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New AIPLA chief will prioritise diversity and content access

Patrick Coyne, partner at Finnegan, becomes AIPLA’s new president at the organisation’s annual meeting in National Harbor this week

Patrick Coyne, a partner at Finnegan in Washington DC, will become the newest president of the American Intellectual Property Law Association this week during the organisation’s annual meeting in National Harbor, 20 minutes from Washington DC.

In an interview with Managing IP, Coyne says he’s delighted to have been elected as AIPLA’s new leader.

“I’ve been actively engaged with the association for decades and I’ve chaired a number of committees and have a lot of very good friends here,” he says. “AIPLA gets you engaged in IP at a level that you wouldn’t normally in private practice, and I’m delighted to be a part of it.”

Coyne adds that he has four priorities for his tenure as president: diversity, content sharing, international contact and advocacy – and, of course, dealing with the effects of the COVID pandemic.

“There’s a big question about how we reengage with our members and come out of this in a way that allows everyone to feel comfortable and willing to get involved again,” he says.

“As a bar association, much of our work is based on personal relationships and networking through face-to-face contact. To help achieve that, we need contact with our members.”

Diversity demands

Coyne adds that after things return to some form of pre-COVID normality, diversity is his biggest priority.

“When I started in IP, most people in the profession were white and male – there were very few women or minorities, and almost no female minorities.

“That’s changed a lot and got a lot better, which is really good because it’s not a good thing for a society to have so little diversity – but more work needs to be done. If nothing else, for IP litigators in the US, we try cases to juries – and to be persuasive we need to be able to relate to people.”

He adds that AIPLA already has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion and that part of his goal is to maintain and grow that effort. He notes that a lot of the organisation’s law firm and corporate members are extremely committed to improving diversity and inclusion in their businesses.

Coyne says a lot of women are coming into the profession but that progress still needs to be made, especially when it comes to minority candidates.

“It’s better than it was, but we still have gross underrepresentation of minorities, and it’s got a long way to go. We need to do better in attracting and retaining people who aren’t coming into the profession.”

Document access

Next on the agenda is giving members better access to content AIPLA has produced and collected over the years.

Coyne points out that the organisation has a huge amount of material, including 20 to 30 substantive CLE programmes.

“All of that content is available to our members, but what we’ve noticed since COVID is that people now need to be able to access that content in different ways than they had historically – it can’t just be the case of calling up headquarters or coming to a meeting anymore,” he says.

“We need to better manage that content and figure out ways to get it to our members more effectively.”

He adds that in the short term, he plans to work out what information is most important to AIPLA people and start packaging it in a way that makes it more readily accessible – which could include creating more podcasts or getting more information published in scientific journals.

Advocacy and international outlook

Coyne also wants to focus on AIPLA’s international outlook in his time as president.

“It is the ‘American’ and not ‘international’ IP law association, but we have a substantial number of international members that have joined us as associate members.

“We’ve also been very engaged in harmonisation efforts and cooperation with different groups, including the Korean IP Lawyers Association and the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys in the UK,” he adds.

Since COVID, he says, AIPLA hasn’t been able to maintain that same level of contact with these associations, and it’s very important for the organisation to renew those connections and keep them alive and raring.

“We’ve been able to do webinars and Zoom conferences and things like that, but it’s not quite the same,” he says.

Coyne also wants to reinvigorate advocacy efforts internationally and domestically, particularly with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

He points out that patent lawyers only have one appeals court in the US, which makes it very important to file amicus briefs and promote good IP-related ideas there.

“People say the law is made in the Supreme Court – you’ve got to be kidding. They take 80 cases a year. The Court of Appeals issues thousands of decisions a year and try to set good legal standards.

“We try and be very active and engaged in the Federal Circuit for that reason.”

Clearly, Coyne has a lot planned for AIPLA over the next year. With a little luck and hard work, and barring another pandemic, he has a good chance of pulling it off.

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