Mike Drummond, the Editor of Inventors Digest, sat down for an interview with David Kappos a few weeks ago while he was in Alexandria, Virginia, attending the Independent Inventors Conference. As has probably become apparent over the last several months Mike and I have been cooperating on a number of projects, sharing articles and doing some cross promotion. While I am just a patent attorney with an attitude, a particular point of view and one who can type super fast without looking at the keys, Mike is a real journalist. He has done a couple journalistic tours in Iraq and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for work he did while writing for the Charlotte Observer. So while I sometimes pretend to interview people, Drummond is the real deal. With a little arm twisting I was able to convince him to give me a sneak peek of his interview with David Kappos, the new Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the Director of the Patent and Trademark Office. What follows are excerpts from Drummond’s exclusive interview with Kappos. You can read the full story in the magazine’s January 2010 issue, which if you are not getting you really should! So subscribe to Inventors Digest today! Oh yes… to keep within the spirit of the obviously unconstitutional FTC endorsement guidelines that went into effect on December 1, 2009, I am endorsing Inventors Digest and suggesting you should subscribe because I think it is an excellent magazine. It also happens to be the only place you can read the full Kappos interview with Mike Drummond. Inventors Digest did not pay me to say that, and those who know me know that no one could pay me enough to say something I don’t believe! So I hope you are happy FTC police, and please don’t come knocking!
Before diving into some of the Q & A between Drummond and Kappos, setting the stage is probably appropriate. Most reading are probably well aware of the fact that the Patent Office is facing a $200 million budget shortfall and this has compelled Kappos to continue a hiring freeze and do without much needed computer and IT upgrades. But did you know that as a result of attrition the overall size of the examining core has shrunk from its all time high earlier this year? So with over 800,000 applications awaiting first action and a computer system that Union President Robert Budens has described as being held together with “bubble gum and bailing wire” (see second paragraph here), Kappos has an enormous challenge in front of him, and one that will be made all the harder unless Congress opens up the nation’s wallet, or credit card, and comes up with the funds necessary to help the Patent Office dig out from the mess created by years of mismanagement.
Now, without further ado, his a first peek at a small portion of the Kappos’ interview with Inventors Digest.
DRUMMOND: Let’s start with the backlog – is this the new normal?
KAPPOS: It is not going to be the new normal. It’s not acceptable.
Every patent application that we sit on is an American job not being created. And it’s a product that’s not going to market. It’s someone’s life that’s not being saved. It’s growth for our country that’s not being delivered.
We cannot settle for the backlog to become the status quo. It’s our mission to cut that backlog down very very substantially. We’re putting in place the system and the processes in this office to enable us to get to 10 months average pendency to first office action and 20 months average pendency to disposition.
DRUMMOND: How are you going to get there? What’s the alchemy? You stated the goal, but what are some of the steps you’re going to take?
KAPPOS: This is like any hard management problem. You solve it not by doing one thing, but a number of things.
The first part to the solution is the count system reform that we’ve already announced.
Part two is re-engineering of our patent office processes. You wouldn’t believe how complicated our patent processes are.
Another one I’ll mention that’s really important for independent inventors is encouraging early interviews in patent applications. I was shocked when I reviewed the numbers. The percentage of applicants who receive notices of allowance and incredibly fast issuance of their patents just went through the roof when you use the early, one-on-one consultations with examiners.
DRUMMOND: In March 2009, while representing IBM and before President Obama announced your nomination, you told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary that the quality of patents has diminished. You still believe that?
KAPPOS: I think clearly over the 20 years I’ve been practicing the quality of patents has diminished. Do I think it’s diminishing today? To tell you the truth, I think the level of quality of the patents coming out of the USPTO has at least stabilized.
I can tell you that Drummond also asked some pointed questions about whether work sharing is code for outsourcing, he asked Kappos to address his critics that have suggested he will do the bidding of IBM, possible fee increases were also discussed, as was having the amount of the fee being paid being consistent with the amount of service provided by the Patent Office. So what are you waiting for? Subscribe to Inventors Digest today! And to the FTC police who are watching, remember, I accepted no money for writing this, I just think it is a great magazine!