New Dawn: Confirmation of Undersecretary Vidal Presents Opportunities to Expand Diversity Initiatives

“Vidal will undoubtedly aim high, marshal her newfound resources, and take the promotion of diversity within our ecosystem to levels previously unseen.” congratulations to Kathi Vidal of Winston & Strawn on her confirmation as the new Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and her new role as advisor to the President and the administration on intellectual property matters. Undersecretary Vidal’s credentials are beyond merely impressive. Her capabilities and her new position afford her an opportunity to influence intellectual property policy at a magnitude few ever experience, including a profound opportunity to enhance diversity. It is well established that diversity unlocks innovation and that innovation is critical to American competitiveness, jobs, national security, and quality of life. One of the tenets of promoting diversity is providing leaders, role models, and mentors from all reaches of the community to encourage participation from others of similar backgrounds.

In the last few years, there has been a heightened interest in fostering diversity within the innovation and intellectual property ecosystem, and Vidal is a leader in this realm. Vidal’s activities include service on the board of ChIPs (women in policy, law, and technology) and mentoring women from underdeveloped countries through the U.S. Department of State’s Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership.

Support for improving diversity is strong and extends from the highest levels throughout the innovation and intellectual property ecosystem, and I urge Undersecretary Vidal to use her experience and position to build upon this support to substantially increase participation of underrepresented groups in our innovation and intellectual property ecosystem.

The momentum can be seen in the following very recent diversity projects aimed at promoting diversity among innovators, and among intellectual property practitioners. This is by no means an exhaustive list of such projects. There are more projects (too many to name here) on a smaller scale led by the USPTO, intellectual property associations, the academic community, corporations, law firms and many other organizations. The number of projects appears to be growing (though no official tally is known). But here are a few:

Vidal will undoubtedly aim high, marshal her newfound resources, and take the promotion of diversity within our ecosystem to levels previously unseen. Given her prior leadership in this area, she may want to leverage and accelerate existing initiatives by the USPTO, intellectual property associations, the academic community, corporations, law firms and many other organizations. She can begin by cataloging these initiatives and creating a website that serves as a central location for others to get more information about them, and about how to get involved. She might also conduct a listening tour across the United States to gauge challenges and opportunities for the USPTO to expand engagement and improve the patent or trademark experience. Lastly, Vidal should explore building partnerships with organizations outside of the USPTO to engage and educate more innovators, especially in conjunction with recommendations that may emerge from the Council for Inclusive Innovation.

Of course, I still urge that reforms are needed to address the significant uncertainty created by current patent eligibility jurisprudence. Courts continue to struggle with the application of the abstract idea doctrine to electric vehicle charging stations, garage door opener systems, and digital cameras (and more) – how can we have confidence in their ability to appropriately apply it to consider cutting edge artificial intelligence technology designed to abstract humans?

I hope to have the opportunity to work with Undersecretary Vidal on these and other matters.

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Author: gustavofrazao
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3 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for PTO-indentured]
    April 10, 2022 09:21 am

    We must remember to not pat ourselves on the back and stop short “just because” an initiative towards helping underrepresented inventors sounds morally correct. Doing so is not enough. If you want to truly help underrepresented inventors, you must actually listen to them.

    Hardin highlights that very thing about the SUCCESS Act, the CI2, and the IDEA Act here:

  • [Avatar for Anon]
    April 8, 2022 11:48 am

    Pro Say,

    I invite you to better understand the terms that are in use.

    While I fully “get” how YOU would want to read that term, that term is a loaded term, already pregnant with meaning from the ideology/philosophy of identity politics and Neo-Liberalism.

    You are actually falling into a desired trap by attempting to imbue that term with a palatable meaning, when the true meaning is MUCH MUCH darker.

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    April 6, 2022 04:12 pm

    Another one of the tenets of promoting diversity (and arguably its most critical) . . . is the restoration of the availability of patent eligibility to all areas of innovation . . . either through the overturning (SCOTUS) or abrogation (Congress) of Mayo / Alice; or — ideally — the Congressional elimination of the unneeded and problem-plagued Section 101 of the Patent Act.

    For what good does it do to have diversity initiatives . . . if such underrepresented innovators are unable to obtain and protect patents for their inventions?