Andrei Iancu Plenary Session SM18


Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, attended the AIPLA 2018 Spring Meeting and gave the audience insight into himself and his goals. Lisa Jorgenson, AIPLA Executive Director, asked the director several questions during the fireside chat, beginning by asking him why he joined the government. “Well, it wasn’t for the love of government travel,” he joked. 

 “We need a change in the dialogue surrounding patents. We need to focus on the brilliance of inventors,” said Iancu when asked about his objectives for the agency. He also mentioned being very focused on 35 USC § 101 issues, and on improving the predictability of the American patent system. 

These issues are a focus for the agency, and have been for a long time. When asked if anything about the USPTO surprised him upon beginning as Director, Iancu remarked that “the biggest surprise was not being surprised,” because all of the challenges that those in private practice talk about are consistently being tackled by USPTO employees.

He knows the agency is being looked to for answers, especially since US patent system has dropped from first to twelfth in the chamber of Commerce’s yearly rankings of patent systems around the world. 

But one thing we have to keep in mind, Iancu said, “is that the difference between 12 and first is half of one percentage point. We are still one of the premier patent systems in the world.” Iancu credits the drop in our ranking on uncertainty in patent rights and issues with 35 USC § 101. “We have a filter for patents that are not novel. We have a filter for patents that are obvious.” The questions is, he said, is if we need to alter the § 101 filter.

Beyond the aforementioned priorities is getting the agency’s fee-setting authority extended. But Congress, as Iancu is quickly learning, may have different expectations in mind. When asked about how his first time testifying in Congress went, Iancu remarked that “it was a novel experience” before noting, “one senator wanted us to fix everything in 90 days!”