When I recently got the chance to attend the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) 2018 Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, as a representative for NYSSTLC, I did not know what to expect. Well, what I got was a great opportunity to meet and talk with many experts in intellectual property and tech transfer. Starting off strong, the first evening featured a Fireside Chat with Joseph Allen, a staff member to former Senator Birch Bayh, who spoke of the early days of tech transfer and the interesting history of the Bayh-Dole Act. The Fireside Chat also featured Dr. Walter Copan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director, who discussed the new efforts to better streamline the federal tech transfer process, though interestingly there was some trepidation from the crowd due to Dr. Copan’s focus on the tech transfer process meeting business goals and timelines. The morning of the first full day featured a Keynote Address by the AUTM President, Mary Albertson, who unveiled AUTM’s new logo, and an entrepreneur, Dean Kamen, who spoke of the future and the need to protect and support young innovators.
In addition to the speakers and addresses given, everyday featured a number of educational sessions throughout the day. While the sessions varied in topic from licensing practices and administrative operations to industry partnerships and startup funding, I kept mostly to the sessions based on IP trends and successful practices. The IP sessions were fascinating, not only because most of the attendees and speakers were lawyers (most of these sessions counted for CLE credit), but because, though slightly different in focus from practicing before the PTAB to cost options for patent enforcement, they all addressed the recent issue for universities of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is based in the 11th Amendment to the Constitution and it allows public universities, as they are state entities, to avoid inter parte review (IPR) proceedings before PTAB as long as they do not waive sovereign immunity by filing or consenting to a lawsuit in federal court. Recently, the Universities of Florida and Maryland succeeded in dismissing IPRs based on sovereign immunity, but the issue is that these rulings are very recent and there are questions as to whether private companies can assign their patents to public universities in order to escape the threat of IPRs. However, the speakers at the session did stress that public universities must still be vigilant because traditional challenges to patents remain on the table.
While I attended many sessions and learned a lot, my other function was to represent NYSSTLC and get the word out about the center. The center had a booth in the exhibitor hall, where there was a variety of groups featuring various services from different IP search engines to paint landscape services. I got to speak to many people at the NYSSTLC booth, in between sessions, who were interested in what the center did. In addition to the people I met at the booth, there were many other great networking opportunities throughout the AUTM Meeting. All in all, I had a great time at the AUTM Meeting, I met many people and learned a great deal.