Remarks by USPTO Director Kathi Vidal at PPAC

Remarks Prepared for Kathi Vidal

Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and

Director of the USPTO

 Patent Public Advisory Committee 

May 10, 2022


Thank you, Steve, for the kind introduction. I’m very pleased to be attending my first PPAC meeting as the new Director of the USPTO. I want to extend a big thank you to Drew Hirshfeld for being such a great interim Director. Drew kept things moving in the right direction. And he left the agency in a very healthy place. We’re sorry that he is leaving in June after such a long, storied career at the USPTO. We will miss tapping into his institutional memory, and his amiable, positive constitution that he demonstrated repeatedly as he faced massive challenges — not only as the interim Director, but as Commissioner for Patents.

We appreciate all the reforms he initiated on a variety of issues. Especially with the adept guidance on PTAB Director reviews, the extensive guidelines associated with the unexpected court rulings on Section 101 subject matter eligibility, and the internal systems that have been fully adopted for Examination Time, Application Routing, and Examiner Performance Appraisals.

From all of us at the USPTO, and the country, Drew — thank you for your service, and your mentorship of so many of our current and prospective leaders. We will truly miss you.

Turning now to today’s PPAC public session, I am looking forward to working with all the members of PPAC. I’m especially excited about the new PPAC meeting format. It gives us the opportunity to drill down deeper into specific issues, and to keep the public engaged in our operations.

Having been on the job now for almost a month, there is a lot for us to do. We are hitting the ground running. And all of us at the USPTO need the advice and consent of the public. That is why PPAC exists. I look forward to hearing your views as we pursue our overall mission of doing what is best for the United States by turning innovation into impact.

Today’s discussion centers around patent quality. This is job number one. It is the most important aspect of our operations. We are constantly looking at ways to improve the examination of patent applications and the claims within them. We want our examiners to know how important their work is to the success of the patents they allow.

Often, examiners don’t have insight into the downstream impacts of the patents they issue. They are often not aware of post-grant challenges and litigation. They often to do not hear about the success in the marketplace of patents they examined years earlier. So, we are in the early stages of discussing a collaboration with the American Intellectual Property Law Association and the Intellectual Property Owners Association to develop a training initiative for patent examiners to understand and appreciate the impact that their daily work has on the IP ecosystem.

The training will focus on how their examination prosecution record is used after a patent is granted — and on techniques to improve the clarity of that record. Examiners will hear from industry how important their prosecution record is to the inventor, their counsel, to plaintiffs, judges, companies, and countries. Patent practitioners from AIPLA and IPO will work with USPTO to create training based on their real-life experience using the prosecution record in licensing, tech transfer, and litigation. The goal is to enhance clarity around patent rights. Examiners will see the real-world impact of their work on people’s livelihoods and the central role they play in the advancement of technology and our society. This is also part of a larger initiative to provide a closed loop feedback system throughout the life of a patent. To ensure our patent examiners and PTAB judges dialogue with each other, practitioners, judges and others to understand how we can all play a role in issuing and maintaining more robust and reliable patents. It is one of many new initiatives being discussed, and we’ll keep you posted on its progress.

In the short time remaining, let me say just a few words about the Director review process for PTAB Final Written Decisions. In coming weeks, we plan to publish a Request for Comments in the Federal Register to gather input about the interim Director review process that was put in place shortly after the Supreme Court’s Arthrex decision last June. Once we take the public’s feedback into account, we plan to formalize and finalize the Director review process.

We pride ourselves on being transparent in all of our proceedings, and so we have recently published two webpages describing the current process. The first webpage provides an outline of the interim process, and the second enables parties to check on the status of a Director review request. I encourage all of you to look at these webpages and learn more about the process, and then provide feedback when we issue our RFC.

There is so much more to discuss, but we can touch on other issues during our fireside chat at the next PPAC session in June. I look forward to working with all of you over the coming weeks and months. Thank you, and now I’ll turn it over to PQuIP Subcommittee Chair Tracy Durkin.