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May 2021

Colleen Chien

Colleen Chien

Santa Clara Law Prof. Colleen Chien Named Senior Counselor to U.S. Commerce Department

SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 17, 2021—Santa Clara University School of Law Professor Colleen Chien has been named by the Biden Administration to be a senior counselor in the Office of General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Department of Commerce oversees bureaus such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technologies. In this role, Chien will leverage her research and expertise—which span intellectual property, evidence-based policymaking, and criminal justice reform —to foster inclusive job growth, opportunity, and access to innovation through policy and policy delivery. The position is a part-time one, and Chien will retain her teaching duties at Santa Clara Law. 

Chien is internationally known for her empirical scholarship on the patent system, including her work on patent assertion entities, patent quality, and policy pilots. She is among the top 20-cited intellectual property and cyberlaw scholars in the U.S. and has received prestigious awards including the American Law Institute’s Early Career Medal, the Intellectual Property Vanguard Award, and the Eric Yamamoto Emerging Scholar Award.

Most recently, her scholarship has promoted evidence-based development and administration of the law using “policy pilots.” In an article in the Iowa Law Review and follow-up work, she has proposed the greater use of rigorous and well-controlled (randomized) pilots and other feedback loops as a way to boost inclusion, diversity, and patent quality. Chien has also focused her work on inequality in innovation. In a paper forthcoming in the Emory Law Journal, Chien proposes ways to advance equity and job growth through patent policy. Chien is the founder of the Paper Prisons Initiative ( which uses research and data to expand opportunities for people with criminal records.

A regular expert speaker before Congress and executive agencies, Chien served on the Biden-Harris Transition Commerce Department Agency Review Team with primary responsibility for the Patent and Trademark Office. From 2013 to 2015 she served as Senior Advisor, Intellectual Property and Innovation to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Prior to entering academia, Chien worked as an investigative journalist (while a Fulbright Scholar), strategy consultant, and patent lawyer registered by the USPTO, as an associate, then special counsel at Fenwick & West LLP in San Francisco prosecuting patents. She graduated from Stanford University with honors and degrees in Engineering and Science, Technology, and Society, and earned her J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley. She lives in Oakland with her husband Dirk Calcoen and their two sons.

About Santa Clara University
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Ranked among the top 15 percent of national universities by U.S. News & World Report, SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education. For more information see

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Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | | 408-554-5121