AIPLA Advocacy Leads to USPTO Withdrawal of CLE for Patent Practitioners

Written February 3, 2023

On January 26th, 2023, the USPTO adopted the interim final rule, without change, that was published in the Federal Register on November 14, 2022. The final rule eliminates the provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations related to voluntary continuing legal education (CLE) certification and recognition for registered patent practitioners and individuals granted limited recognition to practice in patent matters before the USPTO. The USPTO’s decision is intended to reflect the agency’s focus on the most impactful ways to positively affect the issuance of robust and reliable patents. The USPTO encourages all those who practice before the Office to do what is necessary to maintain professional competency, noting that many reputable organizations, such as AIPLA, provide CLE related to practice before the USPTO and relevant case law, much of which is monitored and approved by state bars.

AIPLA’s advocacy on this issue stems back two years, with our first comment letter submitted in January 2021. AIPLA assembled a joint committee task force comprised of the Patent Agents Committee, Patent Law Committee, Patent Relations with the USPTO Committee, and the Corporate Practice Committee to ensure that the proposed rules did not disproportionately impact patent agents and other practitioners. In response to the Request for Comments on Proposed Continuing Legal Education Guidelines, AIPLA expressed concern that the proposed CLE guidelines may impose particular burdens on patent agents and other practitioners who are not otherwise required to meet state-related CLE requirements, particularly to solo practitioners, practitioners from small firms, and corporate practitioners who may opt not to self-certify due to potential financial burdens for CLE.