As those in the patent community know, the USPTO has been expeditiously hiring Judges for the Board for many months now, even before the name of the Board changed on September 16, 2012, to the Patent Trial and Appeals Board. In fact, PTAB Chief Judge James Smith recently told the AIPLA annual meeting attendees that just over the last year the Board has risen from 95 Administrative Patent Judges to 175 Judges. He also indicated that there are plans to increase to 225 APJs by the end of fiscal year 2013.
Leading up to the swearing in, PTAB Vice-Chief Judge James Moore explained the need for the new Judges, as well as pointing out that the USPTO has already had 13 covered business method patent reviews and 42 inter partes reviews initiated just since they became available on September 16, 2012 in the second wave of implementation of the America Invents Act (AIA). “We have doubled our hearing review capacity,” Moore explained. He also said that the approximately 27,000 cases pending at the Board this year “was a high water mark and we will recceed from there thanks to the help of those sitting behind me,” referring to the soon to be sworn in APJs.
Also speaking at the event was Deputy Director of the USPTO Teresa Rea, who explained to the crowd of family and friends in attendance that “intellectual property is what makes our economy special.” Rea also said that the new Judges “will be valuable contributors to the PTAB, the Patent Office and society in general.” She explained the importance of their new roles by pointing out that “patent law is undergoing a tremendous amount of change,” and recognized that the new Judges are tremendously gifted individuals who are ready to contribute.
Aside from the treat of having Chief Judge James Smith join the PTAB band for a beautiful rendition of God Bless America to open and America the Beautiful to close, the highlight of the event was Judge Plager.
Judge Plager would go on to offer sage advice to the new Judges, but from the outset he captured everyone’s attention with a joke. He was in an accident this summer as he was hiking in Alaska, which is not a joke, but which set the premise of the joke. Plager recounted the tale of how those first responders came to his aid, and believing that in addition to the obvious injury to his leg they were concerned that perhaps he had suffered non-obvious injuries, such as a concussion. In addition to asking him mundane questions to evaluate his mental capabilities they eventually asked another question:
When they asked what are the requirement for patent eligible invention and I told them what our Court has said they became convinced I had sustained a concussion.
Laughter abounded throughout the Madison Auditorium. It is unfortunate that meaning of patent eligible subject matter has become so convoluted given the simplicity with which Section 101 speaks, as well as that extraordinarily straight forward Legislative History on the matter. Yet, anyone who attempts to actually explain patentable subject matter would no doubt come across as sounding like they had a concussion. Sadly, the party explaining might actually have started out non-concussed, but given themselves a concussion articulating the requirements.
But this is not a time for me to pontificate on the CAFC or the Supreme Court. It is a time to meet the Judges, wish them well and hope that they will bring some semblance of sanity to what is otherwise becoming a rather insane area of law.
Without further ado, the new APJs are:
Judge Hung H. Bui graduated from the Washington College of Law, American University in 1994 and earned his B.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering with a minor in International Affairs from Drexel University in 1990. Judge Bui started as a patent examiner in Group 230 and a student associate at a patent boutique in Washington D.C., while attending law school at night. Subsequently, Judge Bui served as a partner at Antonelli, Terry, Stout & Kraus, LLP and a founding partner at Stein, McEwen & Bui LLP and Bui Garcia-Zamor. In private practice since 1991, Judge Bui has handled a wide range of electrical and computer technologies and all aspects of patent practice, including patent preparation, prosecution, reissue, reexamination, interference and appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, patent portfolios, opinions and patent litigation before the International Trade Commission and District Courts. In addition, Judge Bui has organized comprehensive IP training programs, trained and lectured extensively at seminars and conferences in U.S. and Asia regarding U.S. patent law and practice.
