USPTO Senior Leadership. From left to right: Acting Director Teresa Rea, Trademarks Commissioner Deborah Cohn, and Patent Commissioner Peggy Focarino. Taken by Renee Quinn at the Women’s Symposium at the USPTO.
Today is the last day of the Kappos era at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Director Kappos assumed control of the Office in August 2009, and three and one-half years later he is leaving the Office a better place, with virtually all metrics pointing in the right direction. The backlog of applications is down, the backlog of appeals has started to fall, the most sweeping patent reform in generations has passed, the USPTO has promulgated volumes of new rules to make the patent system better and to implement the America Invents Act, there has been a Memorandum of Agreement signed with the Smithsonian on the Innovation Expo, which will be held in June 2013, and the future Innovation Pavilion that will be housed at the Arts and Industries building, a new examiner count system was put in place revising the production goals and time given to examiners for the first time in more than a generation, the patent bar examination was updated for the first time in 5 years and continues to be updated every six months. The accomplishments are many. These are but a few that leap to mind at the moment.
But how will the Patent Office fare when the clock strikes 12:00 midnight later tonight and Director Kappos becomes private citizen Kappos? The USPTO will be in very capable hands. One of the biggest accomplishments of the Kappos Administration happened behind the scenes but oddly in plain view. I speak of “Team Kappos” regularly. It is because they are a team in a very real sense as far as I can tell. And while the assembly of the team was done in the public eye and those interested enough know who Kappos’ top lieutenants have been, Kappos quitely assembled an extremely talented team of dedicated, hard working individuals who will capably carry on.
Before profiling the top officials who will continue the work of the patent system, allow me also to pause and recognize a truly extraordinary moment in Patent Office History. The top three officials at the USPTO will all be women. Acting Director Teresa Rea, Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino and Commissioner for Trademarks Deborah Cohn will lead the Office forward steering America’s engine of innovation and commerce. If that doesn’t create a buzz of excitement even in Washington, DC, I don’t know what will! It is excitement well deserved and perhaps could lead to a higher profile for the USPTO, which would be very good for the patent system as a whole.
Commerce Secretary John Bryson announces the release of the USPTO/ESA study on Intellectual Property and jobs at the White House.
Today I attended the an event on Intellectual Property and the US Economy which was held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds. The purpose of the event was to unveil a study — Intellectual Property and the U.S. Economy: Industries in Focus— prepared by the Economics and Statistics Administration and the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The study found that intellectual property intensive industries support at least 40 million jobs in the United States and contribute more than $5 trillion dollars to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). That is to say that 27.7% of all jobs in the U.S. were either directly or indirectly attributable to IP-intensive industries, and the amount contributed to the U.S. economy represents a staggering 34.8% of GDP.
“This first of its kind report shows that IP- intensive industries have a direct and significant impact on our nation’s economy and the creation of American jobs,” said Commerce Secretary John Bryson. “When Americans know that their ideas will be protected, they have greater incentive to pursue advances and technologies that help keep us competitive, and our businesses have the confidence they need to hire more workers. That is why this Administration’s efforts to protect intellectual property, and modernize the patent and trademark system are so crucial to a 21st century economy that is built to last.”
Peggy Focarino, Commissioner for Patents, speaks to attendees at the March 1 event for Women Entrepreneurs on the campus of the USPTO in Alexandria, VA.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is already in full swing with respect to its month long series of events to celebrate Women’s History Month and to honor the contributions of women entrepreneurs and innovators.
To kick of the month the USPTO held a Women Entrepreneurs event titled Celebrating the Past, Inventing the Future. On March 1, 2012, at the Madison Building on the Campus of the USPTO, the USPTO and the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) together paid tribute to women whose ingenuity and inventions have improved lives. The event highlighted the passage of the America Invents Act and one provision specifically that allows the USPTO to begin tracking the gender of patent applicants.
At the March 1 event at the USPTO, attendees heard from Deputy USPTO Director Teresa Stanek Rae, Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino, Commissioner for Trademarks Debbie Cohn, Chairwoman of the National Women’s Business Council Donna James and others. The Chief of Staff to the First Lady Michelle Obama (Tina Tchen) was also in attendance and spoke along with Joyce Ward, USPTO Education Coordinator, about the next generation of women innovators.
Commissioner Focarino in her office at the USPTO on January 27, 2012.
In this final installment of my interview with Peggy Focarino, Commissioner for Patents, we discuss the examiner count system, production and Art Units and Patent Examiners that do not issue patents. What can the Office do about rogue Examiners and rogue Art Units? Does the Patent Office even understand this is a problem? Focarino was enormously candid, and it is clear to me that senior management at the USPTO know they have a problem and are working to create fixes.
QUINN: Now with regard to the count system, from the attorney’s perspective, I think the new count system addressed the concern about RCEs pretty wellthere for a while it seemed, at least the perception was, and with every perception there is at least some reality how widespread it is, who knows, but there was the perception that it was very difficult to get some examiners to give a good treatment until you got into the RCE.
