Iancu Says Goodbye, Urges Commitment to ‘American Innovation Renaissance’

By Eileen McDermott
January 20, 2021

“Andrei [Iancu] has done more than perhaps any single person in the last decade to strengthen and restore integrity to our intellectual property system.” – Senator Thom Tillis

Alexandria, Virginia — August 2, 2018 — Quarterly meeting of the Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) at The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). (Photo by Jeff Isaacs/USPTO)

One day before Joe Biden was to be inaugurated as the 46th U.S. President, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Andrei Iancu confirmed he would be leaving his position as USPTO Director, reminiscing on his tenure with the Office in his latest Director’s Forum blog post and in remarks made at a United States Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center event yesterday.

Iancu recalled his successful efforts to clarify examination guidelines on patent eligibility and to balance post-grant proceedings, noting that, “In light of our many carefully-calibrated reforms, Senator [Thom] Tillis recently said that the PTAB is no longer a death squad for patents. It is indeed a new day at the PTAB.”

While many would not agree, it is generally accepted that Iancu’s administration has been a boon for patents, and the IP community will no doubt be sad to see him go.

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Get Ready for the Renaissance

Iancu also said that 2021 will be “one of the most consequential years” for the USPTO, in part because of the need to draft regulations to implement the Trademark Modernization Act, which was passed in late December 2020. Additionally, there has been a 69% increase in trademark filings so far this fiscal year to date. Add to those challenges the continued effects of the pandemic and the need to fast track COVID-19 related inventions and, Iancu said, “it will be one of the most consequential years for intellectual property in general.” He continued:

As we assess the important balance between protecting intellectual property and access to vital technologies, we must always insist on evidence-based policies.

Vaccines and other pandemic-related technologies are not alone in the increased pace of innovation. We are truly at the dawn of a new American innovation renaissance across the board: artificial intelligence, unmanned vehicles, genetics, personalized medicine, 5G, quantum computing, and so much more.

Iancu urged the courts, the next presidential administration, Congress and stakeholders to support and protect the coming American innovation renaissance. The courts or Congress must fix the current problems with patent eligibility law, stakeholders must be vocal in demanding change, and the new administration must not roll back the progress made at the USPTO, said Iancu.

Will we, for example, continue a balanced approach to post-grant proceedings at the PTAB?

And will we continue the work of the National Council for Expanding American Innovation? For the United States to maintain its leading edge, we need all hands on deck. Innovation should not belong to a select few.

To the contrary, innovation can be the great equalizer, where anyone with the willingness to work hard and take risks can have the opportunity to make something new and potentially change the world.

In his Director’s Forum blog post, Iancu also said it is important to continue telling the stories of inventors, another initiative he spearheaded through the USPTO Speaker Series, the Patent 10 Million and the Journeys of Innovation series.

On Wednesday, USPTO Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld sent a message to all USPTO employees explaining that that he will take over the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Director as of noon on January 20. He added:

During this period of transition, Coke Stewart will perform the functions and duties of the Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for IP and Deputy Director of the USPTO, Andrew Faile will serve as Acting Commissioner for Patents, Dede Zecher will serve as Acting Chief of Staff, Kim Alton will serve as Acting Director of Government Affairs and Oversight, and Cara Duckworth will serve as Acting Chief Communications Officer.

More information is available on the USPTO website.

Tillis: Iancu Was the ‘Gold Standard’

Speaking at the same GIPC event as Iancu yesterday, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) said that Iancu “has done more than perhaps any single person in the last decade to strengthen and restore integrity to our intellectual property system.” Tillis added that Iancu’s policies had restored the United States’ place as leader in the innovation economy and that he represents the “’gold-standard’ that any future Director must adhere to.”

Tillis also welcomed Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) as the next Chairman of the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee, a title Tillis had held until now. He said that Coons has an “ambitious agenda” that includes tackling Chinese intellectual property theft, counterfeits, and improvements at the USPTO and Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Tillis will now serve as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee.

Tillis went on in his remarks to lament the U.S. patent eligibility situation, saying it is “in shambles,” and alluding to cases such as Chamberlain v. Techtronic and Athena v. Mayo:

The fact that we have courts saying a garage door opener is an “abstract idea” and that innovative diagnostic tests are just “laws of nature” is bewildering. If we don’t provide greater clarity and consistency in this area of law, America is going to lose the twenty-first century innovation race.

The senator said reforming eligibility law would be one of his top priorities this Congress, “and I will use every opportunity I have—from the President-Elect’s USPTO nomination to amicus briefs before the Supreme Court—to achieve that goal.”

Tillis added that he will continue his efforts to reform copyright law and that “I will pass a new digital copyright law by the end of my second term.”

