On March 7, 2011, I had the privilege of conducting an interview with the United States Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. Later in the day word began to leak that President Barack Obama was planning on announcing that he would appoint Locke to be the next United States Ambassador to China. ABC News first broke the story that President Obama would nominate Secretary Locke to become Ambassador to China after the close of business on March 7, 2011, and President Obama followed suit and later that week did announce that Locke would become the next Ambassador to China. Little has been said since that time about Locke moving on to become Ambassador to China, and less even still has been said about who will replace Secretary Locke once he leaves the Department of Commerce.
Those who live inside the beltway know that rumors swirl left and right, and it is sometimes extremely difficult to cut through the rumor-mill, which sometimes seems more like a “wishful thinking mill” than a true rumor-mill. Notwithstanding, there is one name that I have heard from multiple sources as likely to become the next Secretary of Commerce — Ambassador Ron Kirk.
Because of sufficient funding not linked to the current fiscal year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office will remain open for business and will continue to operate as usual through the close of business on Monday, April 18, 2011 even in the event of a government shutdown. The USPTO has enough reserves to operate for 6 business days even in the event of a government shutdown, and should a shutdown occur and continue longer than 6 days the USPTO anticipates that limited staff would still be able to continue to work to accept new electronic applications and maintain IT infrastructure, among other functions. Thus, USPTO employees are not in any immediate risk of a furlough due to the ongoing fiscal year 2011 budget battle being waged between Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama.
As part of the White House’s Startup America initiative, on April 6, 2011, senior Obama Administration officials will visit St. Paul, Minnesota to meet with entrepreneurs and hear directly from them on ideas and suggestions for reducing barriers and improving regulations to build a more supportive environment for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Using the input from the roundtables and broader public participation, the Obama Administration hopes to put together a list of the best ideas to streamline and simplify unnecessary barriers to America’s entrepreneurs and innovators. The Administration says these ideas will be incorporated into the agencies’ responses to the President’s Executive Order instructing federal agencies to identify and take steps to eliminate or reduce regulations that are outdated or overly burdensome to entrepreneurs.
At least initially, President Obama was keenly interested in exploring how the United States government could use open source software rather than rely on proprietary software. President Obama was so interested in pursuing open source software solutions that on his second day in Office he asked Scott McNealy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, to lead his open source charge. In fact, President Obama reportedly asked McNealy to prepare a report on how the federal government could employ open source software, but as yet, some 26 months later there has been no mention of the report or across the board government adoption of open source software.
Open source advocates praised the fact that President Obama wanted to transition the U.S. government away from proprietary solutions and into open source, but now that the report has seemingly stalled and the White House has done little more than release open source Drupal code, what does the open source community have to show?
Earlier today President Barack Obama held a press conference where he addressed the nation on the rapid increase in gas prices caused most immediately by unrest in Northern Africa and more generally as a result of the world slowly emerging from the Great Recession. After detailing a number of efforts to boost domestic oil production, including encouraging companies to pursue leased lands that are idle and possible new development efforts onshore and off-shore in Alaska, the President explained, “All of these actions can increase domestic oil production in the short and medium term, but let’s be clear: it is not a long term solution. Even if we started drilling new wells tomorrow, that oil isn’t coming online over night. Even if we tap every single reserve available to us we can’t escape the fact that we only control 2% of the world’s oil, but we consume over a quarter of the world’s oil.” President Obama even quoted T. Boone Pickens,saying: “This is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.”
Last week Renee Quinn attended a program about social media at Akin Gump in Washington, D.C. Someone from House Speaker John Boehner’s office was in attendance and Renee had an opportunity to do a bit of networking. The topic turned to the subject of an interview, and an offer was made to attempt to facilitate an interview with a Member of Congress on issues relating to patents and innovation.
Learning of the offer to coordinate an interview I asked Renee to attempt to secure an interview with Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Congressman Chaffetz is one of only two Members of Congress on both the House Budget Committee and the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, which is a subset of the House Judiciary Committee. These two Committee assignments make Congressman Chaffetz the perfect person to speak with regarding patents, innovation and the Patent Office budget.
Staffers worked with us to coordinate the interview with Congressman Chaffetz, which took place earlier today. I was told I would have 15 minutes with the Congressman, and graciously he allowed the interview to go a little long. We talked about the President’s States of the Union address, patent reform, the USPTO budget, innovation generally, manufacturing, job creation, China and more. I think many will find what Congressman Chaffetz has to say quite interesting and very encouraging. I myself found him to be well informed and refreshingly candid.
President Obama delivers his weekly address on Feb. 5, 2011
In his February 5th radio address, President Obama noted that “If we make America the best place to do business, businesses should … set up shop here, and hire our workers, and pay decent wages, and invest in the future of this nation. That’s their obligation.”