Commissioner Focarino in her office at the USPTO on January 27, 2012.
On January 27, 2012, I interviewed the new Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino. In part 1 of the interview we discussed her career at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the ombudsman program and more. In this installment we discuss a day in the life of the Commissioner for Patents, negotiating with the Examiner’s Union relative to the updated examiner count system and implementation of the America Invents Act.
Stay tuned for part 3, the interview finale, which will publish on Friday, February 17, 2012. In part 3 we discuss the fact that certain examiners and certain Art Units seem to simply not issue patents. We also discuss the process for determining where the Patent Office will locate satellite Offices.
Without further ado, part 2 of my interview with Peggy Focarino, Commissioner for Patents.
Commissioner Focarino in her office at the USPTO on January 27, 2012.
On January 27, 2012, I had the privilege to interview Margaret Focarino, who is the new Commissioner for Patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Focarino, known simply as “Peggy” throughout the Office, rises to the position of Commissioner for Patents after the departure of Bob Stoll. At the beginning of the Obama Administration, after the resignation of then Director Jon Dudas, Focarino became Acting Commissioner for Patents, a position she held until the appointment of Bob Stoll.
When I interviewed USPTO Director David Kappos in December I asked him about Focarino and the first words out of his mouth were: “What a wonderful leader.” Kappos went on to tell me:
Peggy’s the perfect next Commissioner for Patents. She’s got deep knowledge of the agency, extremely well respected in the IP community, rose up through the ranks, knows everything about patents and patent law and patent examination and works extraordinarily well with employees. She’s loved and she’s revered by the employees, not just respected. And if that weren’t enough, works terrifically well with the union. So Peggy’s the perfect package. She’s got tremendous judgment. She knows how to deal with people, she knows how to deal with issues, she’s very diplomatic and just a wonderful leader. I’ve been doing leadership for a long time. I’ve worked with and studied under some of the best leaders in the world and I know a good leader when I see one and Peggy is certainly one.
While that may seem to be unbelievable, lofty praise, it is consistent with what I have heard many times over the years. Indeed, I have only heard positive things about Focarino, and everyone expresses that she is not only a very nice person but a knowledgeable and respected leader within the Office. She is also someone that I personally respect and like.
Commissioner for Patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Robert L. Stoll (right) has announced his intention to retire from the agency effective December 31, 2011. Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos has announced that he will nominate current Deputy Commissioner for Patents Margaret “Peggy” Focarino (left) to the position of Commissioner for Patents once Commissioner Stoll’s resignation becomes effective.
As part of a series of programs complementing The Great American Hall of Wonders exhibition, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum will sponsor a free, two-day Inventors Symposium on October 27-28, 2011, in the museum’s Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium.
On Thursday, October 27, 2011, the first day will focus on the recently enacted America Invents Act and its impact on independent inventors and small businesses. Registration will begin open at 1pm with programming starting at 2pm and running through 5:30pm. Thursday’s program will conclude with a networking reception from 5:30pm to 7:00pm. Those who have attended USPTO events in the past know that these networking receptions are in many respects the highlight of the day. USPTO Officials take time to mingle and speak with independent inventors who have questions or who just want to meet the people in charge of administering the Office. USPTO networking receptions are among the best networking events you will likely ever attend.
Renee Quinn (left) and Senator Landrieu (right) at the USPTO Women's Entrepreneurship Syposium
On Friday March 11, 2011, I attended the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium in honor of Women’s History Month at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The program was co-sponsored by the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce and focused on women entrepreneurs, the importance of intellectual property protection for their innovations, how to leverage economic opportunities for women-owned businesses and what resources are available exclusively for women-owned small businesses. The topics discussed focused solely on American business.
Leading off at 8:45am, from left to right: Herbert Wamsley (IPO Executive Director), Peggy Focarino (Deputy Commissioner for Patents), William Smith (Woodcock Washburn), John Owens (USPTO CIO) and Bob Stoll (Commissioner for Patents).
Earlier today some of the top manages from the patent side of the building at the United States Patent and Trademark Office were on stage at the IPO Education Foundation PTO Day to discuss the current state of affairs at the USPTO and what to look forward to next year. The morning started off with Bob Stoll (Commissioner for Patents), Peggy Focarino (Deputy Commissioner for Patents) and John Owens (Chief Information Officer), sharing the stage to provide a year in review, as well as updates on patent operations and the IT infrastructure. The early morning patent session, which I attended, was moderated by Bill Smith, currently Of Counsel with Woodcock Washburn and himself a former member of the BPAI. Later in the day the head man himself arrived. The luncheon speaker was David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for IP and Director of the USPTO.
All of these management officials seems quite open, very straight forward and created news. For example, at lunch Director Kappos explained that the goal for fiscal year 2010, which ended on September 30, 2010, was to get the backlog down to 699,000 — dubbed “project 699.” The Office was not successful, but Kappos says they will get well below 700,000 for fiscal year 2011, perhaps as low as a backlog of 650,000. Kappos’ immediate follow-up: “I say that as Commissioner Stoll starts to choke at me saying that.” Indeed, there are ambitious goals at the USPTO for FY 2011, including a move to unity of invention.
