Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP)

 

 

LEAP – Legal Experience and Advancement Program – Woman leaping between cliffs over lightbulbs

As part of its commitment to fostering a strong and vital patent system, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has developed and implemented the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP). This program provides training and oral advocacy opportunities for less experienced advocates in proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).

This practical experience helps advocates support and represent their clients’ interests more effectively. Additionally, as part of the program, the PTAB may grant up to 15 minutes of additional argument time to each party that chooses to participate, depending on the length of the proceeding and the PTAB’s hearing schedule.

See the LEAP brochure, LEAP Letter from Director Kathi Vidal, LEAP statistics, and this page for more information about the program. View images from previous LEAP events below.

Eligibility 

As of November 18, 2021, the USPTO has removed the requirement that practitioners must have seven or fewer years of experience to qualify for LEAP.

To qualify as a LEAP practitioner, a patent agent or attorney must now have three or fewer substantive oral arguments in any federal tribunal, including the PTAB.

Pro bono arguments (including PTAB pro bono arguments) do not count toward a practitioner's limit of three or fewer substantive oral arguments. Practitioners with questions about LEAP eligibility may seek guidance by emailing LEAP@uspto.gov.

LEAP participation requests 

To participate in LEAP, a practitioner must submit a Request and a Verification form to PTABHearings@uspto.gov at least five business days before the hearing. 

Submission of a combined LEAP Practitioner Request and Verification Form is preferred. If a practitioner elects not to use this combined form, the information contained in the form must be provided in the practitioner’s alternate submissions.

Practitioners must not submit a request or verification form until the Board has assigned an oral hearing date for the proceeding in which LEAP participation is requested. If a hearing date has not been assigned, the request will be denied as premature.

Oral argument at the PTAB

Oral hearing 

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. The type and length of oral argument that will be conducted by the LEAP practitioner remains within the party’s discretion. For example, a LEAP practitioner might present the party’s entire argument or might argue a more limited issue, e.g., claim construction arguments, motions to exclude evidence, or patentability arguments.

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Oral argument before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board

Statistics

Data for the LEAP program from May 2020 through November 2023 can be found through the link below. This data includes the total number of LEAP requests, with the breakdown of requesting party and proceeding type. This data will be published on a quarterly basis. 

LEAP recognition

During the first two years of LEAP, from May 2020 to May 2022, more than 100 practitioners have participated in oral arguments in actual cases—both ex parte appeals and AIA trial proceedings. We recognize these practitioners along with their sponsors and employers who supported their participation and gave them the opportunities. Additionally, we commend sponsors who enabled participation of more than one LEAP practitioner over the past two years. Read more about LEAP practitioners and their sponsors below.

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. 

 

Woman at podium in PTAB hearing room

 

LEAP preparation

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 also encourages LEAP practitioners to participate in other aspects of PTAB proceedings, including conference calls, pre-hearing conferences, and depositions.

To see past and present events click here 
 

LEAP frequently asked questions

      
 

Select LEAP press

Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership, PTAB launches the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) for the next generation of patent practitioners (April 28, 2020)

Law360, IP Firms Cheer PTAB Program Giving New Attys Opportunities (April 29, 2020)

Next Generation Lawyers, The Patent Trial and Appeal Board LEAPs Into the Future (April 29, 2020)

National Law Review, LEAP Eligible Practitioners Try Their Hand at Oral Advocacy in LEAP Mock Arguments before the PTAB (August 26, 2020)

Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership, Legal Experience and Advancement Program conducts virtual mock arguments (October 15, 2020)

Mondaq, PTAB Holds Mock Oral Arguments For LEAP Attorneys (November 2, 2020)

Law360, PTAB Judge Encourages Junior Attys To Ask For Help In Args (May 18, 2021)

Bloomberg Law, Patent Tribunal Judges Urge Firms to Send Women, Diverse Lawyers (April 28, 2022)

Law360, USPTO Leadership Touts LEAP Program's Success 2 Years In (August 11, 2022)

Patents Post-Grant, PTAB LEAP Program Goes Behind the Scenes (October 19, 2022)

Director's Blog: The latest from USPTO leadership, Jumpstart your career with LEAP! (November 1, 2022)

Law360, PTAB Program Offers Lay Of Land To Ease Junior Atty Jitters (November 10, 2022)

Sterne Kessler, ‘LEAP to Chambers’ Program: Associate Perspectives (December 2022)

Other USPTO resources for those new to PTAB

  • New to PTAB toolkit (information about the basics of PTAB appeal and AIA trial proceedings)
  • Expanding Innovation Toolkit (information about the patent system, mentoring programs, and community groups focused on innovation and intellectual property)

Questions?

For questions about LEAP, please contact us:

Images from previous LEAP events