor’s calculations, a Canadian firm’s noncompliance with engineering licensure laws, obtaining professional references, and an employee’s awareness of his employer’s financial improprieties. Polling questions and a Q&A will allow opportunities for audience interaction. 1 PDH

May 16, 12:30–1:30 p.m. (E.S.T.)

Visit the
NSPE Web site to register today.

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Contact the 201112 PEI Executive Board Officers

Curtis A. Beck, P.E.

Stephen A. Hutti, P.E.

Austin Lin, EIT

Immediate Past Chairman
Jonn Nebbe, P.E.

Young Engineer Representative
Peter E. Pisasale, P.E.

NSPE House of Delegates Representative
Richard L. Buchanan, P.E.

Northeastern Region
Thomas J Kesolits P.E.

Southeastern Region

Central Region
Howard R. Jones, P.E.

North Central Region
Donald W. Mitchell, P.E.

Southwestern Region
Neerali J. Desai, P.E.

Western & Pacific Region
Franklin Fong, P.E.

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