Koch linked group backs Phil Johnson as next PTO Director

By Gene Quinn
June 28, 2017

Phil Johnson

Phil Johnson

Earlier this week The Hill published a pro-patent op-ed written by David Williams, the President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. The main thesis of the op-ed was this: President Trump should nominate Phil Johnson to be the next Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Left leaning, watchdog groups and non-profit sources have long loved to link the Taxpayers Protection Alliance to billionaire Republican donors Charles and David Koch, more commonly referred to in the media simply as the Koch brothers.

A number of politicians supported by the Koch brothers or close allies of the Koch brothers are already serving in high profile positions within the Trump Administration. Vice-President Mike Pence is a long-time Koch favorite, so too is CIA Director Mike Pompeo who used to represent the district where Koch Industries is headquarted while a Member of the House of Representatives. Billionaires Darwin and Doug Deason (father and son) are key members of the Koch network, and have been long time supporters of Energy Secretary Rick Perry and EPA Director Scott Pruitt. See The Koch Brothers’ most loyal servants are serving in Donald Trump’s White House.

While there is no evidence to suggest a tie between Phil Johnson and the Koch brothers, it is certainly worth noticing when a Koch linked organization like the Taxpayers Protection Alliance makes such a forceful, public recommendation of a particular candidate as the nomination process is winding down.

 

America’s Frail Patent System

Patent owners and those who believe the patent system has been dismantled by the handy work of special interests will find themselves in agreement with Williams’ op-ed. For example, Williams writes:

[The] IP system is why the United States is the world’s leader in science and technology…

But the cost of obtaining and defending an American patent is at an all-time high, while the value of a patent is at an all-time low. Thanks to increasingly unclear and feeble IP rules, it is difficult to determine what is allowed to be patented, and painfully difficult to protect patents against infringement…

America’s frail IP protections are having real consequences. Strong intellectual property rights are vital to attract investment, generate jobs in manufacturing and R&D, and help to level the playing field for American companies. Without a strong IP system, America is destined to lag behind other countries.

 

Phil Johnson is the Man for the Job

According to Williams, “Johnson’s credentials are unassailable,” which is of course correct. Just last week Johnson, who is a registered Republican, was inducted into the International IP Hall of Fame at the IPBC annual meeting in Ottawa, he has previously served as President of the Intellectual Property Owners Association and the Association of Corporate Patent Counsel. Johnson is also no stranger to Washington, DC, familiar with testifying before Congress in both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.

Selecting Johnson as the next Director of the USPTO “will strengthen the U.S. economy, create new jobs, spur exciting new technologies, and reinforce America’s position as the leader in innovation,” Williams wrote.

Although Williams did not mention it in his article, Phil Johnson also served as Senior Vice President of Johnson & Johnson, which means he has the experience required to manage and run a large entity, which will be an essential skill set for the next Director of the USPTO according to former Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel.

“All these ills can be addressed effectively by the PTO’s new Director, provided they have the necessary management experience, patent savvy, and leadership skills,” wrote Judge Michel in an op-ed published on IPWatchdog.com. “[W]e need someone from a large company who has shown leadership ability and has a proven record of successfully managing a significant part of a large organization.”

 

Who Gets the Job?

The Washington, DC rumor mill seems to be in complete agreement that the next Director of the USPTO will be Andrei Iancu, and that he could be announced as early as next week. See The man who may be PTO Director. So pervasive is this sentiment regarding the impending nomination of Iancu that it would be at least a mild surprise if President Trump does not select Iancu at this point. Having said that, Johnson does still appear to be in the running and on a very short list of viable candidates. Given the predictability of the Trump Administration nothing can be taken for granted until an announcement is made, and a full throat endorsement from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance may just be the late breaking event that tips the balance in Johnson’s favor.

As far as making predictions – normally I am not averse to making predictions but at this point I just don’t know. Conventional wisdom in patent political circles says Iancu, but the pro-patent community has long supported Phil Johnson, although not in a particularly vocal or effective way. With a Koch backed entity like the Taxpayers Protection Alliance getting involved there is no doubt Johnson’s chances have been enhanced. If other Republican donors, operatives and think tanks were to follow the deal that may have seemed like a done deal for Iancu might quickly become not so much a done deal after all. In other words, if pro-patent Republicans get off the bench to support Johnson there might just be a July surprise.

Stay tuned!

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.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 14 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. Edward Heller June 28, 2017 5:02 pm

    Gene, correct me if I am wrong, but was Johnson not among a small group of people who were coordinating/drafting/negotiating the AIA and in particular IPRs?

