I have been saying for months that the logical thing would be for John Doll to retire, and earlier today the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced that after 35 years at the USPTO, Commissioner for Patents John Doll has announced his intention to retire from the agency on October 2, 2009. The retirement announcement also comes with an announcement relating to other significant changes among the senior management team of its Patent organization, and confirms what I have been hearing for some time behind the scenes, that Doll would retire and that Nick Godici really was only an advisor for a limited time and would return to private practice, which may now happen much sooner than previously anticipated. David Kappos, the Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the Patent and Trademark Office, has as a result of Doll’s retirement announcement nominated longtime USPTO executive Robert (“Bob”) Stoll to the position of Commissioner for Patents, and has named Margaret (“Peggy”) Focarino Deputy Commissioner for Patents. Focarino was elevated to Acting Commissioner for Patents when Doll was elevated to Acting Director, all of which occurred when Jon Dudas resigned as Undersecretary and Director of the PTO the day of President Obama’s inauguration.
Speaking of the senior management shake-up, Kappos said:
Bob brings to this position a rare expertise in patent policy and practice, as well as a strong command of the inner-workings of the USPTO and the federal government. Working hand-in-hand with Peggy, who has shown incredible skill in Patents management and operations, I know they will meet the formidable challenges facing the Patent organization, including the need to drastically reduce pendency, improve quality and boost efficiency, all while managing costs in a tough budgetary environment.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who will appoint Doll’s replacement, expressed support for Stoll’s nomination.
I have directed the USPTO to pursue an aggressive agenda to significantly reduce the time it takes to process patent applications,” Locke said. “The length of time it takes causes uncertainty for inventors and entrepreneurs, stifles innovation and impedes our economic recovery. Bob’s deep knowledge of the Patent Office will make him an important addition to the senior management team as they reform the system and help us regain America’s competitiveness.
Locke will appoint Stoll after Doll’s retirement becomes official.
Commenting on John Doll’s tenure at the USPTO, Kappos said:
John is to be commended on his accomplished, 35-year career at the USPTO. We are grateful for his service to the agency, and, specifically, for leading the Patent organization through a period of unprecedented growth—in terms of filings, new examiner hires and adoption of electronic processing. He has earned respect both inside and outside the agency for his leadership, his knowledge and his passion for the USPTO and the U.S. intellectual property system. We wish him all the best.
This sentiment was echoed by Secretary Locke who said: “We thank John for his public service and congratulate him on his retirement. He had a remarkable career at the USPTO and we wish him well.”
Bob Stoll has held a series of leadership positions during his 27-year career with the USPTO. He began his USPTO career as a patent examiner, then later held critical management roles including Supervisory Patent Examiner; Executive Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks; Administrator of the Office of Legislative and International Affairs where he led a staff of attorneys representing the USPTO before Congress and in diplomatic and policy arenas worldwide; and Director of Enforcement, where he led the USPTO’s efforts to fight the counterfeiting and piracy of American intellectual property. Most recently, Stoll served as Dean of Training and Education for the USPTO where he directed efforts to train foreign officials and the public on all aspects of IP. He holds a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from the University of Maryland, a J.D. from Catholic University and is a member of the Maryland state bar. The Commissioner for Patents position he will soon hold is nominated by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and is appointed by the Secretary of Commerce for a term of five years.
The appointment of Peggy Focarino to the position of Deputy Commissioner for Patents creates a streamlined management structure for the Patent organization. Focarino has been with the agency for more than 32 years, and has significant experience as a patent examiner, supervisory patent examiner and technology center director. During her tenure as Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations, where she had oversight of the agency’s patent examining corps, Focarino implemented a new approach to training examiners, and supported telework programs for patent examiners and technical support staff.
Much, if not all, of this news should come as good news for those in the patent bar and those who are regular users of the Patent Office. Rightly or wrongly, John Doll is widely believed to be responsible for most, if not all, of the rules packages that were viewed almost unanimously as an all-out assault on innovators in the United States. The claims and continuations rules were enjoined by Judge Cacheris of the Eastern District of Virginia, and after a favorable panel decision from the Federal Circuit the full Federal Circuit decided to rehear the case. Then the Department of Justice made the extraordinary request of the Federal Circuit that they hold off on the en banc hearing so Kappos could be put in place and perhaps withdraw the rules and moot the case, which is widely expected to happen very soon. The appeals rules were also held up, but they were held up by the Office of Management and Budget in what insiders have called a truly shocking development. The Markush and Information Disclosure Rules, which were overwhelmingly bad for pharma and biotech specifically, and the life sciences sector generally, have been in limbo pending resolution of the other failed or failing initiatives.
All of this being said, I do not expect tears to be shed by the announcement of Doll’s retirement by the patent bar. To the contrary, the retirement announcement and Kappos quickly moving to put in place a new senior management team demonstrate that he understands the magnitude of the problems facing the Patent Office and he plans on charting a different course. In fact, in all of the public statements Kappos has made since his confirmation hearing it has become increasinly apparent that he appreciates the problems of the Office and that he plans on operating differently as the Chief of the USPTO. Indeed there does seem to be a new sheriff in town, and that is a very welcome development if you ask me.