John Calvert, Administrator of the Inventors Assistance Program at the USPTO, teaching claim drafting
On Thursday and Friday, November 4-5, 2010, the United States Patent and Trademark Office held its annual Independent Inventors Conference. This marked the 15th time the USPTO has held the conference and it was once again an extremely successful event. A well deserved tip of the hat goes to John Calvert (pictured left) who is the Administrator of the Inventors Assistance Program at the USPTO, and Cathie Kirik (who assists John with Inventors Assistance). Both John and Cathie work tirelessly on behalf of inventors every day and together make sure the program is successful year in and year out.
David Kappos addresses Inventors Conference 2009 at USPTO
I am just getting back from two days at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, having attended the 14th Annual Inventors Conference. There is much to report, and much to write about, and I will continue to digest, analyze and write about what I saw and my impressions in the days to come. It is, however, undeniable that there is a completely different tone at the Patent Office. Senior level management, from Director David Kappos, Deputy Director Sharon Barner, Patent Commissioner Bob Stoll and Deputy Commissioner Peggy Focarino, mingled with inventors and seemed genuinely happy to discuss issues and appear committed to revitalizing the patent system. There were many, including myself, who wondered what direction the Patent Office would take under new leadership, and while it is early to give a grade, if we are going to be honest and give an interim report card the only fair grade to give at this point is an A. From top to bottom there is an optimism that exudes from everyone I spoke to at the Patent Office. Changes that ordinarily would take months are taking weeks, and the political leadership seems to REALLY understand the importance of innovation. In fact, in video-taped comments played during lunch today Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said that the Obama Administration pledges to provide US inventors the strongest IP protection available anywhere in the world. What more could we realistically ask for at this point?
David Kappos, the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, unveiled yesterday a series of proposals to bring significant change to the examiner “count system” – the methodology for determining the time a patent examiner has to complete a patent examination and how much credit is given for each stage of an examination. In the past I have referred to this as the examiner quota, and like so many others have been begging the Patent Office to make changes and address this matter so that it would be unnecessary, or less necessary, for examiners to manipulate the system and require needless filings (typically RCEs) by applicants and their representatives. The count system was created in the mid-1960s and hasn’t been revised since 1976, and with an ever deepening sophistication of inventions it has been woefully outdated for many years. While I have seemed to rail against patent examiners for manipulating the system, it is hard to place the blame on them for doing what virtually any of us probably would have done. Examiners have been over worked, and responded in ways that allowed them to get the credit they deserved for the work they were performing. Hopefully more realistic work requirements will streamline the process by giving examiners more time and putting an end to needless additional filings that only drag out the entire process to the detriment of the applicant and industry.
Yet another high profile senior level management position has been filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and the trend of qualified “get it” people continues. Rob Clarke, who is currently the Director of the Office of Patent Legal Administration (OPLA), has been asked by Director David Kappos to become the new USPTO Chief of Staff. I know Rob Clarke, professionally speaking, and I believe him to be an exceptional choice for this job. While Director of OPLA Clarke has frequently been given the dubious honor of speaking in public at conferences and CLE events, including many sponsored by PLI, and has defended many of the ill conceived rules that gave the Patent Office such a black eye over the last several years. There will be some who will question whether Clarke, who has been perceived at times as the defender of the Patent Office position, is the right person for this job. My own view is that he is knowledgeable, energetic and extremely bright. I have long felt he was a rising star within the Patent Office, and have heard others refer to him as such. I do not hold against him the fact that he has been the public voice of the Patent Office explaining unpopular rules. Having as Chief of Staff someone who has interfaced with so many patent attorneys at various events suggests an open posture and sharp divergence with respect to how the USPTO has operated in recent years. This is all positive and a very welcome sign from Director Kappos.
I wish I had some inside information to pass along, but I do not. All I can seem to come up with is unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo, but the report the other day from Patently-O that Duke Law Professor Arti Rai is heading to the Patent Office to fill a long vacant policy setting position has too much of a ring of truth to completely ignore. There have long been rumors associated with Professor Rai given that she is a long-time friend of President Barack Obama, both having been in the same Harvard Law School class. What we do know is that Rai was a member of the Obama transition team, and was rumored to be on the short list for Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, a position that also carries the title and responsibilities of Director of the Patent and Trademark Office. As practically everyone in the patent bar that came in contact with Professor Rai was kissing her ring in anticipation that she would become the new PTO Director, I heard an unsubstantiated rumor that she had been offered the position and declined. I want to make as clear as possible that I am writing about rumors, and unsubstantiated ones at that in order to distinguish from hard facts and inside information so that readers understand that this may all be much ado about nothing. Having said that, as well respected in academic circles as Professor Rai is, it would be an enormous mistake for her to be given a policy setting position within the USPTO. So allow me for a moment to buy into the rumors and make my case.
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