Change In USPTO Representation At WIPO Could Reflect Shift In Priorities

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The sudden change in officials in charge of international policy at the United States Patent and Trademark Office could reflect shifting priorities at the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Effective 9 January, Shira Perlmutter will take over as the USPTO’s Acting Administrator for Policy and External Affairs. She replaces Albert Tramposch, who will return to his previous position as Deputy Executive Director International and Regulatory Affairs at the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), starting 16 January.

From the USPTO public affairs office: “Since April 2005, she has served as the Executive Vice President of Global Legal Policy for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. In that capacity she has been responsible for the development and international coordination of policy positions on IP and other legal issues outside the United States. Prior to that she served as a professor at Catholic University’s Law School (1990-95); Associate Register for Policy and International Affairs at the U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress (1995-99); as a consultant on copyright and e-commerce for the World Intellectual Property Organization, in Geneva, Switzerland (1999-2000); and as Vice President and Associate General Counsel for IP Policy at Time-Warner, Inc., in New York City (2000-05).”

Perlmutter has been a regular visitor to WIPO in her role with the London-based IFPI, particularly to meetings of the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR).

The change at USPTO from a patent expert to a copyright expert internationally might be said to reflect changing priorities at WIPO. Tramposch chaired the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) in December, attempting to steer the committee toward progress on harmonisation of patent laws. After the meeting, Tramposch told Intellectual Property Watch that there was forward movement, but some other delegates were less certain as all issues were left for the next meeting (IPW, WIPO, 10 December 2011).

The SCP also is seeing a rise in developing country proposals, such as related to public health, and limitation and exceptions. And despite the breakthrough of US patent law reform in September, developed country officials have been cautious about moving too quickly to restart harmonisation talks in the SCP.

Meanwhile, the SCCR has been actively making progress in a number of areas, and is scheduled to negotiate a treaty on audiovisual performances in June, and possibly see breakthroughs on a broadcasting treaty and on limitations and exceptions. In addition, coming from the music industry, Perlmutter would be well-placed to work on another rising issue at WIPO: internet service provider liability or responsibility for infringing content carried on their networks.

Perlmutter’s name came up informally in speculation about several past appointments, such as the US IP enforcement “czar”. In the US, copyright issues are generally handled out of the Copyright Office, within the Library of Congress.

USPTO did not respond by deadline regarding the significance of the appointment of a copyright expert.

Tramposch, for his part, has moved frequently in recent years. He has represented AIPLA, the European Union, and USPTO.

“We are delighted that Al is rejoining the AIPLA, and commend him for generously dedicating a portion of his career to public service at the USPTO,” said AIPLA Executive Director Todd Dickinson, himself a former top official at USPTO. “We are very fortunate to have someone of Al’s talent and background returning to our Senior Staff, where he has proven himself to be a great asset to the Association and its members.”

According to AIPLA, Tramposch will be “a senior advisor to the Executive Director, and have principal day-to-day responsibility for all international intellectual property and regulatory issues of concern to the Association.”

Tramposch joined USPTO less than one year ago (IPW, US Policy, 1 February 2011). He had replaced the first Obama administration pick, Prof. Arti Rai of Duke University Law School, who returned to teaching.

At USPTO, Tramposch served as a policy advisor to Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, and oversaw USPTO domestic and international IP policy-related operations, according to AIPLA. He earlier served as Director of Industrial Property Law at WIPO, where he headed the WIPO team for the Diplomatic Conference for the Adoption of the Patent Law Treaty in 2000, and was responsible for the Standing Committee on Trademarks, the Standing Committee on Patents, and the Advisory Committee on Enforcement. Tramposch received an A.B. from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, a J.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, and is registered to practice before the USPTO.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

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