The USPTO is committed to fostering a strong and vital patent system. It is important that advocates have the proper skills and experience to support stakeholders and effectively represent their interests. To that end, the USPTO sees value in providing opportunities for the advocates to gain experience in proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) through our Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP).
LEAP is designed to encourage the professional development of patent attorneys and agents appearing before the PTAB through increased opportunities for oral advocacy. Accordingly, the PTAB will grant up to 15 minutes additional argument time to parties that choose to participate in LEAP, depending on the length of the proceeding and the PTAB’s hearing schedule.
To qualify as a LEAP practitioner, a patent agent or attorney must have:
- three or fewer substantive oral arguments in any federal tribunal, including the PTAB, and
- seven or fewer years of experience as a licensed attorney or agent.
LEAP participation requests
A practitioner may submit an email request to participate in LEAP at least five business days before the hearing by emailing PTABHearings@uspto.gov.
LEAP becomes effective on May 15, 2020. LEAP practitioners may begin to file requests to present arguments to the PTAB under this program starting on that day.
Prior to the hearing, the LEAP practitioner must file a LEAP Practitioner Verification Form confirming eligibility to participate in the program.
A LEAP request and LEAP practitioner verification form may be submitted as a single document or as separate documents. Below is a sample combined request and verification form. If a LEAP practitioner elects not to this sample, the information covered by this sample must be provided in the request and/or verification statement.
Practitioners may submit a LEAP request and verification form in a given proceeding only after the Board has assigned an oral hearing date in the case. If a hearing date has not been assigned, the request will be denied as premature, and the LEAP practitioner must re-submit the request and verification form after a hearing date is assigned
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. It remains within the party’s discretion as to the type and quantity of oral argument that will be conducted by the LEAP practitioner. For example, a LEAP practitioner might present the party’s entire argument or might argue a more limited issue, e.g., claim construction argument(s), motion(s) to exclude evidence, or patentability argument(s).
Assistance at oral hearing
Regardless of whether a LEAP practitioner conducts the argument in whole or in part, the PTAB will permit more experienced counsel to assist a LEAP practitioner, if necessary, during oral argument, and to clarify any statements on the record before the conclusion of the oral argument.
The PTAB will offer training on oral advocacy, covering topics such as the use of demonstratives, effective use of hearing time, decorum, and logistics of an oral hearing. Training will be available free of charge and via webinar.
The PTAB encourages LEAP practitioners to participate in other aspects of PTAB proceedings, including conference calls, pre-hearing conferences, and depositions.
Webinar Training Session
|Thursday, May 14, 2020|
Noon to 1 p.m. Eastern Time
Vice Chief Judge Janet Gongola
Lead Judge Stacey White
Judge Amanda Wieker
Judge Christa Zado
|Thursday, June 25, 2020|
Judge Amanda Wieker
Judge Christa Zado
Friday, August 7, 2020
|1 p.m to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time|
Oral Argument Practicum
Questions about LEAP
For questions about LEAP, please contact:
- Telephone: 571-272-9797
- Email: LEAP@uspto.gov