Biden Names Winston & Strawn’s Vidal For USPTO DirectorOctober 26, 2021

President Biden announced today that he is nominating Kathi Vidal of Winston & Strawn as the new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director.  Vidal is a patent litigator and managing partner of the Silicon Valley office of Winston & Strawn, where she has been since 2017.  Prior to that, she was with Fish & Richardson for 20 years, serving as Global Head of Litigation, and also sat on the firm’s Management Committee.  As another attorney from private practice as a USPTO director, this follows President Trump’s appointment of Andrei Iancu, a litigator from the firm of Irell & Manella.  Iancu was responsible for several important initiatives at the USPTO dealing with the PTAB and matters of case law on patent eligibility.  Iancu promulgated the 101 patent eligibility guidelines at the USPTO to effectively narrow the impact of recent case law on Section 101.  Perhaps the appointment of another private practice litigator will continue this important trend.

The appointment would also be consistent with Biden Administration’s consistent practices for gender diversity.  Vidal has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering and has worked in systems and software design engineering with General Electric.

Perhaps the most telling of her views, Retired Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel recently mentioned her as someone who would be “ideal” for the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  Given Judge Michel’s outspoken advocacy for the reversal of case law under Section 101, one may opine that perhaps Vidal has similar views.  Vidal has been active in advocating for women and diversity in the IP professions as a Board member of ChIPs, a non-profit advancing women at the intersection of law, technology, and regulatory policy.

Under the current negotiations with Biden’s domestic agenda, it seems that confirmation will take months, likely until after the new year.  In the meantime, Commissioner for Patents, Drew Hirshfeld, continues to lead the Office.

Heidi S. Nebel is Managing Partner and Chair of the Biotechnology and Chemical Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit

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