The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is unlikely to be as tech-friendly in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration as under his Democratic predecessor, agency-watchers say.
Concerns about user privacy, election interference, and allegedly anti-competitive practices have made Democrats more wary of Big Tech. The patent office will prioritize patent rights and innovation under Biden, attorneys said.
It’s not clear whom Biden will tap to lead the agency or whether current director Andrei Iancu will stay on until a successor is in place.
Biden has emphasized U.S. innovation and manufacturing, and protecting IP from international theft, without a focus on any specific industry, said Erika Arner, a former PTAB Bar Association president who has worked with patent office directors in Republican and Democratic administrations.
The agency is seen as likely to continue Iancu’s efforts to set new rules around Patent Trial and Appeal Board procedures. The tribunal gained a reputation during the Obama administration as favoring tech company challenges to patents.
Making changes to the patent law to clarify what inventions are eligible for patent protection likely will be a focus for the incoming administration as well. Critics say Supreme Court precedent on the issue has undermined companies’ ability to protect intellectual property related to diagnostic testing and other medical innovations, an important concern in the Covid-19 pandemic.