Amin confirmed by Senate as IP enforcement coordinator


On Thursday, August 3, 2017, the United States Senate, through a deal brokered by leaders McConnell (R-KY) and Schumer (D-NY), voted out dozens of Trump nominees under a unanimous consent agreement. Under this procedure, there is no individual or “roll call” votes or floor debate on a nominee.

Of particular note for the intellectual property community, Vishal Amin was confirmed to be the IP enforcement coordinator at the White House and Peter Davidson was confirmed to be general counsel at the Commerce Department.

Amin had been a lawyer for Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) working on the AIA and then for Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) working on the Innovation Act. Therefore, Amin has been in the middle of IP legislation since President Obama took office in January 2009. Before that, he worked in the Bush White House and Commerce Department on patent reform and IP issues.  Amin generally favors the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and going after patent trolls. He has been strongly endorsed by the film, music and traditional copyright interests, which puts him at odds with the tech community on copyright, Internet freedom and even, perhaps, cybersecurity issues (think proposals from Hollywood to enable proactive hacking to stop circumvention of copyright protection measures). Because of his support for the PTAB and close association with the AIA and Innovation Act, the independent inventor community opposed Amin for this position, which is sometimes referred to as “the IP Czar.”

Davidson, a former lobbyist for Verizon, USWest and Qwest, was also general counsel for the US Trade Representative and head of policy for then House majority leader Dick Armey (R-TX).  Davidson also clerked on the 10th Circuit. Given the role Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross now plays on trade issues, and given the recent news of President Trump ratcheting up pressure on China for trade violations including patents, Davidson’s USTR background should keep him involved in this front-line issue.

One exception from this confirmation blitz was Noel Francisco, Trump’s nominee to be Solicitor General.  He was acting Solicitor General early on for Trump and then left that post when nominated, as required by Supreme Court precedent.  He is a former Jones Day partner, the same law firm as Don McGahn, who was the Trump campaign’s general counsel and is now White House Counsel. Perhaps noteworthy for the patent industry, Jones Day also represents SAS Institute in their lawsuit challenging whether the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) must issue a final written decision on all claims challenged, as is required by the statute. SAS Institute v. Matal will be argued against the USPTO at the Supreme Court during the October 2017 term.

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