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Kathi Vidal confirmed as USPTO director; will focus on pro-bono

Kathi Vidal, the USPTO's new director

The Winston & Strawn managing partner and litigator was confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote after more than a year with no director

Kathi Vidal was confirmed as USPTO director by the Senate last night, April 5, in a voice vote.

Now she has been confirmed, Vidal will likely focus on broadening pro-bono programmes at the USPTO, according to office sources.

One source said Vidal highlighted her desire to make this subject one of her priorities during pre-confirmation meetings at the office.

Such a focus would be in-keeping with her record as a private practice lawyer. Vidal was very involved with Winston & Strawn’s pro-bono efforts.

Vidal, a patent litigator and managing partner at Winston & Strawn in California, will come into her new role after more than a year with no nominated USPTO director.

Former director Andrei Iancu stepped down from the role in January 2021. Drew Hirshfeld, the USPTO’s patent commissioner, has been performing the duties and functions of the director since then, essentially serving as an acting director.

Some intellectual property stakeholders were jubilant at the announcement. The Innovation Alliance’s executive director Brian Pomper said: “As a leading patent attorney and intellectual property expert, Ms Vidal brings the kind of experience we need at the USPTO.

“We also believe she has the leadership qualities required to be a successful, even-handed USPTO director.”

Several counsel told Managing IP last year that while Vidal’s nomination was still a rumour, they were desperate to get a new director after such a long time without one.

“Even if someone landed the role who you didn’t agree with, at least you’d know where the office was going and could plan appropriately,” said a head of IP policy at an R&D company.

Vidal was confirmed by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, along with Leonard Stark for a judgeship at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in January. Stark was confirmed by the full Senate earlier this year.

Before that, the committee grilled the patent litigator on matters related to Section 101, standard essential patents, the Fintiv rule at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board and drug pricing.

Vidal was nominated by President Joe Biden on October 26 2021, 10 months after the last director left the role.

In the past, she has spoken to Managing IP about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the District Court for the Western District of Texas.

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