Tag Archives: diversity

Guest Post: Diversity Pilots Initiative Comment on Proposed Changes to PTAB Practice

Guest post by Ashton Woods, a JD candidate and member of the Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic at Stanford Law School. This post is part of a series by the Diversity Pilots Initiative, which advances inclusive innovation through rigorous research. DPI will be hosting its second conference at Emory University Law School in Atlanta on Friday, September 20, 2024. Indicate your interest by signing up here.

On February 21, the USPTO issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Expanding Opportunities to Appear Before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), and DPI filed one of seven comments on the proposal. DPI’s full comment can be found here.

Currently, parties appearing before the PTAB who are represented by counsel must designate lead and backup counsel. Lead counsel must be a USPTO-registered practitioner, meaning that they have technical training and have passed the registration exam (commonly known as the “patent bar” exam). Backup counsel may be non-registered if they are recognized pro hac vice. Under the Proposed Rule, counsel can switch roles, with a non-registered practitioner acting as lead counsel and a registered practitioner acting as backup counsel. Additionally, parties who can show good cause, including financial hardship, can waive the backup counsel requirement, though the party’s sole counsel must still be a registered practitioner. Finally, the Proposed Rule streamlines the pro hac vice recognition process for non-registered practitioners, though they still must be accompanied by a registered practitioner in the lead or backup role.

As explained in more detail in the full comment, DPI views the Proposed Rule as a modest step toward reducing the accessibility gap for potential patentees, patent practitioners, and patent challengers. The goal of the Proposed Rule is laudable, and it may provide a solid foundation for future efforts to diversify the Patent Bar and the patent system more broadly—if it can effectively expand the pool of eligible practitioners in proceedings before the PTAB, the Proposed Rule may support wider USPTO efforts to increase the participation of underrepresented communities in the innovation ecosystem.

Still, the Proposed Rule does not address all of the structural barriers within the patent system that continue to burden diversification efforts at the USPTO. Existing barriers, such as the technical training requirement and the patent bar exam, substantially narrow the class of patent practitioners. This is particularly troublesome considering that federal courts do not subject litigators to these standards—they impose no registration requirement or backup counsel requirement. Currently, there is no rigorous evidence to support these restrictions as necessary, rather than overly burdensome, in promoting competent, or even fantastic, representation before the PTAB.

DPI urges the USPTO to collect the empirical evidence necessary to ensure that USPTO initiatives are well-suited to promoting the goals of the Proposed Rule and the USPTO more broadly. The comment sets out exemplary data collection methods and key data points on PTAB filings and proceedings for the USPTO’s consideration. The comment urges the USPTO to affirmatively collect this data to rigorously assess the impact of the Proposed Rule, and other diversity initiatives, on inclusivity and accessibility at the USPTO.

DPI’s full comment on the USPTO’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Expanding Opportunities to Appear Before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board can be found here. To stay informed about related work, sign up for DPI research updates by emailing diversitypilots@gmail.com.


Guest post by Lolita Darden: PPAC’s Bold Strategy to Transform Patent Inclusion

Guest post by: Lolita Darden, Chair, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patent Public Advisory Committee; Managing Partner, Darden Betts Strategic Intellectual Property Counselors; Visiting Associate Professor, George Washington University Law School.  This post is part of a series by the Diversity Pilots Initiative, which advances inclusive innovation through rigorous research. The first blog in the series is here and resources from the first conference of the initiative are available here.)

This year the Patent Public Advisory Committee, also known as PPAC, turns 25.  Established in 1999, PPAC is a 9-member advisory committee appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. Each member serves a 3-year term, and I am starting my second year. The primary purpose of the Committee is to review the policies, goals, performance, budget, and user fees of the USPTO with respect to patents. The Committee is also charged, by statute, to advise the Director of the USPTO on these matters and to prepare a report to Congress on the advisory actions the Committee has undertaken during the calendar year. You can find the 2023 PPAC Annual Report

As the new Chair of PPAC, I look forward to collaborating with the Committee and Director Vidal to serve the interests of the American people and the IP community in ways that enhance national and global competitiveness, accelerate growth in GDP, and drive innovation and entrepreneurship.

