USPTO's Legal Experience and Advancement (LEAP) Program: Increasing Opportunities for Oral Advocacy for New Practitioners (RECORDING)

This webinar, which is free for IPO members, is co-hosted by IPO’s U.S. Post Grant Patent Office Practice and Next Generation Leaders Committees. U.S Post Grant Patent Office Practice Committee Co-Vice Chair TODD WALTERS (Buchanan Ingersoll) will moderate a discussion with PTAB Judge JANET GONGOLA and Acting Vice Chief Judge KALYAN DESHPANDE, who will provide an update on the results of the first months of the program. The panel will also include TIMOTHY TANG (Sterne Kessler), an outside counsel who has participated in the LEAP program, and Next Generation Leaders Committee Co-Chair KAVEH RASHIDI-YAZD (Siemens Energy Corp.), an in-house decision maker who will discuss the benefits of this type of professional development opportunity for corporate clients. 

The USPTO’s Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) was launched in May to “foster a strong and vital patent system” by providing opportunities for newer advocates to gain oral advocacy experience before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. To qualify as a LEAP practitioner, a patent agent or attorney must have: 

three or fewer substantive oral arguments in any federal tribunal, including the PTAB, and  

seven or fewer years of experience as a licensed attorney or agent. 

Parties that participate in the LEAP program are granted up to 15 additional minutes of argument time, depending on the length of the proceeding and the PTAB hearing schedule. The USPTO offers free training for LEAP practitioners via webinar in advance of the hearing. 

A LEAP practitioner may conduct the entire oral argument or may share time with other counsel, provided that the LEAP practitioner is offered a meaningful and substantive opportunity to argue. The PTAB will permit more experienced counsel to assist a LEAP practitioner, if necessary, during oral argument, and to clarify any statements on the record before the conclusion of the oral argument. The PTAB encourages LEAP practitioners to participate in other aspects of PTAB proceedings, including conference calls, pre-hearing conferences, and depositions. 

Todd Walters

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC

is the Chair of the firm’s Patent Office Litigation practice and Co-Chair of the Intellectual Property section. He is a current Vice-Chair of the Post-Grant Practice Committee of the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), a past Chair of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Trial Committee of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) and a past Chair of the USPTO Post Grant and Inter Partes Practice Committee of the American Bar Association-Intellectual Property Law (ABA-IPL) section. Todd was named the Best Lawyers ® 2020 Patent Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Washington, D.C. 

Janet Gongola


is Vice Chief Judge for Engagement at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. She manages internal and external engagement on behalf of the PTAB, including development of educational programs and PTAB procedures and rules. She was appointed to the PTAB in October 2016. Before joining the Board, Judge Gongola was the Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary and Director of the USPTO where she advised on all matters of law and policy.  Judge Gongola also served as the Patent Reform Coordinator and managed the agency’s implementation of the America Invents Act. She likewise was the Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy and developed patent policy for the agency. Judge Gongola started her USPTO career as an Associate Solicitor providing legal advice to agency officials and defending decisions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and district courts. 

Kalyan Deshpande


is Acting Vice Chief Judge at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. He joined the USPTO in 2011 as a patent attorney, following which he became an administrative patent judge and then Lead Administrative Patent Judge. He received a J.D. degree from The Ohio State University, Michael Moritz College of Law and a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the Case Western Reserve University. Judge Deshpande, subsequent to his graduation from college, worked for Accenture. During and after law school, he worked at the early-stage food services company Viands Concerted, LLC.

Kaveh Rashidi-Yazd

Siemens Energy, Inc.

is Head of the U.S. IP Department for Siemens Energy, Inc.  Beyond this leadership role, he has global contributor roles as he is also the Division IP Counsel for the Industrial Application division and the Lead IP Counsel for the Service, Controls and Digitalization business unit.  In his career, he has counseled on all aspects of IP, including for example strategy, protection, defense, exploitation, and transactional activities.  Before going in-house, Kaveh was a senior associate in the IP practice group of Troutman Sanders, LLP (n/k/a Troutman Pepper).  Kaveh earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of South Carolina, and his Juris Doctorate from the Franklin Pierce Law Center (n/k/a University of New Hampshire School of Law).  Within IPO, he is currently Co-Chair of the Next Generation Leaders Committee and was Chair of the U.S. Patent Office Practice Committee from 2014-2019.

Timothy Tang

Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox, PLLC

is an associate in Sterne Kessler’s Electronics Practice Group. His practice focuses on patent prosecution before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and patent office litigation at the USPTO Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Tim’s experience covers a broad variety of technical fields, including wired and wireless communications, communications theory, digital signal processing, data compression, database management, computer-networking, business methods, consumer electronics, computer-based applications, and Internet applications.


USPTO's Legal Experience and Advancement (LEAP) Program: Increasing Opportunities for Oral Advocacy for New Practitioners
Open to view video.
Open to view video.