Associate Solicitor Joe Matal named Acting Director of the USPTO

By Gene Quinn
June 7, 2017

Joe Matal

Joe Matal

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has named U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Associate Solicitor Joseph Matal to perform the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. The position is effective June 7, 2017 and follows the resignation of Michelle K. Lee. Matal will serve in this role during the nomination and confirmation process for a new Director.

Earlier in the day reports surfaced from the Intellectual Property Owners Association, which could not be confirmed by the USPTO, that Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld had been named Acting Director.

Behind the scenes rumors have speculated for some time that Matal might be in line for the position of Deputy Director of the USPTO in the Trump Administration, or possibly even under consideration for the top spot himself. Being named Acting Director, or at least as the person with the powers of the Director during the nomination and confirmation process for a new Director, would seem to remove him from any consideration for the top stop at USPTO. Being placed at the helm in the interim, however, does suggest that he is viewed quite favorably by Ross, and possibly others within the Trump Administration.

As an Associate Solicitor in the USPTO’s Office of Solicitor, Matal has briefed and argued appeals of patent and trademark decisions before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the U.S. District Court, and assisted in the development of legal positions taken by the U.S. Solicitor General in patent and copyright cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Matal recently served as acting Chief of Staff for the agency, and has advised the director on legislative matters.

Matal previously served as the General Counsel of the Judiciary Committee for former Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and as a Judiciary Committee Counsel to former Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ). In that role, he was the principal staff drafter and negotiator of legislation that became the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, the first comprehensive patent law overhaul since 1952. Matal has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and founder of IPWatchdog.com. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman Malek. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

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Discuss this

There are currently 18 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. IPdude June 7, 2017 6:24 pm

    Just when we thought we caught a break. This guy was the principal staff drafter and negotiator of the America Invents Act.

  2. David June 7, 2017 6:49 pm

    Michelle was clearly digging in.

    The only story here is the one that no one seems to know: why was she spontaneously and unexpectedly executed?

    She had significant industry and political support.

  3. IPdude June 7, 2017 6:55 pm

    @2 Perhaps her response in Oil States was the straw?

  4. David June 7, 2017 7:07 pm

    Maybe.

    It is also possible that someone very high up figured out that she failed to adequately control the PTAB.

    PTAB; Oblon; Unified; SKGF. Pigs at the trough.

  5. Night Writer June 7, 2017 9:14 pm

    >>he was the principal staff drafter and negotiator of legislation that became the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act

    Well, there are so many problems with the AIA that he should have caught that this doesn’t speak well for him.

  6. Night Writer June 7, 2017 9:24 pm

    Actually, this is probably not a good sign. Drew Hirshfeld was in line for the acting director according to the statute. And Joseph Matal may come in and be much, much worse for the patent system. He sounds like he may be a solider that will do whatever Wilbur Ross wants. He also does not have a technical background and I think we can see from all the troubles with the AIA that he doesn’t understand the patent system.

    So, this could be very bad news. Maybe Lee stepped aside so they could put in there someone that could really burn the system down.

    Joseph Matal has a very bad feel. You know how the USSR keep order in their empire? They would take people from a different culture and train them as police/enforcers for the cities. So, they would come to your city with an agenda and would have no understanding of the locals. They were brutal. We may have one of those in Joseph Matal.

  7. American Patent Attorney June 8, 2017 3:42 am

    I have a difficult time explaining our patent system’s complex problems to those who have a technical background and are certified to practice before the USPTO. I don’t understand how America benefits from having a non-technical person in this role. It makes me want to cry.

  8. Curious June 8, 2017 7:23 am

    NWPA@6 — let’s give him the benefit of the doubt before comparing him to some Stalin-era thug. I see no benefit to be gained in throwing insults his way 1 day into his reign.

  9. Steve June 8, 2017 7:25 am

    Gene: OK, we now need your views. This guy does not sound like a great pick, but I know very little about him except that he has a republican history which is OK with me and was behind the building of that infamous AIA.

  10. Night Writer June 8, 2017 8:04 am

    I think the real question now is what does Wilbur Ross want. Matal will do whatever Ross tells him. Matal has no background in patent law. No understanding of innovation. He is merc to do Ross’s bidding.

  11. Valuationguy June 8, 2017 10:22 am

    Matal is NOT friendly to patent holder interests.

    If the fact he was a primary drafter and apologist for the AIA isn’t enough for you…AND if his role as current legal defender of the PTO’s warped views weren’t enough for you…the connections to Dr. Mark Lemley at Stanford (the primarily academic force pushing the efficient infringement standard forward) should start to light up the red warning light.

    With him as interim Director…it is guaranteed that the PTO just digs in further against patent holder interests.

  12. Night Writer June 8, 2017 10:28 am

    @11 Valuationguy

    Mark Lemley is a highly unethical person that pushes anti-patent judicial activism. Any person that works with him or thinks highly of him is likely unethical and has an agenda.

    I think we are into nightmare territory. I said over 5 years ago that what the powers that be –Google et. al– would do is bring in people from outside the patent system to burn it down. And here’s Matal…probably burn the patent system down so that Ross can get 1 percent of Google’s stock.

    What a nightmare this is going to be.

  13. Night Writer June 8, 2017 10:31 am

    My prediction at this point is that within 3 months we are going to have stunningly bad news. Something like new 101 guidelines that render 90 percent of patent application ineligible.

    I think we are in the territory of dealing with filth.

  14. IPdude June 8, 2017 11:30 am

    Gene, why do you think they got rid of Lee if they were going to replace her with the same?

  15. Invention Rights June 8, 2017 12:02 pm

    How is this lawful? It is at least unconventional. The Department Organizational Orders state the Commissioner of Patents is to assume the duties. Why would Secretary Ross override the rules to put in place an enemy of patents to run the office whose singular job is to protect inventions by issuing patents?

    DOO 10-14.04 – If the position of the Under Secretary is vacant, the Deputy Under Secretary shall serve as Acting Under Secretary. If both the Under Secretary and the Deputy Under Secretary positions are vacant, the Commissioner for Patents and the Commissioner for Trademarks, in that order, will perform the functions and duties of the Under Secretary. In the event there is no Commissioner appointed under 35 U.S.C. 3(b)(2), the Administrator for Policy and External Affairs, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, or the General Counsel of the USPTO, in order of length of service to those positions, shall perform the functions and duties of the Under Secretary.

  16. Mark Fearer June 8, 2017 12:36 pm

    Was hoping for Drew Hirshfeld. But in the end may be for the best considering what happened to John Doll when he stepped into the acting role.

  17. Eric Berend June 8, 2017 12:41 pm

    The Kulaks have been gathered….now it is time for a Siberia to reign over inventors, for the next 60 years.

    Joe Matal is a ‘Lemley boy’. Michelle Leewas merely a water carrier – Mr. matal is one of the architects of patent protection destruction for actual inventors.

    Two generations of American inventors have now just been flushed down the drain.

  18. Anon June 11, 2017 10:08 am

    IR @ 15,

    The lawfulness is covered in an article by David Boundy at: https://patentlyo.com/patent/2017/06/legality-appointment-director.html

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