“The best part of my job is realizing that my work as a judicial law clerk directly contributes to the patent industry.”
A passion for cross-disciplinary technical knowledge
Patric’s insatiable pursuit of knowledge across technical fields led him to study both mechanical engineering and mathematics as an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa. He then earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin Law School. But he didn’t stop there—he’s currently a part-time electrical engineering student at Purdue University!
Patric’s interest in the nuances of different disciplines makes intellectual property and patent law an excellent career fit. It’s a big part of why he found himself applying to be a judicial law clerk with the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). He also took a patent litigation class in law school that helped him understand how the PTAB fits into the overall intellectual property landscape.
“I was first drawn to the USPTO because of the opportunity to work at the forefront of PTAB litigation and learn from the Administrative Patent Judges (APJs). I also see the clerkship as a way to learn more about AIA trials to serve future clients and contribute to the field of patent law,” says Patric.
His instincts were spot on. “The USPTO is collegial, sophisticated, and engaging. Everyone is welcoming and easy to work with,” notes Patric. “The best part about working here has definitely been the brilliant and passionate people.”
How to become an expert
Patric knows that to become an expert in something, you should surround yourself with experts. This was true of his experiences working in NASA’s Office of General Counsel, serving a federal district court judge, and during his two-and-a-half-month rotation with the USPTO Director’s Office.
Following his rotation with the USPTO Director’s Office, Patric reflects that “It was a great experience and allowed me to contribute to several significant, public-facing assignments. The USPTO, and federal government, offer excellent opportunities to detail in other business units or even other agencies. The perspectives gained are then shared as employees rotate to other roles, increasing collegiality and government efficiency.”
Now as a law clerk, Patric assists three APJs in researching and writing bench memorandums, orders, and decisions in AIA trials and ex parte appeals. He prepares working files on cases to share with the APJs, briefs them for discussions, and drafts and edits decisions. This work supports the mission of the PTAB and USPTO by helping the APJs issue timely and accurate decisions.
“The APJs have a knack for asking great questions and knowing where to find the answers. I have been amazed by the technical and legal expertise of each APJ I have worked with,” Patric says.
Patric recently worked on a case involving many issues ancillary to the case’s merits. To research the applicable law, he used the USPTO’s “Precedential and informative decisions” webpage to identify the relevant language and issues before navigating to Westlaw to find binding decisions that helped guide the analysis.
Patric also attends case conferences and hearings. “The most interesting hearings I attended featured attorneys who had a strong understanding of the record, narrowed their arguments to answer the APJs’ questions, and did not rely solely on their demonstratives to walk through the legal standards,” he says.
Contributing to the patent industry
“The best part of my job is realizing that my work as a judicial law clerk directly contributes to the patent industry. I also enjoy the privilege of learning from the APJs and patent attorneys with whom I have the pleasure of assisting,” Patric says. “The USPTO has also provided me with countless technical, administrative, legal, career-focused, leadership, and diversity and inclusion training opportunities.”
All in all, Patric describes the clerkship as “a unique experience to engage with the APJs, understand their views of technology and law, and walk away with insights into how to practice before the Board.”
He’ll join the intellectual property and technology practice of a private-sector law firm this fall when his clerkship ends—a track that may indeed lead to him practicing before the Board in the future.