2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition
Guest blog by Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld
The 2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition has kicked off! The competition, which began as a regional competition led by our Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit in 2014, has expanded into a nationwide competition, with participation from law school teams from across the country and all of our USPTO regional offices.
The competition challenges the teams on the fundamentals of patent prosecution, including by drafting a patent application and arguing its patentability. It consists of two rounds: a preliminary regional round where teams compete and the National Finals where the winners of the regional competitions compete against each other at an event hosted at USPTO headquarters. Team registrations are being accepted until November 7, 2020, and regional and final rounds will take place virtually in Spring 2021.
The competition replicates the experience of prosecuting a patent application before the USPTO. Students are given a hypothetical invention statement and are asked to perform a prior art search, write a specification, prepare drawings, and write a brief memo explaining their drafting choices. They present their applications and the rationale for patentability and argue claim scope to a panel of judges. The judges consist of senior USPTO officials and patent attorneys from the local communities with extensive experience in patent prosecution and enforcement, who provide feedback and advice to help competitors improve their arguments and legal reasoning. Because the competition assesses the strength of contestants’ reasoning and patent drafting skills over technical knowledge, it is accessible to law students from all technical fields and interests.
Participating in the competition is an excellent opportunity to gain practical and indispensable experience drafting and prosecuting patents and to hone public speaking and communication skills. Last year‘s competition hosted a record 34 teams. Learn more about the 2020 finalists and winners. According to Mark Landauer, a member of last year’s winning team from the University of St. Thomas School of Law:
“This competition is a great way to build practical patent skills that are otherwise outside the scope of a traditional legal education. We learned not just the administrative side of patent filing, but the strategies which go into the practice, the history, the rationale for certain strategies and the ways to draft claims. Overall, we were given a glimpse into patent drafting and litigation strategies that is nearly unrivaled.”
The National Patent Application Drafting Competition has been successful due to the overwhelming support from the intellectual property (IP) law community. The USPTO works closely with the American Intellectual Property Law Association in organizing the competition, as well as with local attorneys, local bar associations, local Inns of Court, and law school faculty mentors. Interacting with practitioners provides students with useful feedback from experienced attorneys and promotes connections with future colleagues. This year, students will be able to build vital connections by hosting virtual networking events throughout the competition.
In addition, the USPTO is expanding the competition’s contestant pool to include law students traditionally underrepresented in patent prosecution, including those students enrolled in law schools located outside the major IP markets. Virtual information sessions will instruct students in the fundamentals of patent drafting, patent searching, and conducting examiner interviews. The USPTO will also regularly reach out to law schools to inform students of registration deadlines and competition dates.
The USPTO looks forward to the participation of law school teams from across the country in this year’s competition and to this opportunity to assist students as they pursue future careers in IP law.
Visit the 2021 National Patent Application Drafting Competition page of the USPTO website for further information on deadlines, competition dates, details and rules about the competition or contact PatentDraftingCompetition@uspto.gov with any questions.