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Directing IP in D.C.

August 30, 2023

Shira Perlmutter L'83, Register of Copyrights, and Kathi Vidal L'96, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office
Shira Perlmutter L’83, Register of Copyrights, and Kathi Vidal L’96, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Two of the most powerful IP regulators in the Capitol are Penn Carey Law alumnae.

The Summer 2023 issue of The Journal, the alumni magazine of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, explores how Shira Perlmutter L’83, Register of Copyrights, and Kathi Vidal L’96, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, are collaborating to untangle complex issues involving intellectual property in the technology age.

From The Journal:

Before taking her current post as the Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office, Shira Perlmutter L’8 served as Chief Policy Officer and Director of International Affairs at the USPTO. She was delighted, she said, to discover a fellow Penn Carey Law alumna had been named Director and immediately called to offer congratulations and help in any way. “We have been working closely and well together ever since,” Perlmutter said.

The two women have wasted no time joining forces, as several initiatives are underway between their two offices. “It’s perhaps the most collaborative relationship the two agencies have ever had, because the two of us take it very seriously,” Perlmutter said. Projects include a joint study on the IP implication of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) per the request of Congress and a coordination of responses to IP-related issues arising from artificial intelligence (AI). Controversial topics surrounding AI and copyright, Perlmutter said, include potential protection of works created by AI, the combination of human and AI authorship, and how to approach the combination of human authorship and AI. “It’s a big can of worms, and we’re going to try to unpack those worms over the next year,” Perlmutter said.

The USPTO is an extraordinary hub of activity. In fiscal year 2022, the office issued 361,435 patents and registered 453,588 trademarks, part of the total 12.6 million patents to date.

With such volume, the office has its share of challenges. Loophole-seekers attempt to cash in on statutes or behaviors that haven’t yet been addressed. Vidal said others have abused the system in trying to challenge patents after they have been issued for private gain, and that foreign companies will file fraudulent trademarks to the registry in an attempt to clog the system. “We work to keep the system clean,” Vidal said.

Intellectual property protection plays a vital role in national security and commerce. The shield of protection, Vidal said, gives patent-holders the power to decide where manufacturing takes place, and effectively, where jobs are created.

Read the full article in The Journal.