UPDATED: 8:42pm ET
At some point in time today, presumably after I nominated Alfred E. Neuman for PTO Director, President Obama announced that he intends to appoint David Kappos as the Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, a position that will make him the Director of the USPTO. It was predictable that word of the nomination, or iminent nomination, would come while I am on the road teaching the PLI Patent Bar Review Course (I am in Boston presently teaching at Suffolk Law School). In any event, I am not exactly sure what to make of the White House announcement today. Exactly what does it mean when the White House announces President Obama intends to appoint Kappos to be PTO Director. Is this an announcement that an announcement of Kappos as PTO Director is forthcoming? I don’t know, but it seems as if Kappos is heading to the PTO, which means Alfred E. Neuman once again will not hold a position within the US government.
I have no reason to believe that my hopefully humorous nomination of Alfred E. Neuman played any role in prompting the White House to announce its intent to announce the nomination of David Kappos as PTO Director. I did search far and wide before I posted the Neuman story earlier in the day, and I see now that news sources are just starting to pick up on the announcement, including other patent blogs. Who knows whether President Obama is reading, but I have heard rumors that some within the White House read IPWatchdog.com. Perhaps it is better to say that they are keeping an eye on me, who knows? If the President is a reader and he is interested in reaching out to the IP community he has an open invitation to talk to me and address the readers of IPWatchdog.com. OK, I know, I am allowing the fact that the PTO thinks I am “media” or a “journalist” go to my head… but what if? OK… enough!
For some time I have heard reports that Kappos would be the pick, but no one ever had reliable enough information to run with the story. In fact, Kappos’ nomination was a tightly held secret. The only reliable information I could get was that the nominee had been picked, and that the vetting process was taking longer than expected. I suppose after some embarrassing troubles with respect to unpaid taxes the White House justifiably was cautious. I just have to wonder why it is that a nominee for Director of the PTO would go through a vetting process that was far more rigorous than the vetting of high level members of the President’s Cabinet. Perhaps in time we will learn that the rumors were incorrect, but if they were and the vetting took so long why wasn’t that vetting process employed for other senior level Executive appointments? While the Patent Office is far more vital than the average citizen would ever believe, is it more important than, for example, the Department of Treasury?
In any event, here is what WhiteHouse.gov announced today:
Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for key administration posts: David J. Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and Warren F. “Pete” Miller, Jr., Director, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, Department of Energy.
President Obama said, “The talent, commitment and expertise these two fine individuals possess make them valued additions to our team as we work to keep our nation safe and put us on a path to prosperity. Their decision to serve their country is commendable, and I look forward to working with each of them in the months and years ahead.”
President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today:
David J. Kappos, Nominee for Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office Mr. Kappos is Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, Intellectual Property Law, for IBM Corporation. Based in Armonk, New York, Mr. Kappos directs IBM’s Intellectual Property Law function, providing legal counsel over all facets of protecting and licensing IBM’s intellectual property assets and leading IBM’s engagement of intellectual property law policy issues. In particular, Mr. Kappos is responsible for the management of IBM’s patent and trademark portfolios; protecting and licensing intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trademarks, knowhow and technology) worldwide; directing intellectual property law operations relating to the research, services, consulting, computer systems, storage products, semiconductor and technology development, software, marketing and other groups, divisions, and entities within IBM. In addition, Mr. Kappos has responsibility for IP policy and coordination with IBM’s litigation and corporate development groups in matters relating to intellectual property. Mr. Kappos serves on the Board of Directors of the American Intellectual Property Law Association, the Intellectual Property Owners Association, and the International Intellectual Property Society. He is also the Vice President of the Intellectual Property Owners Association. He has held various previous leadership positions in intellectual property law associations in Asia and the U.S. He has spoken widely in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. on intellectual property topics. Mr. Kappos received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of California Davis in 1983, and his law degree from the University of California Berkeley in 1990. He joined IBM in 1983 as a Development Engineer and has served as an Intellectual Property Law attorney in IBM’s Storage Division and Litigation group, as IP Law Counsel in IBM Software Group, as Assistant General Counsel in IBM Asia/Pacific, IBM Corporate Counsel and as Assistant General Counsel prior to his current position.
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) issued the following statement today regarding the announcement of Kappos:
I’m impressed with Mr. Kappos’ seemingly vast patent and trademark experience, and I look forward to getting to know him better as the committee moves forward in considering his nomination. Whoever takes the helm at the USPTO is going to need to hit the ground running, especially in light of how the current economic downturn has negatively affected the agency.
For some time I have believed Kappos would be President Obama’s selection. As a Vice-President in IBM Kappos has strenuously supported patent reform that would assist high-tech, which is not surprising at all. He has, however supported post grant review, which will devastate the Patent Office should it come to pass because resources would be divereted to deal with already issued patents while the backlog of applications would continue to grow. Additionally, Kappos has testified to Congress about how patent litigation is out of control, but the raw numbers simply do not support that conclusion. To read more on this see Announcement Nears on New Patent Office Directors.
I wish Mr. Kappos well, and I will reserve judgment until we learn what direction he will take the USPTO. As any lawyer knows, the positions a lawyer takes while employed as a representative does not mean that is what the attorney believes themselves. Attorneys are advocates for clients or the corporations they are employed by. So while I do have some concerns, and hope that the US patent system does not turn in a high-tech friendly direction at the expense of other stakeholders, time will tell. Thankfully President Obama has given us someone familiar with the system and knowledgeable regarding intellectual property matters, and patents in particular. The announcement of Kappos is, therefore, a good day for the patent system. Even if I disagree with him from time to time, a Patent Office run by a “patent guy” is indeed very refreshing!
Tip of the hat to President Obama. Thank you for listening to the concerns of the patent bar and stakeholders.