  2. MisterPC June 28, 2017 6:16 pm

    Today I received an invitation from a company who is offering a free one day visit to their forum. It promotes innovative and proven ideas for improving government performance. It says, “This forum will present a series of proven methodologies and best practices that government managers are successfully using to restructure and streamline the design of their programs. As you know, federal, state and local government managers are increasingly being asked to use evaluation and evidence to “prove” their approaches are working.” There’s nothing like evidence to prove something is working. However, is this all that we need to do to meet the President’s agenda of Making America Great again?
    I believe we’re #10 in the rankings and tied with Hungary. China has made vast improvements in their approach to patent rules. They have been relaxing barriers to software and business method patents. Businesses have been fleeing to areas of the world that offer better legal protection. I’ve even heard that small business/product innovators are giving up because large conglomerates are squeezing them out of business by stealing their ideas through weak US patent rules and regulations. It’s a situation of the big fish eating the little fish with no recourse in sight.
    So what can the US do to move forward at a fast enough pace to circumvent loss of patent rights and innovation to other countries who are on the move like China? We put out a wish list of who should or should not lead the Patent and Trademark Office. I want the new person to be a strong leader with the drive to restore the Patent/Trademark system to what once was the best in the world. So what will it take to do this? Does the magic of Mr. Trump’s personality just whisk us into the world of being competitive again?
    The answer is no. If you think about China as a prime example, in the 1970s they rode mostly bicycles and lived off the land. Their experiment with collectivism was a total failure and they were hungry. After the fall of the Soviet Union, they and other countries opened their doors to investment. They opened free economic zones that didn’t have to get permission from the party to do things. They were free to use the market model and prosper. In forty years, they kicked off one of the most successful and innovative success stories in the world. But how?
    The Chinese did what we fail to do, they did away with the old cultural models and turned the population lose to innovate and make money by inviting the world into their marketplace. The old ideas are gone and the new are in and they’re motivated.
    At the USPTO they’re stuck in old school and old cultural ideas. They can’t give up their old ways of managing things. They want ultimate control at the centralized top and nothing more. Yes, at the USPTO it’s all about control of everything, a top down approach. At the same time these same people want to grow government personnel vs improving by innovation in technology using the latest techniques in software development.
    Granted that they have tried to bring in new technologies but have been failures for the most part. The new person who takes on the task of managing USPTO needs to (1) Initiate a policy that encompasses a program whereby the IT departments establishes Milestones to ascertain success or failure (2) Bring new people to USPTO who understand the President’s policy of Making America Great Again and Draining the Swamp (3) Establish a new culture dominated by people who believe that operating from the bottom up is the best approach (4) Eliminate the duplication in regulations and rules governing Trademarks and Patents and (5) Establish new IT centers and completely abolish non performing IT centers (6) Reducing the bloated senior level positions within both Patents and Trademarks
    Overall the USPTO has forgotten what competition is all about because if they had not, the United States would be #1 in Patent and Trademark initiatives. You’ve heard about Fake News. Well, the USPTO has their propaganda machine that specializes in printing fake news. It is time to act and whoever takes over has no time to waste in making drastic changes at the USPTO in order to serve the American Public.

  3. Night Writer June 28, 2017 7:08 pm

    Geez, we really have become a third-world country. Can’t we have like real public debate the person that wins do it on merit? Do we have to have these billionaires picking the horse to win?

    Plus, I don’t think pharma is the right way to go in a director. The challenges are with information processing.

  4. Edward Heller June 28, 2017 7:36 pm

    I just got a note from Korea. They too can now cancel patents. Brag about it. Get rid of competitor patents.

    And they think this is good for the Korean patent systems, as if we wanted to NOW spend our money there obtaining patents?

    The Google anti-patent disease is spreading, sickening every system it infects.

  5. UnhappyPracticioner June 29, 2017 10:10 am

    “With a Koch backed entity like the Taxpayers Protection Alliance getting involved there is no doubt Johnson’s chances have been enhanced.”

    Gene is right, and that is exactly why we should all be worried. The corrupt whims of oil billionaires (Koch Brothers) now take precedence over the best interests of the American people. Republican recipients of the Koch Brothers’ money have sold us out.

    For example, Gene mentioned EPA Director Scott Pruitt as a Koch Brothers favorite. After spending millions of dollars getting Pruitt installed as the head of the EPA, last month Pruitt said, “I would not agree that (carbon dioxide is) a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” That is obviously and painfully wrong to any reasonably well-educated person. Pruitt is simply a puppet of the Koch Brothers, whose interests trump those of the American people.

  6. misterpcu June 29, 2017 10:14 am

    If you continue to delete peoples comments you don’t agree with then soon you want get any.

  7. Mister PC June 29, 2017 10:15 am

    OOPS! You didn’t delete my comments; Oversight on my part. No Fake News

  8. Silicon Valley Inventor June 29, 2017 11:17 am

    I digress here, but… UnhappyPracticioner @4 “I would not agree that (carbon dioxide is) a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

    Yes we are all painfully aware of this cherrypicked, out-of-context quote where Pruitt didn’t even say carbon dioxide (that was stuck in by a journalist afterward to ignore Pruitt’s broader point). The “globe” has been warming since the last ice age and anthropogenic effects are based on computer modeling. The exact warming contribution of the burning of fossil fuels relative to the warming underway for thousands of years–and the extent to which that is reversible by using taxpayer dollars to subsidize green tech toys for the wealthy–is not the slam-dunk issue that “any reasonably well-educated person” has been led to believe.

