“Andrei [Iancu] has done more than perhaps any single person in the last decade to strengthen and restore integrity to our intellectual property system.” – Senator Thom Tillis
One day before Joe Biden was to be inaugurated as the 46th U.S. President, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Andrei Iancu confirmed he would be leaving his position as USPTO Director, reminiscing on his tenure with the Office in his latest Director’s Forum blog post and in remarks made at a United States Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center event yesterday.
Iancu recalled his successful efforts to clarify examination guidelines on patent eligibility and to balance post-grant proceedings, noting that, “In light of our many carefully-calibrated reforms, Senator [Thom] Tillis recently said that the PTAB is no longer a death squad for patents. It is indeed a new day at the PTAB.”
While many would not agree, it is generally accepted that Iancu’s administration has been a boon for patents, and the IP community will no doubt be sad to see him go.
Get Ready for the Renaissance
Iancu also said that 2021 will be “one of the most consequential years” for the USPTO, in part because of the need to draft regulations to implement the Trademark Modernization Act, which was passed in late December 2020. Additionally, there has been a 69% increase in trademark filings so far this fiscal year to date. Add to those challenges the continued effects of the pandemic and the need to fast track COVID-19 related inventions and, Iancu said, “it will be one of the most consequential years for intellectual property in general.” He continued:
As we assess the important balance between protecting intellectual property and access to vital technologies, we must always insist on evidence-based policies.
Vaccines and other pandemic-related technologies are not alone in the increased pace of innovation. We are truly at the dawn of a new American innovation renaissance across the board: artificial intelligence, unmanned vehicles, genetics, personalized medicine, 5G, quantum computing, and so much more.
Iancu urged the courts, the next presidential administration, Congress and stakeholders to support and protect the coming American innovation renaissance. The courts or Congress must fix the current problems with patent eligibility law, stakeholders must be vocal in demanding change, and the new administration must not roll back the progress made at the USPTO, said Iancu.
Will we, for example, continue a balanced approach to post-grant proceedings at the PTAB?
And will we continue the work of the National Council for Expanding American Innovation? For the United States to maintain its leading edge, we need all hands on deck. Innovation should not belong to a select few.
To the contrary, innovation can be the great equalizer, where anyone with the willingness to work hard and take risks can have the opportunity to make something new and potentially change the world.
In his Director’s Forum blog post, Iancu also said it is important to continue telling the stories of inventors, another initiative he spearheaded through the USPTO Speaker Series, the Patent 10 Million and the Journeys of Innovation series.
On Wednesday, USPTO Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld sent a message to all USPTO employees explaining that that he will take over the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Director as of noon on January 20. He added:
During this period of transition, Coke Stewart will perform the functions and duties of the Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for IP and Deputy Director of the USPTO, Andrew Faile will serve as Acting Commissioner for Patents, Dede Zecher will serve as Acting Chief of Staff, Kim Alton will serve as Acting Director of Government Affairs and Oversight, and Cara Duckworth will serve as Acting Chief Communications Officer.
More information is available on the USPTO website.
Tillis: Iancu Was the ‘Gold Standard’
Speaking at the same GIPC event as Iancu yesterday, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) said that Iancu “has done more than perhaps any single person in the last decade to strengthen and restore integrity to our intellectual property system.” Tillis added that Iancu’s policies had restored the United States’ place as leader in the innovation economy and that he represents the “’gold-standard’ that any future Director must adhere to.”
Tillis also welcomed Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) as the next Chairman of the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee, a title Tillis had held until now. He said that Coons has an “ambitious agenda” that includes tackling Chinese intellectual property theft, counterfeits, and improvements at the USPTO and Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Tillis will now serve as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee.
The fact that we have courts saying a garage door opener is an “abstract idea” and that innovative diagnostic tests are just “laws of nature” is bewildering. If we don’t provide greater clarity and consistency in this area of law, America is going to lose the twenty-first century innovation race.
The senator said reforming eligibility law would be one of his top priorities this Congress, “and I will use every opportunity I have—from the President-Elect’s USPTO nomination to amicus briefs before the Supreme Court—to achieve that goal.”
Tillis added that he will continue his efforts to reform copyright law and that “I will pass a new digital copyright law by the end of my second term.”
Photos from USPTO Director’s Forum.