PTAB launches the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) for the next generation of patent practitioners
Blog by Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, and Scott Boalick, Chief Judge of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the USPTO
(Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
Today, the USPTO officially launches the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP). LEAP is designed to foster development of the next generation of patent practitioners by creating opportunities to gain the proper skills and experience in oral arguments before the Board. The USPTO understands that “stand up” speaking opportunities before tribunals are limited and that gaining courtroom experience is advantageous for practitioners in their career development. Additionally, having a patent bar with strong oral advocacy skills benefits clients, the USPTO, the courts, and the whole IP system.
A LEAP practitioner is defined as someone who is new to the practice of law or new to practice before the PTAB. To qualify as a LEAP practitioner, a patent agent or attorney must have three or fewer substantive oral arguments in any federal tribunal, including PTAB, and seven or fewer years of experience as a licensed attorney or agent. By arguing before the PTAB, LEAP practitioners gain oral advocacy skills that will benefit them when appearing before any tribunal in the future. Likewise, they may reap the reward of drafting or contributing significantly to an underlying motion, brief, oral argument, or client position.
In exchange for giving a LEAP practitioner the opportunity to present argument as part of the program, the Board will grant additional argument time to the party, typically up to fifteen minutes depending on the length of the proceeding and the PTAB’s hearing schedule. The extra argument time is intended to incentivize appellants and parties to support LEAP practitioners. This plays a key role in helping the USPTO achieve its goal of offering legal experience and advancement to a diverse group of practitioners.
(Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)
A LEAP practitioner may conduct the entire oral argument or may share time with other counsel, provided that the LEAP practitioner is offered a meaningful and substantive opportunity to argue. For example, a LEAP practitioner may argue claim construction, a motion to exclude evidence, or a patentability issue. More experienced counsel may assist a LEAP practitioner, if necessary, during oral argument and may clarify any statements on the record.
It is easy to participate in LEAP. For an appeal, an appellant should send an email to PTABHearings@uspto.gov at least five business days before the hearing. Similarly, for an AIA proceeding, a party should send an email to Trials@uspto.gov at least five business days before the hearing. The program becomes effective on May 15, 2020, and LEAP practitioners may begin filing requests to participate in this program starting on that day.
The USPTO will also provide training to familiarize LEAP practitioners with oral argument procedures before the PTAB. The training will address the flow of a hearing, effective use of hearing time, use of demonstratives during a hearing, and other oral advocacy tips. This training will provide an added measure of confidence in the preparation of LEAP practitioners for both the PTAB case at hand, as well as any IP litigation down the road.
Innovation and the intellectual property system behind it form the engine of economic growth and development. Expanding this ecosystem is critically important to ensuring America’s continued economic strength and technological leadership. New practitioners are a key element of this effort, and it is important to expand their participation. LEAP is one step in that direction. For more information on the USPTO’s resources on expanding innovation, please visit our newly launched webpage at uspto.gov.
We look forward to working with our stakeholders and the bar to further develop this and similar programs.