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News Posted on October 2, 2013

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit Chief Judge Rader, David Kappos, Former Director of U.S. Patent Office, Headline Patent Symposium

Fenwick West Lecture Series

UC Davis School of Law hosted the 2013 Fenwick & West Lecture Series in Technology, Entrepreneurship, Science, and Law (TESLaw) Symposium, "On the Frontier of the Future: Innovation and the Evolution of Patentable Subject Matter" on September 27.  Speakers included Chief Judge Randall Rader of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, David Kappos, former Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Michelle Lee, Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO, and prominent figures from academia, industry, and legal practice.

The symposium was the final event in the five-year TESLaw series, which arose out a partnership between UC Davis School of Law and Fenwick & West. Previous symposia in this series focused on patent reform, clean technologies, personalized medicine, and social networking. This year's symposium on patentable subject matter was organized by Professors Mario Biagioli and Peter Lee as well as Fenwick & West partners David Bell '97, Bob Hulse '00, and Bob Sachs.

In his lunch hour keynote address, Chief Judge Rader provided an overview of recent decades of patent law cases. He included personal reflections from his time as a student at George Washington University Law School during the 1970s, as counsel to members and committees of Congress during the 1980s, and as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit since 1990. He talked about how the patent system continues to evolve as science and technology present new patent eligibility questions and courts seek to provide clear guidelines for businesses.

"I don't think we've gotten it right yet," he said. "But at least we are fortunate to be in a system where we'll struggle with properly reflecting the science in our legal decisions, and we'll make commercial certitude a consideration in our legal determinations, which will also reflect the fairness and equity of our societal underpinnings.  I don't think there is going to be a quick answer, but I am hopeful that maybe the best consequence of all this is that it is drawing more people into the discussion, and with more attention I think they'll come to realize that the patent system plays a great role in our economy and our future."

In his opening keynote, David Kappos, now a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, talked about how the United States' strong patent system has played an integral role in fostering innovation throughout the nation's history.  Likening the patent system to a "national investment system" in which consumers pay more for innovative products in the short run in order to receive the benefits of increased investment in innovation over the long term, he urged caution in addressing potential changes.

"As we consider more change, more tinkering, more risk with that system, we should be very careful about what we do, cherishing the amount of success we've had with the current system," said Kappos.

The symposium also included introductory remarks from Associate Dean Vikram Amar and Bob Hulse, as well as a morning panel discussion of "Patent Eligibility in the Life Sciences" moderated by Professor Peter Lee and an afternoon panel on "Patent Eligibility in Software and Business Methods" moderated by Bob Sachs.

"On the Frontier of the Future: Innovation and the Evolution of Patentable Subject Matter"