Christopher L. Crumbley
Judge Crumbley is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where he served on the Articles Review Board of the Virginia Law Review. He holds a Bachelor of Arts, Chemistry and Political Science, cum laude, from Rice University. Following law school, Mr. Crumbley became an associate with the Atlanta office of Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP. In 2003, he joined the Intellectual Property Staff of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, where his work litigating on behalf of the United States was recognized with a Special Commendation for Outstanding Service. He is a member of the Georgia Bar, and has appeared before the Federal Circuit, the United States Court of Federal Claims, and various District Courts.
Judge Scott Daniels graduated from University of New Hampshire School of Law in 1998 and earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Union College in 1991. Judge Daniels started as an engineer with Consolidated Edison in New York City before entering the U.S. Army where he served as a Sapper Platoon Leader and Company Executive Officer in the 41st Engineer Battalion, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). Following law school, Judge Daniels practiced patent law at Davis & Bujold, PLLC before opening his own firm in 2008 in Concord, New Hampshire. His legal career has increasingly evolved from patent and trademark prosecution in mechanical, business methods and electrical technologies into various IP litigation matters.
Judge Jill Hill is a former patent examiner and a graduate of The George Washington University Law School, where she graduated with honors in 1999. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Columbia University. During and after law school, Judge Hill prosecuted and litigated patents at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner. She was a judicial clerk for the Honorable Judge Richard Linn at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and has taught legal writing at The George Washington University Law School. Most recently, Judge Hill was at the law firm of O’Brien Jones, PLLC.
Judge Lynne E. Pettigrew joins the Board from the USPTO’s Office of the Solicitor, where she served as an Associate Solicitor representing the USPTO in appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and in various federal district courts. Before joining the USPTO, Judge Pettigrew served for eleven years as Law Clerk to the Honorable S. Jay Plager of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. She also has prior experience as an associate with Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP. Judge Pettigrew received a J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center, an M.S.E. in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University, and a B.S., cum laude, in Electrical Engineering from Yale University. Prior to law school, she worked for several years as a systems engineer at AT&T Bell Laboratories.
Judge Neil Powell studied mechanical engineering at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He started his career with International Truck & Engine Corporation, where he worked as an engineer and a patent agent. He then attended the George Washington University Law School while working as a student associate at Finnegan Henderson. Following law school, he continued his career as an associate at Finnegan. Judge Powell has handled a wide range of mechanical and electrical technologies in patent prosecution, opinion, and litigation matters. His office is MDW 9D59.
NOTE: The backdrop on the photo of Judge Plager and Judge Powell is different than the others due to human error — namely the error of the photographer, me! I accidentally put the camera on timed photo and didn’t realize what I had done until Judge Powell received his certificate and stepped back. He and Judge Plager graciously posed for a make-up picture after the event was concluded.
Prior to joining the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, Mr. Tartal was an intellectual property litigation attorney with an international law firm in Washington, D.C. From 2003 to 2006, he served as a Technical Assistant at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Mr. Tartal graduated magna cum laude from Boston College Law School in 1997. He received his B.S. in Civil Engineering, M.S.E. in Environmental Engineering, and M.S. in Biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University.
Judge Trenton A. Ward joins the PTAB from his most recent position as a partner at Troutman Sanders LLP. At Troutman Sanders LLP, Judge Ward represented a wide variety of technology clients, including Google, Philips, LexisNexis, and Georgia Tech. Judge Ward has practiced in all phases of patent litigation in various District Courts, the ITC, and on appeals before the Federal Circuit and Supreme Court. Additionally, Judge Ward has represented clients in a large number of patent prosecution matters, managed their patent portfolios, and counseled clients on patent licensing matters. Judge Ward received his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering with honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology and his Juris Doctorate from the Emory University School of Law. Upon graduating from Georgia Tech, Judge Ward worked as an electrical engineer at Nortel Networks in the field of high speed internet access devices. While completing his undergraduate degree, Judge Ward worked as a co-op engineer at Scientific Atlanta, now a division of Cisco, on broadband cable access devices. His technical background is in telecommunications and computer hardware and software.