I agree. But government has an obligation, too. Is it doing all it can to truly make America the best place to do business?
Consider Evergreen Solar, which until last month was one of America’s largest solar panel makers. On January 14th, it shut down its Massachusetts factory and sent 800 jobs to China. This leaves only Silicon Valley’s Solyndra making solar panels in the U.S., and it just shut down one of its two production facilities.
President Obama at White House Ceremony, November 2010.
Earlier this evening President Barack Obama delivered the 2011 State of the Union Address to a live audience in the House Chambers at the Capitol. Not surprisingly, President Obama mentioned “innovation” repeatedly. The use of the “innovation” rhetoric is to be expected any more from our elected leaders, but it is typically little more than rhetoric. Perhaps that is how this speech will ultimately go down in history, but I must confess near complete shock that President Obama did utter the word “patent” during his speech this evening.
Political leaders any more also throw about the grossly overused term “intellectual property,” with near reckless abandon, so it would not have been surprising to hear the term in the State of the Union. Of course, the term “intellectual property” is almost always used to refer to copyrights and trademarks, counterfeiting and piracy. “Intellectual property” is rarely, if ever, used by politicians to refer to patents, inventions and innovative technologies. So it was perhaps even more remarkable that during the Obama State of the Union there was no mention of the term “intellectual property.” Instead President Obama focused on the “hard IP” — patents. Nearly 20% of his speech was devoted to technology, innovation and inventors, saying at one point: “The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.” He even cited Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers!
Manus Cooney (American Continental Group) discusses job creation with the panel, Chief Judge Michel looks on.
On Friday, January 21, 2011, I was at the Newseum for the Innovation Alliance conference on patents, innovation and job creation. The turn out was spectacular. Of course there were the usual suspects, but also in attendance were a number of Congressional Staffers and a good contingent of reporters. No doubt the location, only blocks away from the Capitol, facilitated the attendance of many.
I had the privilege of moderating the first panel on how patented innovations create jobs and economic growth. On the panel were Lisa Kuuttilla, President & CEO of STC.UNM at the University of New Mexico, Harry Leonhardt, Vice President & Deputy General Counsel for Amylin Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and John Swart, President of Exemplar Genetics, a small Iowa-based biotechnology company. The panel discussion ran the spectrum from Kuuttilla, who is responsible for getting University based research licensed and into the hands of start-up companies, to Swart who’s company is only three years old, has raised $6 million from investors and licenses University technologies, to Leonhardt who described Amylin as being in virtually the same position as Exemplar Genetics 20+ years ago.
Inventive Step is reporting that President Obama has renominated Edward C. DuMont and Jimmie Reyna to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Oddly, the press release announcing the renomination of DuMont and Reyna, along with the renomination of 40 others, is not available from WhiteHouse.gov. On January 5, 2011, President Obama forwarded numerous nominations to the Senate, but the press release naming the 42 judges isn’t available. The only place where I could find a copy of the press release, which was apparently sent to some journalists and just not published otherwise, is here.
In any event, President Obama nominated both DuMont and Reyna in 2010. DuMont was nominated in April to take the position opened by the retirement of Chief Judge Michel and Reyna was nominated in September to take the position opened by Judge Mayer’s decision to take senior status. Neither individual had a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, a prerequisite to an up or down vote by the full Senate. Perhaps the Senate Judiciary Committee will take swifter action on these nominations in 2011, but even if they do there is no guarantee that the Senate will have an up or down vote.
At this time of the year all typically sit back and reflect on the year that has been, spend time with family and friends, watch some football and set a course to follow into the new year. It is also that time of the year where we are inundated with lists, top 10 this, top 10 that, it gets rather mind numbing after a while. So with that in mind — I have my own top 10 list. I know, I know, but they are so much fun to put together and there is something useful about looking back and reflecting that helps put things into perspective.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 events that shaped the patent, innovation and intellectual property industry during 2010 — at least according to me, and with a heavy patent emphasis. What did you expect?
On March 10, 2010, District Court Judge Kathleen O’Malley was nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed Alvin Schall, who retired from the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Earlier today, Judge O’Malley was confirmed by the United States Senate, see Senate Confirms Five Judicial Nominees. O’Malley’s confirmation, along with the confirmation of 18 others in recent days, is the result of a deal between Senate Democrats and Republicans that ensured passage of 19 nominations in exchange for an agreement not to move forward with other controversial nominations, including the hotly challenged nomination of Goodwin Lui, who is Associate Dean and Professor of Law at University of California Berkeley School of Law. O’Malley will join 15 other colleagues on the Federal Circuit, 6 of who are on senior status.
Judge O’Malley has served on the the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio since being appointed by President William J. Clinton on September 20, 1994 and confirmed by a voice vote of the Senate on October 12, 1994. See Thomas: Nomination PN1786-103.