This morning, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross reappointed Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld for a second five-year term. Commissioner Hirshfeld’s original term was set to expire this month.
Hirshfeld began his career with the USPTO in 1994 as a Patent Examiner, became a Supervisory Patent Examiner in 2001, and was promoted in 2008 to Group Director in Technology Center 2100 (Computer Architecture Software and Information Security).
I have known Commissioner Hirshfeld for more than a decade, dating back to when he served as Chief of Staff to then USPTO Director David Kappos. Without a doubt, Hirshfeld is dedicated to the patent system. Innovators on every level, from all technology areas and of all sizes, whether micro-entity, small entity or large entity, have an ally on the 10th floor of the Madison Building at USPTO headquarters. Based on my observations, Hirshfeld works each and every day to make the patent processes work better. Simply put, whatever your vision of a government bureaucrat may be, that is not Drew Hirshfeld. He is in a unique position to make a difference, and he and his team work to do just that.
It is likely difficult for many to believe, but Hirshfeld has frequently told me that he wants to hear from the patent bar about irregularities and problems. While not every problem rises to the level of bringing it to the attention of the Commissioner’s Office, from time to time in the practice of patent law, procedural irregularities inevitably arise. “I can’t fix what I don’t know about,” Hirshfeld has told me on more than one occasion. And I know that patent practitioners that have had occasion to raise matters with Commissioner Hirshfeld or his team have reported a helpful professionalism and genuine interest in listening and assisting where appropriate.
Hirshfeld testified before Congress in October 2019 that some of the major challenges facing examiners are the need to “navigate changing jurisprudence in the constraints of a rigorous production system,” and the ever-expanding universe of prior art. However, he reported that Director Andrei Iancu’s guidance on Section 101 had “gone a long way” and that the examiner corps was “in a much better place now.”
“I am pleased to reappoint Drew Hirshfeld as the Commissioner for Patents at the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” said Secretary of Commerce Ross. “Commissioner Hirshfeld has made great contributions toward the mission of the Patents organization, and I am confident he will continue to do so throughout his second term. The Patents organization is vital to America’s intellectual property system, and I commend Commissioner Hirshfeld’s leadership and service.”
Commissioner Hirshfeld and his team have done an excellent job in recent years of improving patent pendency, quality and overall operations, while helping to implement significant changes to examination guidance in many areas, including patent eligibility. I am confident that under his ongoing leadership, the Patents organization will continue the efforts we have recently undertaken and operate at the highest levels of excellence to meet the needs of our ever-important and ever-evolving intellectual property system.
Prior to serving as Commissioner for Patents, Mr. Hirshfeld held the positions of Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy and Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO.
“My mission is to constantly adapt and improve the way the Patents organization operates to ensure that we provide the best customer service possible,” Hirshfeld said in a press release today. “I look forward to continuing to work with our leadership team to ensure that we meet our goals each year.”
Tune in on July 30 at noon to IPWatchdog’s webinar, “A Conversation with the Commissioner: A Look Inside Patent Processes at the USPTO,” which will include Hirshfeld as a panelist.