“Our conversations have convinced me that Ms. Vidal will be the exact type of visionary leader we need to succeed Andrei Iancu and will work tirelessly to ensure all inventors get a fair shake before the USPTO.”
Update: the vote on Vidal’s nomination scheduled for Thursday, January 6, was cancelled.
Senator Thom Tillis has come out on the record in support of Kathi Vidal to be the next Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), on the eve of a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on her confirmation.
Despite recent scrutiny of her ties to big tech and Silicon Valley, Tillis in a statement today said that he was satisfied with Vidal’s responses to his “tough questions” during the confirmation hearing process and feels he has received her commitment that she will continue the reforms implemented by former USPTO Director Andrei Iancu. Tillis explained:
Before Director Iancu’s reforms, the PTAB was rightly known as a place where big companies could game the system, engage in strategic and efficient infringement, and destroy the patent rights of small businesses and independent inventors….. Our conversations have convinced me that Ms. Vidal will be the exact type of visionary leader we need to succeed Andrei Iancu and will work tirelessly to ensure all inventors get a fair shake before the USPTO.
Tillis added that Vidal has demonstrated to him that she has an understanding of the need to reform eligibility laws, to make the patent system more accessible to small inventors and businesses, and to reform the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). “She knows that prior to Director Iancu’s reform, PTAB wasn’t the balanced forum Congress intended,” Tillis said. “She realizes that, absent the continuation of these reforms, bad actors like OpenSky Industries will use the PTAB as a form of strategic litigation to attack competitors.”
Tillis further lauded Vidal’s management experience and ability to engage and communicate with diverse audiences.
Other pro-IP groups have also come out in support of Vidal today, including the Innovation Alliance. The organization’s Executive Director, Brian Pomper, called Vidal an “eminently qualified patent attorney and intellectual property expert” who has demonstrated her commitment to examining “potential abuses of the [inter partes review] IPR process”, among other issues.
However, inventor organization US Inventor has strongly opposed her nomination and has been seeking signatories to a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee asking committee members to vote against her. The letter claims that Vidal has spent “the vast majority” of her career representing companies like Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and Dell, and that she is “embedded in big tech culture.” The letter continues:
She resides in Silicon Valley near the headquarters of her biggest clients. She was married to Chip Lutton when he was Senior Vice President and Chief Counsel of Apple from 2001 to 2011. She was a vocal supporter for creation of the PTAB from 2005 to 2011 while she was the top litigator for the top patent litigation firm Fish & Richardson. She endorsed Google attorney Michelle Lee for Director in 2014, and wrote a letter in support of Lee when she was forced to resign in 2017, stating that Lee “hired some of the most talented attorneys in this country to serve as PTAB judges and in other positions…”. A number of these PTAB judges praised by Vidal worked for Apple at the same time as she did, joined the USPTO/PTAB where they set policy and/or rendered decisions highly favorable to Apple, and have recently returned to join Apple in senior positions. Every indication is that Vidal expects to benefit from this lucrative revolving door, rather than curtail it.
The vote on Vidal’s nomination will take place tomorrow, Thursday, January 6, at 9:00am.