Special Feature: Get to Know IPLAC Agent Committee Chair Ritu Chander

Ritu Chander is a patent agent for Helix Patent Services, an IPLAC Board member, and Chair of the IPLAC Agents Committee. Patent agents are an integral part of the patent world, and as such, their involvement with IPLAC is integral to IPLAC’s goal of enhancing the field of Intellectual Property law. As chair of the IPLAC Agents Committee, Ritu is at the helm in the mission to bring agents and lawyers together for their mutual benefit.

For the uninitiated, Ritu defines a patent agent as “a non-lawyer with a technical background, admitted to the federal patent bar and thus entitled to practice patent prosecution.” Ritu, for example, has a background in genetics, a Masters in cellular and molecular biology, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Ritu was introduced to IPLAC when it first opened to agents and paralegals, and soon became a Co-Chair of what was then a committee for both agents and paralegals. As Co-Chair, she championed efforts for IPLAC to accommodate the needs of agents, and eventually, for the creation of their own committee. Ritu also helps to recruit agents into becoming IPLAC members. Ritu told us, “We want to ensure that the next generation of IP professionals have a community on which they can rely for support and continued education.”

Ritu has her sights set high for the future of the Agents Committee, looking to expand the resources available to agent members to match those available to attorney members. Her goals for the future include developing a structured mentorship program, pro bono opportunities, and expanded networking opportunities for agents.

To any aspiring patent agents out there, Ritu has this message: “We would love to receive you as a pre-patent agent member! We have opportunities for you to really sink your teeth into what the career looks like by a lot of our programming. The New Members Committee warmly welcomes agents into the community as well. I think IPLAC offers amazing career opportunities in terms of networking, resume building, and presentations.” Ritu is proud that events hosted by the Agents Committee have a mix of attendees including students and attorneys, in addition to patent agents, all of whom tend to reach out across the aisle to meet and mingle with one another.

Ritu seems to show no sign of slowing down and credits her Vice-Chair Natasha Sansone for helping her to push the Agents Committee toward reaching its potential. Agents events are drawing in more attendees than ever, despite the recent shift to virtual events, and the growth of agent-members is inevitable. Ritu also credits the IPLAC leadership for including agents in all levels of the association.

If the Agents Committee interests you, keep your eye open for their fall webinar (co-hosted with the Patent Committee) on the recent emphasis and guidance from the Patent Office on prophetic examples.

Special Feature: Get to Know IPLAC Field Day Committee Chair Evan Kline-Wedeen

Evan Kline-Wedeen is a patent attorney for Fitch, Even, Tabin & Flannery, and chairs IPLAC’s Field Day Committee.  In this role, Evan plans the golf tournament and other associated side events for IPLAC’s annual Field Day event.

But this year’s Field Day was unlike any other:  Evan had the responsibility (and pressure) of organizing IPLAC’s first major in-person event in over a year.  And it was a smashing success!  

Evan joined IPLAC as a student at Chicago-Kent, drawn to what IPLAC could offer to younger attorneys in terms of networking, events, and helpful resources.  Evan told us, “Everyone I talked to in IPLAC was always willing to offer their help.  It’s a very welcoming organization.” 

Evan has always been a passionate golfer.  He started playing at age ten and he played on his high school team, so the IPLAC Field Day caught his attention early.  He attended his first Field Day shortly after graduating law school, and the next thing he knew, he was asked to chair the committee to organize the next one. 

“The event has been going on for years, but in 2019 when I was Co-Chair with Brian Verbus, we decided to spearhead a new initiative to make the Field Day more accessible to members who aren’t golfers.  We decided to add what we call the ‘Field Games,’ which are non-golf yard-game alternatives like bags, Kan Jam, and ladder ball.” 

Evan also emphasized the inclusiveness of the event.  “The goal of the Field Games is to get everyone out there.  We want to include everyone—even those who have zero experience with golf.  Beyond golf, we have a great dinner afterwards and our reception, where we have an awards ceremony for everyone to participate in.  Field Day is less about the golfing, and more about going outside with your fellow IPLAC members and friends and having a nice day out of the office.” 