For those of you not familiar with PPAC, another function of the Committee is to provide the Director with feedback from our constituents about initiatives being undertaken by the USPTO with respect to patent matters. In that regard, I view my role as Chair as a facilitator, working closely with Committee members to provide advice and counsel to the Director based on feedback received from our respective constituencies.

This year, PPAC will continue to work with Director Vidal to link patents and invention more explicitly to national competitiveness, through both increasing invention activity and making patent protection available to more inventors around the U.S. It is widely known that innovation is a key driver of competitiveness and long‐term economic growth. It is also known that patents are important measures of innovation. Recent studies show that significant increases in U.S. innovation are achievable by encouraging inclusive innovation, which involves bringing under-represented individuals and communities into the innovation ecosystem. For example, ,” which represents substantial potential growth to the United States economy.

In my capacity as a private citizen and law professor, I have devoted countless pro bono hours assisting under-resourced inventors with protecting their rights in intellectual property, as well as educating them regarding the benefits of protection.  Research shows that the biggest deterrent to the pursuit of IP protections by individuals from historically resourced communities is awareness.  My vision for increasing the number of participants in the innovation ecosystem from under-resourced communities is education.  Ideally, law schools and law firms would pledge to offer community-based programs educating inventors from under-resourced communities about IP basics, i.e., what is protectable, how it can be protected, and pro bono resources for pursuing protection.  I am excited to continue this work of raising awareness in an advisory role as Chair of PPAC.

One of the interesting things about PPAC is that we are composed of individuals with different backgrounds and views on the U.S. patent system and how it should operate.  Nevertheless, we have been able to find common ground in thinking about how patents can best help the nation.  In addition to inclusive innovation, the Committee will continue to work to support the USPTO’s efforts to maintain a patent system that best serves the American people and the IP community.

Three main takeaways:

  1. Role of PPAC: PPAC, established in 1999, is a 9-member advisory committee appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, serving 3-year terms. Its primary function is to review and advise on the policies, goals, performance, budget, and user fees of the USPTO with respect to patents, and to prepare an annual report to Congress on its advisory actions.
  2. Focus on National Competitiveness and Inclusive Innovation: PPAC aims to enhance national and global competitiveness by linking patents and invention more closely, promoting increased invention activity, and expanding patent protection to more inventors across the U.S. The committee emphasizes the importance of inclusive innovation, highlighting that significant increases in U.S. innovation and economic growth could be achieved by encouraging participation from under-represented groups in the innovation ecosystem.
  3. Education for Under-resourced Inventors: PPAC also aims to raise awareness and educational resources for under-resourced inventors about IP protection. This includes the vision to work with law schools and law firms to provide community-based programs on IP basics, aiming to increase the number of participants from under-resourced communities in the patent ecosystem.

 If you find this insight compelling and want to stay informed on the latest developments, sign up for the DPI research updates today!

What Does it Mean to be an Inventor? The Inventor Diary Project and Kicking off the Diversity Pilots Initiative Blog Series

Guest Post by Colleen V. Chien, Founder of the Diversity Pilots Initiative (DPI), Professor of Law and Co-Director the High Tech Law Institute, Santa Clara University School of Law

A down payment on a house, a sense of being seen, the pride of one’s parents and children, validation of one’s creativity, a permanent mark, and confidence – these are just some of the answers received to the question, “what does being an inventor mean to you?” Though the patent system exists to promote innovation, it also serves to promote inventors and innovators. Today, on World IP Day, this post shares the often-overlooked personal journeys of invention that patent professionals play a crucial role in, by encouraging idea submission, collaborating with engineers and innovators, managing outside counsel, and in patent drafting, prosecuting claims,  patent examining, and studying and teaching patenting. This post is the first in a series by the Diversity Pilots Initiative (DPI), which strives to advance inclusive innovation so that all may access its benefits – including the social, confidence, and economic boosts chronicled in these diaries –  through rigorous research.

