Eighth Annual Patent Law and Policy Conference Features Judges, Leading Experts

December 19, 2016

As Michelle K. Lee — undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) — tells the story, when President Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office in 2009, he chose to display three patent models from the Smithsonian: Samuel Morse’s telegraph from 1849, John Peer’s gear cutter from 1874 and Henry Williams’s steamboat paddle wheel from 1877.

“The president said that throughout history, Americans solved their problems through innovation…,” said Lee, speaking at the Eighth Annual Patent Law and Policy Conference at Georgetown Law on December 1. “He wanted to be reminded of America’s ingenuity and innovation by having those models in the Oval Office with him when he was faced with challenges.”

And there’s no reason to think, she said, that intellectual property won’t also be a priority in the new presidential administration. “The bottom line is that whether you are in Washington, London, anywhere in between, or anywhere beyond, IP remains a key driver to economic growth and prosperity,” Lee said. “That is why I believe that the incoming administration…will have to focus on and continue to promote innovation through a strong and robust IP system.”

The two-day conference, hosted by Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy and the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, kept practitioners up to date on the latest in the field — including developments in case management, patent damages and more.

Keynote speaker Sharon Prost, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, described changes in the patent system and the Federal Circuit in the 15 years since she joined the court. (Prost and retired Federal Circuit Judge Arthur Gajarsa (L’67, H’12), will be teaching a course on Patent Appeals at the Federal Circuit in Spring 2017).

Other participants included Judge Rodney Gilstrap of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas and Judge Sue L. Robinson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

Georgetown Law Professor John R. Thomas led a discussion on recent patent decisions from the Supreme Court and Federal Circuit. Thomas and Alexandra Reeve Givens, executive director of Georgetown Law’s new Institute for Technology Law and Policy, hosted the event.

“For a number of years I was sitting in the audience at this conference,” said Givens, who recently came to Georgetown after spending five years as the chief counsel for intellectual property on the Senate Judiciary Committee and its chairman/ranking member, Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. (L’64). “It’s nice to now be on the other side of the podium, and still be part of this community.”