On April 5, 2022, the U.S. Senate confirmed Kathi Vidal as the next Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”).
The Senate’s confirmation comes more than one-year since former director, Andrei Iancu, resigned in January 2021, and makes Vidal the second woman to ever be appointed as Director with congressional approval. Since Iancu’s resignation, Andrew Hirshfeld, the Commissioner for Patents, has been performing interim director duties under the title of “Performing the Duties and Functions of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO.”
Before her confirmation as Director, Vidal most recently served as managing partner of Winston & Strawn’s Silicon Valley office, and also spent more than 20 years at Fish & Richardson PC as Global Head of Litigation on the firm’s Management Committee. Vidal also has a background in engineering, and prior to her time as an attorney, worked as an engineer at General Electric and Lockheed Martin where she was involved with artificial intelligence, and aircraft and helicopter systems.
The Senate’s confirmation of the next Director has been highly anticipated by many members of the patent community who are waiting to see what changes may be made to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (“PTAB”) broad discretionary denial authority under 35 U.S.C. § 325(d), the standards for patent eligibility, and the USPTO’s recent implementation of an interim process for Director review following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Anthrex1.
Although it awaits to be seen what changes are ultimately enacted by Vidal, having a permanent Director in place to lead the USPTO should be a welcome sight by practitioners and stakeholders alike.