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2015 Annual Meeting President's Report

Denise F. DeFranco

It is with great humility that I take the reigns as President of AIPLA from my dear friend of more than 20 years, Sharon Israel.  Sharon has certainly left things in good order:  committees are vibrant, leadership is energetic, headquarters staff, under the direction of our Executive Director Lisa Jorgenson, operates like a well-oiled machine, membership is growing, and AIPLA has a voice, a seat at the policy table.  For that, I will be forever grateful. I look forward to building from Sharon’s successes in the coming year.
I have been a member of AIPLA for over 15 years, and my commitment to the Association has grown ever since.  My journey began probably much like yours: by regularly attending the Annual Meeting for the purpose of gaining the necessary Continuing Legal Education credits.   With each passing meeting, however, I became more and more involved. I signed up for committees of interest, actively participated in committee conference calls, and voted on committee policy statements.  Before long, I found myself leading the Amicus Committee and regularly appearing before AIPLA’s Board of Directors to help the Association decide whether to participate as amicus in high profile cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  My three-year term on the Board of Directors followed, and then I was placed “on the ladder” to become President. 
My point is that you, too, can become a leader in AIPLA, if you so desire.  Last year, as President-Elect, I had the privilege of appointing our newest round of committee leaders.  The task was daunting, given that the association has more than 50 standing committees, but the meritocracy of our association quickly revealed itself.  For each committee, the outgoing leadership simply identified those persons who were active and engaged in the work of the committee.  And voilà!  The outgoing leadership identified our newest leaders.
I suspect there are many of you thinking that committee leadership is not for you.  It doesn’t have to be.  But you might want to be involved nonetheless.  Why?  Because you can help steer the direction of the association, including the positions AIPLA takes on Capitol Hill and before the courts, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, and other government agencies, and with policy makers around the world. 
The positions taken by the Association come from the hard work of our committees, who regularly discuss, debate, and vet the issues before the matter is presented to the Board of Directors.  Each committee member has a voice.  Members can vote on issues or volunteer to participate in the drafting of AIPLA policy statements and letters.  In this way, every AIPLA member has the opportunity to shape IP policy. I encourage you to look at the list of AIPLA Committees and get involved in your area of expertise or in an area about which you would like to learn more. Our committees offer something for everyone.

As President, I decided to start and continue a couple of task forces and to create a new special committee.  In particular, in the midst of growing concerns in the law about what qualifies as patentable subject matter, I’ve reappointed our Patent Eligible Subject Matter Task Force, co-chaired by Marc Hubbard and Jerry Selinger.  Our recent membership survey demonstrates this issue to be among the most significant facing our members today.  This hard working group is charged with exploring alternative solutions to address patent eligibility concerns. 
In addition, I have appointed an Education Task Force to help our committees and headquarters staff work more efficiently and effectively to bring our members enhanced educational programming to better fit the needs of our diverse membership.  Among other things, this Task Force is focused on attending to the wishes of AIPLA members as expressed in response to our most recent member survey.
I have also created a Special Committee on Publications to enhance our publication offerings including our relationship with BNA Bloomberg, with a goal of making more print materials available to our members, including our members who hail from outside the United States, and to offer a vehicle for publication for our many members who are experts in their respective specialties.  This publications effort is sure to engage a broad range of our members, as I have asked the Committee to specifically coordinate with the New Lawyers and Law Student committees, whose members can provide assistance to book authors and gain valuable substantive experience in the process.  I look forward to reporting on these efforts throughout the year.
I am honored to join the ranks of the impressive AIPLA Presidents that have come before me.  I hope that during “my year,” each of you will be active and engaged members.  If there is anything I can do to help you get more out of your AIPLA membership, please let me know.  I want you to enjoy your AIPLA membership as much as I do!