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D.C. Bar IP Community Honors Professor Victoria Phillips and Judge Pauline Newman

May 17, 2024

By Jeremy Conrad

Phillips IP award

The D.C. Bar Intellectual Property Community gathered at the Bar’s headquarters on May 14 to honor law professor Victoria Phillips with its annual Champion of Intellectual Property Award and Judge Pauline Newman with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for their outstanding accomplishments in the field of IP law.

Phillips is a professor at American University Washington College of Law, where she also serves as director of the school’s Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic and founded its Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property. Newman, a pioneer in the IP community, is the longest-serving judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, joining the court in 1984 following her appointment by President Ronald Reagan.

Advocate for Investing in Inventors

Introducing Phillips, fellow law professor Christine Haight Farley recalled her involvement in hiring Phillips in 2001 when IP clinics were not yet present at law schools. “At the time, it wasn’t clear to me that this venture would, in fact, be a success,” Farley said. “We were stuck between two very high sets of expectations. One was from the rest of our clinics at American University [that] are ranked number two in the country [according to U.S. News and World Report] and have very high standards for training students; [the second was from] our senior colleague, Professor Peter Jaszi, who himself is a former Champion of IP [and] has extremely high standards for IP work.”

Since its inception in 2001, American University’s Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic has racked up many accomplishments, including playing a vital role in the creation of a rule permitting student practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Farley credited the clinic’s success to Phillips’s skill and commitment.

“Even more than encouraging people to take part in leading economic growth, these efforts help small inventors, [telling] them that they are important. When people feel that they are important, they continue to invent and invest in their communities. When others in the community see the inventor being successful, they will think more highly of their communities and themselves,” Farley said, quoting a former law student participant of the clinic.

“This award is awesome, and it means so much to me,” Phillips said in accepting the award, acknowledging some of her IP clinic colleagues, mentors, and former students. “The IP clinics have provided service to more than 13,000 clients under the student practice rule. They’ve filed more than 6,000 trademark applications. They’ve filed more than 1,500 patent applications. Now, we’re sending these students into practice, and they want to do pro bono, and they want to get involved, and that’s what is happening.”

Phillips also credited the work of the Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts, where she currently serves as board member, and the clients served by the clinic. “We always say, you can’t make this up. You couldn’t script the people who come through our doors. They come out of the pages of an IP casebook … of a trademark casebook, a patent casebook … they are the text for our students. They are our casebooks, and it is amazing,” Phillips said.

Phillips also noted that the USPTO in the current administration is focused on inclusion in education and outreach. “Every year, clinic graduates are playing a role in inspiring this sea change across the wider legal community to help underrepresented communities tap the IP system and make their voice heard,” Phillips said.

A Pioneer in Patent Law

Following Phillips’s remarks, former D.C. Bar Intellectual Property Community chair Rae Fischer introduced Newman with tales of the judge’s adventures and accomplishments.

Judge NewmanAs a teenager, Newman learned to fly planes and drive motorcycles and race cars. “At 16 she volunteered to fly planes across the English Channel as a WAC pilot,” Fischer said.

Newman earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and philosophy from Vassar College in 1947, followed by a master’s degree in pure science from Columbia University in 1948 and a doctorate in chemistry from Yale in 1952. “At that time, it was unusual for women to work in the profession, and no chemical firm would have her except for American Cyanamid,” said Fischer, Judge Newman’s career law clerk.

“So, she went there, and as the sole female research scientist, her bosses tried to convince her that she should be their librarian. She said no,” Fisher recounted. Newman stayed at the firm for several years, securing two patents in the process.

After leaving the company, Newman traveled to Paris and stayed for six months working at a pub and as a chemistry tutor. On her return to the United States, she attended New York University School of Law and earned her juris doctor degree in 1958. Newman went on to work for UNESCO’s Department of Natural Sciences, the State Department Advisory Committee on International Intellectual Property, and the U.S. Delegation to the Diplomatic Conference on the Revision of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property as a special advisor.

In 1984 Newman became the first person appointed directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit following the merger of the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the appellate part of the U.S. Court of Claims.

Fischer went on to describe Newman’s lifelong commitment to service and the many circumstances in which the judge stepped up to take a critical role in advancing the profession. Departing clerks have an opportunity to speak with all of the judges on the Federal Circuit, “and Judge Newman unfailingly has one thing to say to them: It’s up to you. You have to stand up. You have to step up and take this forward,” Fischer said.

In her acceptance speech, Newman said she felt particularly honored by the award’s leadership aspect. “Judges are not supposed to be leaders. We’re supposed to draw on the past. We’re supposed to draw upon predictability, reliability in what we do, not on creative new directions. We’re not supposed to start new paths. That’s the role of leaders,” Newman said. “Whatever innovative steps I’ve taken in my lifetime, they were not intended to be revolutionary or dramatic. They were intended to right wrongs, to fix the things that needed fixing.”

“Whatever leadership traits I’ve had, I’ve tried to devote them to the pursuit of justice,” Newman continued. “Justice is a powerful human attribute, and the most demanding [one]. It’s not the exclusive provenance of the courts of law. It pervades everything we do. We’ve all heard children say, ‘It’s not fair.’ The field of intellectual property is pervaded with the principles of justice. That’s what underlies this body of law, as well as having rules for commerce and regulation.”

She noted that all nations have adopted intellectual property law, calling it evidence that the laws better the lives of everyone. Newman also touched upon the many new interesting aspects of IP law due to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, as well as recent advances in the life sciences.

“The development of wise and reliable law and practices needs the attention of all of us … the diligent attention, the leadership, to achieve justice in its grandest sense, and its essential sense,” Newman said.

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