How has the past year at Cooley felt from a professional standpoint?
It has been an amazing year. I had heard from colleagues that Cooley was a collaborative and entrepreneurial environment where working together and thinking creatively was encouraged.
I had heard Cooley’s working environment described as one where the teams made no distinction between partners, associates, patent agents, and staff, and Cooley had repeatedly been recognised as one of the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work. But the thought of making a move was daunting.
I left a 14-year professional relationship with Morrison & Foerster behind, and now, looking back a year a later, I can say that Cooley has exceeded all my expectations.
My colleagues are caring and collaborative, and the work is challenging and exciting. Within a few months of joining, I was fully integrated, working with partners and practice groups from all over the firm.
Are you seeing a lot of exciting technology come through the door from start-ups?
I am fortunate to work in the life sciences sector, where all the technology that comes through the door is exciting. From miniature life-saving implantable devices, to personalised diagnostics and digital health, every week we see a new start-up with a vision to help people live longer or healthier lives.
Cooley has a phenomenal emerging company life sciences practice—it is second to none. It has top-notch lawyers to advise clients across all practice areas, from corporate and licensing to patent and trademark.
The clear synergy with my practice was another motivating factor for me to join Cooley, and I have enjoyed working with my colleagues as part of a complete client team
For start-ups in particular, how are the America Invents Act’s reforms proving today?
An early concern about the America Invents Act (AIA) was that it would disadvantage small start-ups and independent inventors. The theory was that because smaller companies had fewer resources, they might not be able to file as quickly as larger ones, and thus could potentially lose rights under a first-to-file regime.
I haven’t seen that concern play out in practice. In Silicon Valley, there is a widespread understanding that strong IP protection is a foundation of a company’s success.
Start-ups in the Valley are also fortunate to have incredible resources, such as incubators and mentors to help them identify and pursue key IP.
The aspect of the AIA that has affected start-ups most in my practice has been the ability to fast-track a patent application through prosecution. For a small fee, patent applicants can expedite prosecution and receive a final decision on patentability from the United States Patent & Trademark Office within 12 months.
This fast-track pathway has been key to start-ups with quick commercial timelines.
Where before a company might be on the market for several years before its patents were issued, now companies can expedite prosecution to better ensure coverage when they are commercial.
Are US patents easier to get than they once were?
I think the different sectors see different cycles. Some patents are easier to get now than others. However, diagnostics and digital health patents have been particularly challenging to get, as the current legal landscape on subject matter eligibility remains somewhat uncertain.
What is the investment view like in life sciences at the moment? Is the patent landscape stable enough to attract investors?
We had a very busy year helping both our venture clients and our company-side clients with respect to financings.
At any given time, we are working on a handful of financings, and it seems like interest in digital health and traditional biotech and pharmaceuticals remains strong.
Even companies that focus on diagnostics (where the patent landscape is somewhat uncertain) often have diverse enough patent portfolios to generate investment interest.