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USPTO Lowers Hurdle for LEAP Participation

Bylined Articles
Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox

As we discussed in a previous newsletter, the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) is a tremendous success for the PTAB, practitioners, and clients alike. In a little over 18 months, less experienced advocates—those with three or fewer substantive oral arguments in a federal tribunal and seven or fewer years of experience as a licensed attorney or agent—completed over 83 LEAP arguments before PTAB judges. Our firm experienced this fantastic program first hand in ten arguments, with many more planned.

In what will be a celebrated change, the PTAB expanded LEAP eligibility on November 18, 2021 to remove the years of experience requirement. Now the only criteria for LEAP eligibility is whether the practitioner has completed three or fewer oral arguments in a federal tribunal. This change widely expands the program for attorneys and agents, especially those following non-standard career paths, possibly due to career transitions, family/personal leave, etc. LEAP utilization will certainly increase, thus furthering the PTAB’s goal of developing and training the next generation of practitioners.

As a reminder, LEAP provides up to 15 minutes of extra argument time during an oral hearing for the LEAP practitioner in a PTAB trial or ex parte appeal. This extra time is for the arguing party and can be allocated at counsel’s discretion, so long as the LEAP practitioner has a substantive role in the argument. LEAP also encourages multiple practitioners to argue separate issues, further creating argument opportunities for LEAP practitioners. If needed, a more senior practitioner can assist the LEAP practitioner during argument and/or clarify the record.


This article appeared in the November 2021 issue of PTAB Strategies and Insights. To view our past issues, as well as other firm newsletters, please click here.