After laying vacant for three months, the position of Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) may finally be filled. On August 25, President Trump nominated Andrei Iancu to be the next Director of the USPTO.
Iancu is the managing partner at Irell & Manella, LLP, an intellectual law property firm based in Los Angeles. Over the years, Iancu has represented industry giants such as TiVo and eBay in high profile patent cases.
Iancu’s Previous Cases
Mostly known for his patent work, Iancu has represented various clients in the technological field. From internet communications and video game systems to genetic testing and medical devices, the UCLA alum has practiced it all.
In 2010, Iancu’s firm represented St. Jude Medical in a successful patent infringement case. St. Jude alleged Access Closure, Inc infringed on St. Jude’s vascular closure device patents. The jury awarded St. Jude $27.1 million in damages. Iancu also represented St. Jude on the other side of the coin regarding the vascular closure device patents. This time, Grayzel, a doctor, sued St. Jude for infringement in what would be a heated action. But Grayzel’s claims were dismissed and Iancu claimed another victory for St. Jude.
Perhaps what Iancu is most known for is his representation of TiVo in multiple lawsuits that culminated in more than $1.6 billion in settlements for TiVo. Iancu went to bat for TiVo, defending the company’s DVR technology against other intimidatingly big companies. The powerhouse foes included Motorola, Cisco, Verizon, AT&T, EchoStar, and Microsoft.
The potential future head of the USPTO also represented eBay and Skype in separate cases against Net2Phone and Peer Communication. Both were patent infringement suits involving an internet communication known as VoIP or voice over internet protocol. VoIP is a software and hardware system that converts telephone audio into digital information to be transferred over the internet. Iancu experienced success each time: the case against Net2Phone was settled successfully and the case against Peer Communications was dismissed in favor of eBay and Skype.
Iancu’s Firm Once Represented President Trump
But it is Iancu’s firm’s previous representation of President Trump that may garner the most attention from the American public. Irell & Manella defended NBC, Donald Trump, and Mark Burnett against Mark Bethea in a copyright infringement action. Bethea claimed he had come up with the idea for the TV show “The Apprentice” as he had created an earlier show called “CEO” that was supposed to star Trump. Bethea claimed his idea for the reality-TV show “CEO” was almost the same as “The Apprentice.” In “CEO,” contestants would compete in a similar corporate business setting to win the position of CEO of a real corporation.
According to Bethea, he pitched the idea for the TV show to Conrad Riggs, one of the executive producers of “The Apprentice.” After allegedly rejecting the idea, Riggs and co-executive producer Mark Burnett launched “The Apprentice” two years after Bethea’s presentation. Trump was deposed during discovery and the court eventually granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, including Trump.
However, there is no evidence that Iancu personally participated in the matter against Trump.
Poised for Success?
Trump’s nomination of Iancu was received by the Senate on September 5, 2017. If approved, Iancu’s official position will be Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Iancu boasts an impressive academic career as well. He received a BS in aerospace engineering and a MS in mechanical engineering from UCLA. He later earned his JD from the UCLA School of Law. Not quite able to leave UCLA, Iancu also teaches patent law at the UCLA School of Law.
If confirmed, Iancu would be filling the vacancy left by Michelle Lee, who resigned in June. Lee was nominated by former President Barack Obama and took office in March 2015. The first female Director of the USPTO was popular during her tenure. When Lee’s present and future as Director was in question after Trump took office, Google, Facebook, and Amazon wrote a letter to Trump urging the President to allow Lee to stay on as director. But that was not to be when Lee decided to resign.
Now the intellectual property world awaits the new director of the USPTO and hopes it will bring good fortune.