January 17 marks the first day in the tenure of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO’s) new Commissioner for Patents, Vaishali Udupa. Udupa, whose appointment was announced in December, comes to the USPTO after serving the last seven years as the head of litigation for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where she was responsible for heading HPE’s intellectual property litigation and formulating case strategies. She replaces Acting Commissioner for Patents Andrew Faile, who served in that role since January 2021 and who will be retiring from the agency after 33 years upon Udupa’s installation as commissioner. Well-known within the patent community as an advocate for diversity and representation issues, Udupa joins the USPTO as a relative outsider. She comes in as the first full Commissioner for Patents since the retirement of Drew Hirshfeld, who served with the agency for two decades before he was first appointed to Commissioner in 2015. Those familiar with recent Patent Office history will recall that Commissioners immediately preceding Hirshfeld included Bob Stoll, Peggy Focarino, John Doll and Nick Godici. Stoll, Focarino, Doll and Godici each served in various capacities at the Office, including in high-level policy and regulatory positions, for more than a generation prior to becoming Commissioner.
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