USPTO Director Kappos To Depart In January

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David Kappos, the director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), will leave at the end of January, a USPTO spokesperson confirmed today.

“I am honored to have served this administration by leading the USPTO,” Kappos said in an emailed statement. “I believe we have made great progress in reducing the patent backlog, increasing operational efficiency, and exerting leadership in IP policy domestically and internationally. Thanks to the entire USPTO staff for their dedication and hard work. I wish them the very best as they continue their efforts to support the U.S. economy by promoting and protecting innovation.”

The USPTO director position is also an undersecretary of the Commerce Department. A statement from Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank was circulated: “Dave Kappos has done a terrific job of helping to shape and implement the administration’s innovation agenda. His three-and-a-half year tenure is marked by many notable accomplishments which have helped improve the IP system both here and abroad.”

“We are fortunate to have had Dave on our leadership team,” Blank said. “We all benefited from his deep knowledge, strong management skills, and passion for the issues before the USPTO. I thank him for his distinguished service.”

USPTO has not said who might follow Kappos, but some observers are giving early predictions of Teresa Stanek Rea, a pharmaceutical industry lawyer who joined USPTO early last year as deputy director (IPW, US Policy, 17 February 2011).

In his approval process in second half of 2009, Kappos declared that he would stay clear of conflicts with his previous employer, IBM, traditionally one of the biggest patent filers (IPW, US Policy, 29 July 2009).

Kappos took office in the second half of 2009 with an ambitious agenda but little funding (IPW, US Policy, 23 October 2009). It remains to be seen how history judges his tenure, but he was very active in the role. Perhaps his biggest accomplishment was the passage of the America Invents Act, the US patent reform bill (IPW, US Policy, 9 September 2011).

Reactions

Attorney Dennis Crouch, who publishes the blog Patently-O, offered praise for Kappos. He said Kappos’ style of working with patent applicants to improve patent quality gained him respect.

Patent attorney and regular commentator Harold Wegner of Foley Lardner said: “The under secretary has performed brilliantly under difficult circumstances and will be remembered as the premiere leader of the Office in the past sixty or more years. Congratulations, Under Secretary Kappos! ”

Greg Aharonian, a patent attorney who publishes the Internet Patent News Service and is frequently critical of the US patent office, said:

“- under Kappos, there have been no improvements in patent quality
- under Kappos, there have been no improvements in patent pendency
- under Kappos, worse, no improvements in measuring these two
- under Kappos, PTO examiner productivity has not changed one iota
- under Kappos, PTO resources diverted to “gimmick” improvements”

Aharonian sounded a cautionary note for the next director:

“Will the next PTO Director order the PTO to honestly measure quality and performance? Will the next PTO Director sweep out two decades of dead wood and incompetence in the PTO policy, IT and search resources offices? Will the next PTO Director shut down the useless Patent Public Advisory Comittee? Will the next PTO Director stop wasting PTO time and resources seeking outside help (the public, other patent offices), when there are so many grossly underutilized resources within the PTO?”

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

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