“I liked the idea of spending some time in Washington, D.C. — a center of the intellectual property legal community. I also wanted to experience what it is like to work for the federal government. The USPTO was the perfect combination of those two aspirations.”
At the Center of Intellectual Property
After earning a mechanical engineering degree from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and then a law degree from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Mitchell Feldhake was ready to head to Washington. “I liked the idea of spending some time in Washington, D.C. — a center of the intellectual property legal community. I also wanted to experience what it is like to work for the federal government. The USPTO was the perfect combination of those two aspirations,” he explains.
Mitchell’s ambition became his reality, as he now serves as a judicial law clerk at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Behind-The-Scenes Decision Making
Mitchell’s interest in intellectual property law was already present in law school, where he had the opportunity to take a course that focused on PTAB practice. After studying final written decisions and many Federal Circuit appeals from PTAB proceedings, the final project for the course was to draft a decision on whether to institute inter partes review of a patent.
Little did Mitchell know that he would soon be heavily involved in drafting real decisions on whether to institute inter partes review of a patent for the USPTO, which he identifies as one of the coolest and most enjoyable parts of his job.
“I now know how decisions are made behind the scenes and I understand the decision making process. Also, getting face-to-face interaction with and mentoring from PTAB judges has been priceless,” Mitchell says.
“The judges I work for allow me to draft an opinion from start to finish. They provide feedback throughout the drafting process and edit my final version,” he shares. “At this point, roughly halfway through my clerkship, I have been directly involved in the drafting of at least eight decisions on whether to institute inter partes review of a patent, including a Precedential Opinion Panel (POP) decision…a major accomplishment.”
Mitchell’s judicial clerkship has also provided challenging opportunities to expand his existing skillset.
One of his projects involved multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical technology that Mitchell had not encountered before. After careful research and collaboration with a judge, he successfully completed the task at hand and expanded his knowledge base.
In addition to drafting decisions for review by judges, Mitchell also analyzes case records in preparation for discussing with a judge whether the PTAB should institute inter partes review.
Intellectual Curiosity That Brings People Together
The satisfaction that comes with engaging work is only one valuable takeaway from Mitchell’s judicial clerkship. The relationships he’s made at the PTAB are also meaningful. He describes the PTAB as a “collegial environment with great work-life balance,” where everyone is “genuinely nice and interested in you as a person.”
Mitchell thinks it’s the people at the USPTO that help sustain its ranking as a best place to work, year after year. “With so many people with similar educational backgrounds [in STEM and law]…there is always a common intellectual curiosity that brings people together,” he notes. “The commonality promotes respect and naturally leads to friendships.”
The strong rapport Mitchell enjoys with his colleagues, as well as the intellectual satisfaction he encounters in his daily work, have made his judicial clerkship an ideal follow up to his study of PTAB in law school.