Wayne Law alumna helps guide U.S. Patent agency


by Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

For Teresa Stanek Rea, acting undersecretary and acting director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va., it is a point of pride for a satellite office to have opened in Detroit.

“Being my alma mater, I am pleased that Wayne State University Law School was chosen to participate in the (intellectual property) practice area of patents,” Rea said. “The USPTO announces openings to admit schools into the pilot program, and schools are selected through an application process. Submitted applications are evaluated by a panel based on the identified requirements and criteria, including an explanation of how the school will implement and maintain a successful program. Wayne State applied for the program and did extremely well in the evaluation. It is a great pilot program and I am happy they are able to participate in it.”

Rea oversees the entire USPTO, an agency that encourages innovation and technological advancement, as well as helps businesses and inventors protect and promote their goods and investments. The Elijah J. McCoy satellite office in Detroit is part of the USPTO’s nationwide workforce and is critical in supporting its core mission of granting IP rights to applicants, according to Rea. The Detroit satellite office, which opened in July 2012, is a hub for innovation and creativity, she said. It provides opportunities to increase outreach, improve retention and recruitment of patent examiners, decrease the patent application backlog, and improve the quality of examination.

“I have been able to spend time at the satellite office in Detroit,” said Rea. “Since its opening, I have had the opportunity to visit the satellite office to see how things have progressed and to talk with the examiners, managers, and administrative patent judges about their experiences thus far. It is such a pleasure to me, a native of the Detroit area, to go home and see the great work that our folks are doing on the ground in Michigan.”

Rea is an alumnus of Grosse Pointe North High School. She earned her undergraduate degree in pharmacy from the University of Michigan and his juris doctorate from Wayne Law.

She has been a practicing attorney for 25 years. She lives in Alexandria with her husband and their three daughters.

“Early in high school, I really liked English. By late high school, I had taken chemistry and physics and decided I wanted to do some form of science. I was a hospital pharmacist for about a year and realized that my interest in English still appealed to me, so I decided to pursue a law degree – which had also always been in the back of my mind. The hospital I was working at provided tuition payment for law school, so I took advantage of that program,” recalled Rea.

“At that time, almost every law school catalog identified patent law as a possible career choice. I had one course that covered patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets – all four types of intellectual property. Once I got my first job I had no interest in doing anything other than patent law. My first job was corporate and since that time I have taken advantage of every opportunity that has come my way to learn new things.”

Before joining the USPTO in 2011, Rea was active in a variety of aspects of intellectual property law, which included working for an IP law firm in Virginia. She was a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Crowell & Moring, where she focused on IP and dispute resolution related to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and other life science issues. She served as the president of the American Intellectual Property Law Association from 2008-09 and was on the executive council of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

She also served on the Council for the American Bar Association’s Intellectual Property Section, the American Society of Pharmacy Law, the D.C. Bar Association, the National Inventors Hall of Fame Board (as the president and a board member), the State Bar of Michigan’s Intellectual Property Law Section, and the board of directors of the American Intellectual Property Law Education Fund.

“I was a frequent lecturer and publisher on patent topics including biotechnology, nanotechnology, licensing, technology transfer, patent practice, export control, reexamination, and interferences,” said Rea. “I think this will always be my most fun job. It has exceeded my expectations. The job is far bigger, more challenging, and much more important than what I had imagined. Domestically, it has been fascinating to better understand and positively impact how the USPTO operates both as an agency and within the overall administration. Internationally, it has been exciting to witness the respect that the USPTO receives – we are a big player on the international scene and now that we have moved to the first-inventor-to-file system with the America Invents Act, we are hoping that other countries will also modify their substantive patent laws to more closely align them to what we consider to be our best practices.”