That said, Evan also strives to ensure that less experienced golfers feel welcome to play if they’re so inclined.  As he explained, “even if you are not an experienced golfer, you can certainly still enjoy the golf portion of the event.  It’s very informal.  It’s a scramble-format, which takes the intimidation out of the game.” 

If you missed this year’s Field Day, stay tuned for information on next year’s event, which Evan promises will be bigger and better than ever!

Special Feature: Get to Know IPLAC Chief DE&I Officer Atanu Das

Atanu Das founded the Diversity Equity & Inclusion (“DE&I”) Committee and, until last month, served as the Committee’s Chair.  He is now the Chief DE&I Officer, which is a new position within the IPLAC Board.  Atanu is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence and Law Professor at Loyola University School of Law, where he teaches several Intellectual Property Law courses and a course in Cyberlaw.  He has published law review articles on the intersection of Constitutional Law and Cyberlaw, and he is currently a practicing patent attorney at Guntin & Gust, specializing in patent prosecution and patent counseling.

Atanu’s membership with IPLAC goes back 15 years, to when he was drawn to the law association by the practical CLE incentives.  However, he has become much more involved in the last five years, as a result of noticing that there was a vacuum in terms of DE&I work in the IP world.  According to Atanu, “IPLAC has a rich history of being a very forward-thinking bar association and at the cutting edge.  A lot of leaders in the IP community were a part of IPLAC.  So, I thought IPLAC would be the best vehicle for pursuing broad DE&I changes.”  Learn more about Atanu’s journey to his current IPLAC role here.

A year ago, Atanu was looking for an avenue to not only pursue diversity education among our Members – which was the primary objective at the time – but to focus more on addressing systemic change within the IP community.  “I felt we needed a different type of role, and that’s why I approached the board a few months ago to create the Chief DE&I Officer board position.  Internally, I look at how IPLAC is addressing DE&I.  Externally, I look at how I can lead conversations with law firms, companies, and law schools to help promote DE&I issues in the IP community at large.  We try to create a coalition of law firms and client companies to foster systematic change in that area.  I think people are aware of what these issues are, but they don’t always understand how to address them.”  In his new role, Atanu works with IP leaders who would like to bridge that gap.

While there are several issues which compound into larger systemic problems, perhaps the easiest to wrap one’s head around is the “IP Pipeline”: “To take the Patent Bar, you need a STEM background.  As we know, historically in this country, this is an area that is pursued in a much lower proportional rate by women and certain groups of people of color.”  Atanu has tried to tackle this issue by working with undergraduate engineering groups, like the Society of Women Engineers, to encourage members to pursue careers in patent law or to become a patent agent.  But there are other ways to get around this issue: “If you want to increase people of color in patent law, you can recruit from historically black colleges and universities.  And you could recruit trademark and copyright attorneys who don’t need a scientific background.”

If you are looking to attend DE&I Committee events, keep an eye out for their regular book and film discussions every few months, as well as their CLE programming.

Special Feature: Get to Know IPLAC Get to Know IPLAC Corporate Committee Chair Kara DeAngelis

Kara DeAngelis is the Chair of the Corporate Committee and works on the data privacy side of the Commercial, Privacy, and Technology team at McDonald’s Corporation. Throughout her legal career, Kara has always worked as an in-house attorney. Straight out of law school, she focused on financial services and banking law before transitioning to privacy, which she found to be rewarding, challenging, and exciting.

Kara joined IPLAC shortly after law school, although she had heard of the organization while at Chicago-Kent College of Law. She was not sure she was a good fit then, because she lacked a hard science background. It was not until some friends brought her to her first IPLAC event (the famous Rosé Tasting) where she learned the truth: IPLAC’s reach extended far beyond patents, into IP-adjacent practices in her field like Privacy Law. “Privacy definitely fits into the realm of IP, and IPLAC has been trying to engage with and capture that audience. Privacy, cybersecurity, data governance, and technology, in practice, have lots of IP components, even if they do not fall directly under one of the classic IP fields.” 

