Guest post by Anjali Bhat and Sarina Deb

On Wednesday July 6th, eighteen girls from around the Bay Area (including the authors)  had the privilege of attending the ChIPs pilot shadow program in San Jose. Despite attending different high schools and having varied experiences with intellectual property (IP) and law, we shared both a curiosity for careers in the field and a desire to learn about the United States judicial system.

To start the day, we met at the San Jose courthouse and had a light breakfast. We then launched into a quick icebreaker, which allowed us to learn more about each other and our previous experiences with court, law, and IP. Next, we received an introduction to the federal court and jurisdiction throughout each level of the system. We were also given preview of the criminal law proceedings that we would view in Judge Koh’s courtroom. It was fascinating to witness firsthand the agenda of a federal judge, which quickly dispelled the common belief that trials are the primary proceeding in a court. As we observed Judge Koh’s morning, she handled a sentencing of a repeat defendant who had violated the terms of his probation, as well as various motions, including a motion for continuance.

After observing the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in the live proceedings, we visited another courtroom to hear from speakers with these various occupations. First, we listened to a public defense attorney describe her immense passion for advocating on behalf of disenfranchised members of society. We also heard from a federal prosecutor who told us about her experiences with private and public law, and discussed what goes on during periods of discovery, or the time during which investigations take place. Furthermore, we learned about courtroom security from both a U.S. Marshal and a K9 officer. During lunch, we delved into a Q&A session with Judge Koh. This discussion, filled with critical questions ranging from preventing racial profiling in prosecution to current issues surrounding segregated housing units (SHU) in prisons nationwide, served as a successful end to our law-focused portion of the day.

As we turned our focus towards intellectual property, we walked to the new United States Patent Trademark Office (USPTO) and took a tour of the facilities. Along the way, we learned about the difficult job of patent examiners, who are responsible for reviewing the thousands of patent applications that the USPTO receives on a daily basis. We also visited one of the office’s patent courtrooms, where cases dealing with appeals for patent rejection and invalidity take place. Following the tour, we listened to a presentation about the four types of intellectual property: patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets. We were eager to understand the importance of intellectual property in the success of major corporations, and how the uses and limitations of IP factor into our capitalist economy as a whole. We wrapped up our visit to the USPTO with a panel discussion led by Judge Christa Zado and two patent examiners, in which we learned about how most cases in patent court are determined by the fine details in the drafting of patent claims.

The ChIPs pilot shadow program ended on a sweet note at San Jose CREAM, where we enjoyed dessert and debriefed the day’s activities. Though just a day long, this program was a truly rewarding experience in which we gained knowledge of federal court systems, various careers in the justice system, and law surrounding intellectual property. Thanks to a team of outstanding female role models on the part of both the organizers and speakers, we were inspired by the ChIPs mission to advocate for female representation and motivated to pursue careers ourselves in these areas.