    Whether the new USPTO director is Johnson or Iancu (I am hoping for the latter), it is encouraging that the pendulum has started swinging back toward stronger patent protections. The compelling thing about the current president is that he is not bought by the Kochs, Google or anyone else. Certainly that would not be the case had his opponent been elected.

  9. Edward Heller June 29, 2017 3:20 pm

    I would prefer anyone who is on record as saying that IPRs were a mistake. IPRs are to bad patents as artillery is to address a termite infestation.

  10. Gene Quinn June 29, 2017 3:24 pm

    Mister PC-

    You had multiple comments in the spam folder under various names that were obviously fake. The automated spam filter disproportionately flags comments with obviously fake names, particularly those that are sentences like the ones you were using. We also require at least one comment to be approved before comments go live. Further, for reasons I can’t understand even some regulars need to have their comments approved 100% of the time because they are held for moderation.

    Very little gets weeded out because of actual content. Paranoid rantings of conspiracy theories that is not backed up by facts will get deleted, as do comments that use inappropriate language (which is typically done automatically).

    -Gene

  11. Edward Heller June 29, 2017 4:21 pm

    On GW, I am no scientist and can only state my observations. I have seen no substantial change in temperature or in weather in my lifetime. I have seen short term swings, such as el Nino here on the West Coast. I have seen dire predictions of a new ice age and then of the opposite, both made insistently and with confidence — based on models and some evidence. But the demand for draconian action in face of diametrical opposite alarmists views gives one pause.

    What I also see is a PC culture that suppresses dissenting views. That is bad science and bad for science.

  12. Anon June 29, 2017 8:53 pm

    misterpcu @ 6,

    Something you should be aware of (but probably are not):

    There is nothing wrong with anonymous or pseudonymous posting. I have defended such time and again.

    HOWEVER, there is zero reason for giving a false email address in order to post.

    Zero.

    This site has come under attack a number of times from rogue operators seeking to undermine real discussions. It is a reflection and part and parcel of Gene’s stance being pro-patent that scoundrels being anti-patent (including many lemmings in the software arena) try to sabotage meaningful discussions in any way possible. That is why you will see such a strong reaction when you whine about something AND you have not been honest yourself. There is a sying in law and equity: come to the table with clean hands.

    Gene runs a tighter blog than several out there, and one of the best ways of keeping that so (and controlling run-away propaganda) is to simply not allow fake email address posters to run rampant.

    In fact, as much as I will defend the ability to (and value of) anonymous and pseudonymous posting, I will also chide Gene for being too lax when it comes to those that use fake email addresses.

    If this were my blog, NO posts ever would be posted from anyone using a fake email address.

    All that being said, it is really not that difficult to use a legitimate email address and maintain the benefits of anonymous or pseudonymous posting, and I do hope that you continue to (appropriately) join the conversations here.

  13. UnhappyPracticioner July 7, 2017 11:07 am

    Silicon Valley Inventor (you wish you were), you are a liar and you are wrong. Try watching the video instead of mischaracterizing it. The reporter asked Pruitt if he would agree carbon dioxide is the primary control knob for climate changes and Pruitt said no. Unfortunately for us all, the science on this is settled. Carbon dioxide is causing our warming. It does not matter how much the oil industry denies it through people like you.

  14. Gene Quinn July 9, 2017 11:19 am

    Unhappy Practitioner-

    You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your facts. The fact that scientific debate has been squashed in academic institutions does not mean that the science of climate change is settled. In fact, no one who has seriously and with an open mind looked at the facts could come to the conclusion you state. First, the climate has always been changing since the beginning of time (i.e., for 4.6 billion years). If you are at all interested in science that means you should search for some answer that explains the climate changes that occurred for the 4.5+ billion years for which man was not present. Second, it is a lie to say that at no time has the earth been warmer than it is now. NASA has temperature data going back over 400,000 years that easily disproves that egregiously false claim. Third, the “evidence” used to establish the rapid temperature increases (i.e., the hockey stick) were fabricated.

    If you want to inform yourself I encourage you to read:

    http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2009/06/25/liberal-think-tank-says-patents-are-destroying-the-planet/id=3667/

    http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2009/12/03/say-no-to-patent-sharing-in-wake-of-global-warming-fraud/id=7563/

    The real question should be why has the temperature moderated over the last 10,000 to 12,000 years? Again, not that temperature moderation predates oil and gas by over 10,000 years, which is curious if you are correct and all these temperature issues are caused by man after the industrial revolution. Kinda makes your theory look stupid if you just stop and think about it for even a fraction of a second, huh?

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