Shortly after becoming a regular Member, Kara was asked to join the Corporate Committee, for which she now serves as the Chair. Beyond organizing the committee’s events, Kara tries to debunk IPLAC’s biggest misconception, which even she once believed: that IPLAC is only geared toward patent lawyers in law firms. “I really want to bridge the gap and let people know that IPLAC’s Corporate Committee is a great resource for all of those who are, or are thinking about becoming Corporate Counsel, regardless of your legal area of concentration. I would say that the main goal for the Corporate Committee is to encourage all of our in-house friends, colleagues, and connections to come join our events. We will continue to host panels where Corporate Counsel come together and discuss their day-to-day lives on a broad range of hot topics.”

But what about those of us who do not plan to work in-house? Kara believes you can benefit just as much from IPLAC Corporate Committee events. “The benefits go beyond networking. Even if you are working at a law firm, you are going to have clients. You want to get a sense of what they care about, what their issues are, and what is keeping them up at night. The more law firm attorneys and in-house attorneys can socialize and attend these events together, the more we learn from each other. It benefits everyone.” As such, Kara encourages everyone in the legal community to come to their events, whether they are in-house counsel or not.

If Corporate Committee sparks your interest, keep an eye out for the Committee’s upcoming panel, Thinking of Going In-House?, currently scheduled for September 23, 2021, at 12 PM Central.

Call to Action From the USPTO Pro Bono Program

The United States Patent & Trademark Office recently recognized over 100 patent practitioners for volunteering 50 or more hours on patent pro bono programs and over 25 law firms for their participation in 2020.  Each recognized practitioner and law firm received certificates signed by Acting Commissioner for Patents, Andrew Faile, and Depute General Counsel and Director for the Office of Enrollment and Discipline, Will Covey.

The 2020 honorees are listed on the USPTO website and include the following IPLAC members:  Rachel Ackerman, Joaquin Hernandez, Kenny Matuszewski, and Randy Micheletti.  Congrats to Rachel, Joaquin, Kenny, and Randy for their committed efforts to serve the community and further IPLAC’s mission.

More than ever, the USPTO needs your time and efforts in order to help financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses engaged in the innovation economy.  The best way to do so is to volunteer for the Patent Pro Bono Program.

The Patent Pro Bono Program gives IPLAC Members who are patent practitioners the unique opportunity to help under-resourced inventors and small businesses file and prosecute patent applications.  For example, IPLAC Members can serve Illinois inventors and innovators by working with the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub.  Learn more about the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub here.

If you are interested in volunteering for the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub or have any questions, please contact Roger Rozanski, Director of the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub, at [email protected], or Kenny Matuszewski, at [email protected].

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee Panel Highlights Progress and Opportunities

Read More

State of Section 101, Waiver of COVID-19 Vaccine IP Rights, and More Discussed with Panelists Andrei Iancu and Rob Sterne

Read More

Special Feature: Get to Know IPLAC Member Margaret Herrmann

Peggy is Counsel – Global Patents at The Kraft Heinz Company, joining the company from her previous role as an associate attorney for Irwin IP LLC. In her current position, Peggy oversees all agreement work for Research and Development globally, develops and executes intellectual property strategy for “Big Bet” projects, and cultivates invention harvesting from the R&D food scientists and engineers.

She, like many of us, joined IPLAC while she was a law school student, which introduced her to a community of colleagues beyond just her peers at Chicago-Kent. Recently, Peggy has found great satisfaction in IPLAC’s mentorship program.

Her mentor serves as a sounding board for questions and concerns about the profession, offering unbiased help to resolve any issues. Peggy received great advice on how to develop a personal brand/specialty and how to focus her efforts to reach career goals. Understanding the temptation to say “Yes!” to every opportunity, Peggy’s mentor offered an outside view of where her efforts were best spent and how to avoid over-commitment. Beyond these resources, she says “a mentor can be someone you enjoy talking to, a friend.”

Peggy has recently served on the Young Members Committee and faced a significant challenge to provide to new members a strong sense of community in the midst of a pandemic, without in-person events. To that end, Peggy is looking forward to upcoming events this year like her favorite, the IP symposium. Beyond (or together with) the professional aspects of IPLAC events, Peggy misses having fun with everyone, “you get some CLE, but can have a cocktail afterward and talk about non-lawyer things too!” Of course, the IPLAC community shares professional connections, but she emphasizes that we are more than just a registration number.