“Working directly with the judges is the best part of this clerkship. Their insight is invaluable not only to my career but to my personal growth.”
After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Boston University, Safiya began her 8-year career as a patent examiner who specialized in examining medical devices. As an examiner, she was most intrigued by the overlap between technology and law, as well as the opportunity to play an active role in facilitating innovation.
Given her interest, it’s no surprise that Safiya later received her Juris Doctor from the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University in 2018. After spending a few years at a private law practice, she was once again drawn to the USPTO—this time by the opportunity to learn from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) judges and assist them in the adjudicatory process. She applied to be a PTAB Law Clerk and began serving in this role in 2021.
A day in the life of a PTAB law clerk
As a law clerk, Safiya assists administrative patent judges (APJs) with adjudicating AIA proceedings. This includes reviewing party briefings, discussing the parties’ positions and potential courses of action with the panel of judges assigned to the case, and drafting decisions on behalf of the panel. She also assists panels with ex parte appeals.
Safiya typically spends her hours working on cases assigned to her, including reviewing challenged patents, party briefings, and prior art. When assisting with institution decisions, for example, she reviews the challenged patent before turning to the patent owner’s preliminary response to help contextualize the case and determine the primary issue between the parties. She then uses the petition and prior art to give her what she calls the “bigger picture” and an overall sense of the strength of the merits.
After this, Safiya has the special opportunity to share her perspective of the case with the APJs before drafting the panel’s response. She has worked on a variety of technologies, including cases related to fracking.
“Working directly with the judges is the best part of this clerkship,” Safiya says. “Their insight is invaluable not only to my career but to my personal growth. All the judges I’ve worked with to date are great listeners and always explain their reasoning when they provide constructive feedback. This thoughtful feedback helps me grow as a professional—it improves my legal research and legal writing skills and will ultimately help me become a better advocate.”
Another exciting part of Safiya’s role is attending hearings to gain perspective on how different panels approach various issues.
Experience that benefits any future career
Beyond this, Safiya describes her favorite part about working at the USPTO as “working with brilliant and analytical minds,” as well as exposure to a variety of technologies. “Everyone is intelligent, and many are also willing to challenge popular opinion. It makes for an engaging work environment,” Safiya notes.
To future PTAB law clerks, Safiya shares this sage advice, “Be a sponge. Soak up everything the judges and your colleagues have to say. Ask questions and request the kind of work that you believe will benefit you most in your career.”
Safiya’s career has certainly benefitted from her time at the USPTO as both a patent examiner and a PTAB law clerk. Safiya is already exploring exciting opportunities in the private and government sectors for after her clerkship.