The question in various forms was asked in a survey of inventors and recognized innovators carried out from April 15-24, 2023 by myself and the IP team at Pure Storage, a company partner of the Diversity Pilots Initiative doing innovative work in invention and innovation led by Elizabeth Morris (SCU Law ‘06), Frances Winkler, and Joseph Kucera.  (response rate of ~25%). For more stories, and to add your own story , visit the “Inventor’s Diary” at www.diversitypilots.org.

What did becoming an inventor mean to you?

“As an engineer you are usually stuck in an endless cycle of building the next billion-dollar product and in the world of every evolving and every updating software, most of our work is never permanent. But when you become an inventor and build something which no one ever thought of, you make a permanent mark of your existence in the tech industry. I still remember how happy I was when I filed my first patent back which was a moment of great joy and pride. And as time went by, I filed multiple patents and I felt more confident and more accomplished.” – Kshithij Iyer, became an inventor at age 27

“Being recognized as an inventor validates one’s creativity, empowering one to do more.” – Sujesha S.,  became an inventor at age 38

“My kids have bragged to their friends at school that I have a patent. My mom knows and I think I’m the first in my family to get one. So that’s pretty cool for her when she talks to her friends about her son. I sent her a copy so she knows it is real. It’s probably up on her wall next to the rabbit I finger-painted in school.” – Scott S., young-at-heart

What has becoming inventors meant to your team?

“Previous to our first invention being approved, my team had never really wanted to submit anything, due to concerns about the possible negative impact that may result if it was not a success.  With this first patent, we have put this concern behind us and are driving forward.  The help and advice of the patent team has massively helped give us confidence in our abilities, as has as the slick process they have developed. The team and myself believe we are seen and perceived as the go-to experts in many areas of technology and much of this could be attributed or linked to this first patent.” – Chris R, Senior Director of Engineering

What has being an inventor meant to your family and community?

“My family directly benefited from the patent awards I received … they helped increase the down payment on my home.  This helped me put down more permanent roots in my community.  We needed increased space at the time due to my third child on her way.  My family know that I have received patents, and they know that my employer is happy with me. I have applied my engineering mind to help solve problems in my condo community and church, and have seen some benefit there.”  – Randy S., became an inventor at age 28.

What has becoming a recognized innovator* meant to you?

“I would say that becoming a recognized innovator meant creativity for me. Often legal isn’t seen as a creative department but Pure Inclusive Innovation program that the IP Team at Pure has built proves that wrong. After my experience, I am more confident in my ideas and sharing them. Becoming a recognized innovator taught me that you don’t have to hold a specific title or have a certain tenure to make a difference. Everyone has something to offer, and change can come from the most unexpected places.” – Amber Winburn, Legal Operations Analyst,  first received company recognition for becoming an innovator at age 29.

“The IP team came to the office to do a presentation on the Innovator program. A couple weeks later, I was in a situation where I heard a customer’s struggle with the upgrade process due to his colorblindness. It seemed like there would be a simple fix for this accessibility issue and, while I thought it over, I thought I didn’t know where to go with it. And then when I came to the office, I remembered the team’s presentation and immediately reached out. The rest is history!”   – Jennifer A., first received company recognition for becoming an innovator at age 55.

For more stories, and to add your own story , visit the “Inventor’s Diary” at www.diversitypilots.org/diary.

= = =

About the Diversity Pilots Initiative and DPI Blog Series

 Researchers with the Diversity Pilots initiative work with firms, organizations and others to conduct and produce empirical research, including surveys and rigorous (randomized or quasi-experimental) pilots, to produce insights to advance diversity and inclusion in innovation and invention. If you are interested in our work, we’d love to work with you too! We have expertise in econometric, observational, survey and other empirical methods, and are experts in topics ranging from mentoring to inequality in innovation to government policy. We intend for our blog to disseminate research findings on “what works” to advance diversity and inclusion in innovation and inventing. Watch this space for more blog posts from the Initiative, many of which will draw from last fall’s inaugural Innovator Diversity Pilots Conference, subscribe to our updates, and get in touch to share your own innovator or innovation journey with us at www.diversitypilots.org.

Professor Chien thanks Sydney Yang, SCU Law ’22, for her help with the blog post.

Are you an inventor? Share your story