USPTO trial judges meet with law students who are interested in intellectual-property related careers

After more than three years of planning and postponement due to the pandemic, judges from the United States Patent and Trademark Office recently arrived at the University of Oregon for the first stop on the now-resumed Stadium Tour.

With the help of Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) judges, the Stadium Tour is designed to increase the public’s access to board proceedings that would otherwise only be available in Alexandria, Virginia.

The day before each board held its hearings, the group of judges traveled from Portland to meet with law students at the University of Oregon’s main campus in Eugene and Willamette University in Salem.

“We don’t get to come out to the law schools, but maybe once or twice a year, max,” said Judge Georgianna Braden, lead administrative patent judge with the PTAB. “So, the fact that we were able to come out here this year has just been incredible, and we are thrilled!”

Judge Braden said this event is called a “Stadium Tour” as a nod to stadiums being the largest venues for musical acts, and the tour is as close to being a rock star as it gets for a judge at the USPTO. She also had a very specific message that she wanted to share with every student she met on the trip:

“I want you to understand, this is not a cookie-cutter world. You don’t have to take the same pathway of going to this exact same school, clerking with this exact same judge going to this exact same large law firm doing this document review, and then becoming a partner in order to be able to get the job of your dreams.

“And I’m telling you, this is the job of my dreams. It is absolutely fantastic.”

The faculty were instrumental in coordinating and planning for the additional meet and greet with the students. Professors stressed the importance of opportunities where students can ask questions and interact with professionals as the students contemplate their future careers.

“It was nice to hear the judges talk about the pathways that they each took to get to the positions that they are in today,” said Kristie Gibson, assistant clinical professor and supervising attorney for the Business Law Clinic, University of Oregon. “I know a number of our students are very interested in intellectual property, but they’re not quite sure what the options are that are available and didn’t realize that working with the USPTO might be something that they could explore in the future.”

Students ranging from third-year law students to as young as a high school senior were just as enthusiastic about meeting the 11 board members and asking about various pathways of an intellectual property career.

“The judges visiting our campus makes us feel seen, and that kind of direct connection with them is incredibly inspirational and motivational for a lot of students who may not have even had an interest in intellectual property to begin with,” said Simmone Landau, president of the Law of IP Club, University of Oregon.

On Day 2 of the visit, the PTAB and TTAB held hearings at the University’s Portland campus. This included a question-and-answer panel with a mix of judges from both boards. The panel answered questions regarding how boards are conducted and what judges find most impactful when making their decisions.