July 20, 2021
Yesterday the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of Chicago-based patent litigator Tiffany P. Cunningham to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in a bipartisan 63 to 33 vote. Notably, Ms. Cunningham makes history as the first Black judge to sit on the Federal Circuit bench. She will be filling the seat of Judge Evan J. Wallach, who took senior status at the end of June. In doing so, the 12 active Federal Circuit judgeships will now be split evenly between men and women for the first time.
President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Cunningham on March 30 and sent her nomination for the Federal Circuit seat to the Senate on April 19. On May 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Cunningham during a brief nomination hearing. During the hearing, Sen. Cory Booker reflected on the historic nature of Cunningham’s nomination, concluding “[W]e have to mark these moments where we are making extraordinary progress—the witness before us today is an extraordinary human being, by any measure.”
Cunningham, currently a partner at the Chicago office of Perkins Coie, is a native of Detroit. She earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998 and graduated from Harvard Law School in 2001. During her nomination hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin asked Cunningham why she wanted to step away from her highly successful litigation practice to serve on the bench. She responded that “this is literally my dream job,” recalling how during her first days of clerking for Federal Circuit Judge Timothy Dyk in 2001, she noticed pictures of the judges on the walls—"a court that had fine, fine jurists,” but all were white and only two were women. "At that point in time,” Cunningham explained, “I kind of pinned my mental vision board that I hoped that one day, I could be a judge at that court. So I'm truly humbled to be sitting here before you today, and it's really a dream job that I’ve aspired to.”
Fitch Even congratulates Tiffany Cunningham and joins the chorus of IP professionals welcoming her appointment to the Federal Circuit. We are excited to witness this significant milestone and applaud the opportunity for her to bring her substantial experience and impressive scope of knowledge to the court.
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On September 1, in Belcher Pharmaceuticals v. Hospira the Federal Circuit affirmed the unenforceability of a patent on grounds the patentee engaged in inequitable conduct during prosecution before the USPTO. Read more