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The Senate is scheduled to vote Feb. 5 on the nomination of Andrei Iancu to lead the Patent and Trademark Office.
President Donald Trump tapped Iancu, former managing partner of Los Angeles-based Irell & Manella LLP, in August to succeed Michelle K. Lee, who resigned in June. Joseph Matal, a former PTO associate solicitor, is currently interim director. The Senate is likely to confirm Iancu.
Iancu told lawmakers at his Nov. 29 Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing he would work with the administration and Congress toward achieving a “balanced” intellectual property law framework. Iancu said issues related to patent eligibility and patent validity reviews would be his main focus, if confirmed.
Iancu would take the reins at the PTO as the Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality of the office’s patent validity review process in Oil States Energy Servs., LLC v. Greene’s Energy Grp., LLC.
The America Invents Act of 2011 created administrative patent validity reviews—such as inter partes review—conducted by the PTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board as alternatives to more costly district court litigation.
Some U.S. patent owners complain that PTO patent validity challenges, which require a lower burden of proof for invalidity and have different patent claim interpretation standards than the federal courts, have made it too easy for alleged infringers to knock out patents.
Lee, who came to the agency from Alphabet Inc.'s Google, was popular among Silicon Valley technology companies. However, patent owners and intellectual property attorneys see Iancu as an industry-neutral pick based on his broad litigation experience representing clients on both sides of patent fights.
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