U.S. Patent Office Drops CLE Certification Program

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has just issued an interim final rule eliminating a proposal that would have allowed attorneys to earn continuing legal education credits by working pro bono on patent issues. Kathi Vidal, the director of the USPTO and undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property, said  that although pro bono patent work will not count towards continuing legal education credits, pro bono participation would continue to be an important aspect of the intellectual property industry in the U.S.“The USPTO has expanded our pro bono offerings and encourages all those who practice before the USPTO or who otherwise have the ability to contribute to play a role,” she said. “Active and expanded pro bono efforts are essential ways to ensure that those who can contribute to job creation, economic prosperity, and world problem-solving have access to the innovation ecosystem and have the ability to protect their intellectual property for their benefit and for the good of the country.”The agency said it had made the decision after considering the feedback it received when it first issued the proposal in 2020 for counting pro bono work toward continuing legal education.It added its rulemaking was an attempt to “positively affect the issuance of robots and reliable patents.” The agency said it would help to identify additional training opportunities for attorneys that practice before the agency, including providing additional training programs.

In April, the American Bar Association (ABA) announced it had changed its continuing legal education requirements after its Board of Directors removed strict requirements for diversity and inclusion programs. The ABA policy had required a minimum number of diverse presenters during some continuing legal education programming. That ruling came after a Florida Supreme Court decision in December 2021 to end the requirement.

This follows a series of changes since the pandemic in which states are adding to their CLE requirements at a pretty rapid pace. This year for the first time, California attorneys will need to take a course on Implicit Bias in the legal profession as part of their mandatory MCLE requirements.  And New York just instituted a requirement for all attorneys to complete a minimum of one credit of cybersecurity, privacy and data protection training as part of their continuing legal education requirements starting in 2023.

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