The first day of SuperConference 2013 kicked off with three keynote addresses from a trio of legal industry leaders. 

David Kappos, the former under secretary of commerce and former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), delivered the opening keynote address. Kappos, who currently is a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, discussed the America Invents Act (AIA)—the greatest regulatory reform of patent law in the history of the PTO—and what it means to companies of all sizes in an array of industries. 

The AIA, which was enacted in September 2011 and culminated this March, shifted the patent system from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system. The AIA aims to improve patent quality and timeliness, which Kappos says it has done so far and will continue to do. 

“It’s a huge change to our patent system,” Kappos said. “It puts the U.S. in a leadership position in terms of government agencies dealing with intellectual property. … We’re finally moving in the direction of being aligned globally with what is already a global commercial system.” 

Additionally, Kappos said, the AIA has reduced PTO fees. Pre-AIA fees for large entities averaged $3,300; post-AIA, the fees for large entities have dropped 23 percent to $2,560. And micro entities, including universities, now enjoy a 75 percent fee discount averaging $640. 

Other changes that have brought the U.S. patent system up to speed include the establishment of PTO satellite offices and new quick, cost-effective procedures to patent challenges, including inter partes review, post grant review and covered business method challenges. 

Gregory Gallopoulos, senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of General Dynamics, delivered the second keynote address, which was about how lawyers can balance their roles as employees and professionals. He explained that in-house counsel are chained to institutional interests as employees, but they must be objective and independent as professionals. 

“While [these roles] are always going to be in tension, I do not actually believe that they need to be mutually contradictory. They can be resolved,” Gallopoulos said. 

Gallopoulos said in-house counsel can maintain their professionalism by focusing on three sources of empowerment: stature, structure and security. These three concepts provide a foundation for independence and objectivity. Additionally, Gallopoulos said, it’s important for lawyers to empathize with their clients while stepping back to provide the best possible advice. 

The final keynote address came from J. Weili Cheng, senior vice president and deputy general counsel of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. During her address, Cheng discussed how her company and others can engage in globalization and implement risk-mitigation strategies to overcome legal challenges. Some of the top ways to do so include picking the right partners, focusing on relationships, maintaining communication and integrity, balancing global standards and local marketplace requirements, and planning for the worst-case scenario. 

Cheng emphasized that “having strong relationships can facilitate the resolution of legal issues,” and that it’s important for in-house lawyers to understand and respect the cultures they’re working with. 

Stay tuned for more live coverage from SuperConference.