Hyattsville, Maryland — June 26, 2019 — Visit to Camp Invention at Hyattsville Elementary School with Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Al Langer, inventor of the implantable heart defibrillator (US Patent No. 4,202,340) and 2002 inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

 

Photos from USPTO Director’s Forum.

The Author

Eileen McDermott

Eileen McDermott is the Editor-in-Chief of IPWatchdog.com. Eileen is a veteran IP and legal journalist, and no stranger to the intellectual property world, having held editorial and managerial positions at several publications and industry organizations. She has acted as editorial consultant for the International Trademark Association (INTA), chiefly overseeing the editorial process for the Association’s twice-monthly newsletter, the INTA Bulletin. Eileen has also served as a freelance editor for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); as senior consulting editor for the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) from 2015 to 2017; as Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief at INTA from 2013 to 2016; and was Americas Editor for Managing Intellectual Property magazine from 2007 to 2013.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 11 Comments comments.

  1. Pro Say January 20, 2021 12:09 pm

    With our very own Supreme Court, Federal Circuit, and Congress astonishingly refusing to restore American intellectual leadership by restoring patent eligibility and availability to all areas of innovation . . . trepidation as we await the appointment of a new Patent Office leader by our new President.

    American innovation desperately needs someone willing and able to accept the baton which Director Iancu has so expertly utilized.

    Desperately.

  2. IPdude January 20, 2021 12:22 pm

    The Google Administration begins (again).

  3. Model 101 January 20, 2021 4:44 pm

    New crooks…different day. American inventors should already know Big Tech is the cancer that killed the US patent system. Just sayin!

  4. Jason Lee January 21, 2021 1:57 am

    FAANG lobbied to implement the AIA Act in 2011 brought in the PTAB, Alice, Mayo, eBay all under Ms. Lee and the Obama administration. Biden must serve the same Big Tech that funded him. Kiss what ever is left of the patent system good bye.

  5. Paul Gilbert Cole January 21, 2021 2:59 am

    As I have commented elsewhere, a very able and well-meaning individual whose contribution will be missed. It is appropriate and timely to give best wishes both to him and to his successor.

  6. Anon January 21, 2021 8:15 am

    Instead of giving up, I would posit that diligence is ever more required with the new ‘majority’ control and power.

    Don’t fall prey to the hopelessness of “to the morgue,” as that is exactly what the anti-innovation protection groups want.

  7. Greg DeLassus January 22, 2021 12:21 am

    @4, Ebay v. Mercexchange was both argued and decided in 2006, during the Bush administration.

  8. Robert R. Sachs January 22, 2021 1:42 pm

    Mark my words, 101 rejections are coming back, and Iancu’s work will be undone through new 101 guidance. Colleen Chien is on the transition team with oversight for the USPTO, and she’s absolutely pro-Alice. Biden will trust her recommendations for a new Director. So hurry up and get your apps filed now on fast track and get allowed before the tide turns. Otherwise, expect 4 or more years of renewed frustration and increased costs.

    I must admit a certain degree of responsibility here. I trained Colleen when she was an associate in the Patent Group at Fenwick. I had her work on a couple of business method clients. She was already attracted to the Dark Side of patent policy punditry, and perhaps this exposure turned her completely. My sincere apologies to the entire patent community.

  9. Josh Malone January 22, 2021 4:13 pm

    Greg – the Bush Administration sided with the inventor in Ebay. Obama and Trump have always sided with the infringers.

  10. Greg DeLassus January 23, 2021 12:32 am

    @9 The Obama justice dept argued in Mayo that the Court should decide the case on 102/103 grounds. They urged the Court to announce a rule that one should avoid considering 101 if the case could be decided on 102/103/112 grounds. Finally, Obama’s justice dept argued that if the Court considered it necessary to pass on 101, it should hold Prometheus’ claims to be 101 eligible.

    Similarly, the Obama justice dept intervened in Myriad to argue that the Myriad claims were entirely distinguishable from the grounds of invalidity in Mayo. The justice dept’s brief argued that the Court should hold Myriad’s claims to be 101 eligible.

  11. Anon January 23, 2021 7:23 am

    There is more than a little bit of disinformation to say “Obama’s Justice Department” as if the aim of the justice department signified the entirety or even main views of the Obama administration.

    A phrase that comes to mind is: The left hand does not know what the right hand is up to.

    It was that same Obama administration that — directly on the patent side — installed Lee as curator and provided record numbers of closed door, undocumented meetings behind the scenes with Big Tech.

    After running not once, but twice with a platform plank of “openness,” Obama’s administration also has the highest level ever of denials of Freedom of Information requests.