Drew Hirshfeld Appointed to Second Five-Year Term as USPTO Commissioner for Patents

By Gene Quinn
July 13, 2020

July 30, 2015: Drew Hirshfeld (left) sworn in as new Commissioner for Patents by USPTO Deputy Director Russ Slifer.

July 30, 2015: Drew Hirshfeld (left) sworn in as new Commissioner for Patents by USPTO Deputy Director Russ Slifer.

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.”

Iancu added:

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.

 

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and President & CEO ofIPWatchdog, Inc.. Gene founded IPWatchdog.com in 1999. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and Of Counsel to the law firm of Berenato & White, LLC. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 12 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. Jonathan Stroud July 13, 2020 1:47 pm

    Drew is a career official and a very decent, hardworking man. Well deserved.

  2. Pro Say July 13, 2020 2:33 pm

    Thank you Wilbur and congratulations Drew.

    These next 5 years will be at least as important to American innovation as have the past 5; especially with the critically-important effort to restore patent protection to all areas of innovation.

  3. Paul Cole July 14, 2020 3:38 am

    Congratulations, Drew and best wishes from this side of the Pond. An important and valuable appointment of an able and respected individual.

  4. JB July 14, 2020 2:09 pm

    Horrible decision. The new PAP has been delayed multiple times due to concerns about supervisor retaliation. This was an opportunity to introduce some new blood but nope. More of the same, patent examiners being crushed under the wheel that must turn, etc.

  5. Anon July 15, 2020 6:44 am

    JB,

    Care to add a few details to support what appears to be a diametrically opposite viewpoint?

    I have met the man several times in the pre-COVID era, but know that I do not know what it would be like to work under his authority.

    Are you speaking of things that your union should be handling for you? Are you speaking of things that your union has handled, but that you may have wanted handled differently?

  6. JB July 15, 2020 8:23 am

    Dear “Anon”,

    Interesting that you have asked for my opinion out of the others listed here. Could it be that you are a member of the USPTO’s multimedia strategy team, that seeks to constantly promote positive, imbalanced views of the USPTO on glassdoor and other sites?

    I am glad you have met Commissioner Hirshfeld. He has not personally met with most patent examiners so you have a leg up over the members of his own corps.

    The patent union has become incredibly diluted these past few years, as I am sure you know. POPA leadership hasn’t examined a single patent application in years and so is often woefully unprepared for meetings about patent applications.

    What I was referring to specifically is the new PAP. Originally it provided a 10 day window for patent examiners to return cases to junior examiners, ensuring junior examiners got their counts in the 14 day biweek. The new PAP totally removes autocount and several other helpful policies that ensured the overworked patent examiners could make their numbers. Management wanted to squeeze even more blood from the patent examiner stone a few weeks ago and changed this 10 day window to 14 days. Now every single junior examiner is at risk of losing the ability to meet their quotas, if their superiors go on vacation or just ignore a case for a couple extra days that biweek will be lost.

    I like that you took the tack of disgruntled patent examiner, but I suggest you look more into the policies that are shaping patent examination to be a totally untenable profession.

  7. IamI July 15, 2020 10:42 am

    Anon @5:

    The new PAP only codifies things that examiners should have been doing anyway. There are finally real (potential) consequences for gaming the docket management system or riding the endloading rollercoaster for production. An examiner who does his job as he should already has nothing to worry about. An examiner who procrastinates? Well, they’re in for a lot of change, and this is upsetting and worrisome to quite a few examiners.

  8. JB July 15, 2020 10:48 am

    Dear “Anon”,

    I responded to your request with several details at 8:32 AM this morning, but my comment (completely respectful) was deleted by the moderator. You will have to refer to that response.

    Thank you.

  9. Anon July 15, 2020 8:59 pm

    JB,

    You might be new here, so there are a few things to have you catch up.

    1) I am most definitely not an employee of the USPTO, and I have met Commissioner Hirshfeld at a number of attorney bar events at which the USPTO practices a ‘reach out’ to patent practitioners,

    2) If you visit the comment sections, you would see that I may be found quite often participating in the comment sections. I am not one to pull punches, and I am a very strong advocate for strong patent rights.

    3) The comment processing on the site is a bit odd – awhile back the processing changed and often it appears that comments either disappear directly into the void, or appear (when first submitted), only to seem to have been deleted.

    The ‘real time’ aspect is something that should NOT be expected.

    If you do not receive an error message, sit tight as your message WILL eventually appear.

    Another oddity is that sometimes your message will be there but the comment count indicator on the main page is not up to date.

    To the point of my questions, I did ask in earnest, as I do deal with examiners (like, all the time). Most of the examiners that I deal with on any repeat basis, I have established rapport with, and – by and large – these examiners are indeed conscientious and diligent, and I recognize that the job can be largely thankless.

    Most.

    But certainly not all. Across the blogs there are a number of repeat posters that are examiners and who are not only clueless, but are really a type of menace and give all examiners a bad name. Sadly, I have had a number of similar examiners in practice, and I am fortunate that my clients trust my judgement and allow me to apply a spectrum of toughness and care in my actions.

    One of the biggest hang-ups that I have with recalcitrant examiners happen with examiners who do not realize the difference between their internal performance metrics and what their role is in the legal processing (and what my clients have paid for).

    My clients do NOT pay for a “limited amount of time” per application — no matter if that is what you face.

    I also wanted to hear your views on your union, as I grew up in ‘flyover land,’ in a lower middle class household. I have worked since I was ten years old because I knew that my parents could not afford to pay for college for me (I now have three degrees). I have seen unions “go stale” and become merely a (self-serving) layer of management.

    That being said, I also put it to examiners to FORCE their union to hew to their wishes. If the time allotments are truly impossible, then the appropriate action is NOT to cut corners and cost my client what my client has paid for, but instead to force your union NOT to settle for unreasonable times.

    I do “get” that examination is not easy.
    I do have some sympathy.

    But you should realize that my duty is to my clients, and NOT (in any way) tied to the internal measures – and pressures therein – that you may face.

  10. This Is A Great Gig July 16, 2020 11:40 am

    JB-

    To your point that Commissioner Hirshfield has not met with Examiners is false. In fact, he’s hosted dozens of town halls over the past two fiscal years to literally listen to Examiners’ concerns.

    To your point that the union leadership hasn’t examined a single application in years is false. Per a recent executive order, union time has been whittled away and the union reps/leadership should be examining with greater frequency now.

    Regarding the changed time window for returns of office actions, like IamI essentially stated, if you are an endloader, you are in for a rude awakening. IMO this “penalty” you perceive is long overdue. Do you think its fair to Applicant, to the public, to turn all of your work in at the end of a biweek or on count monday and expect a superior to perform a quality review of it before 3pm that day just so that you can get your counts? If you turn your work in consistently throughout the biweek, this change should not affect you.

  11. Anon July 17, 2020 7:55 am

    As noted on other threads, the USPTO appears to have a structural problem with the notion that there is a right hand/left hand dynamic created with the entire post grant review mechanism and the (rational actor) mechanisms that “the customer served” are opposing ‘customers.’

    IF

    Commissioner Hirshfeld views his role as ““My mission is to constantly adapt and improve the way the Patents organization operates to ensure that we provide the best customer service possible,”

    “I look forward to continuing to work with our leadership team to ensure that we meet our goals each year.”

    THEN

    the fact of the matter that one half (the front end) ‘serves its customers’ with the PROPER grant of patents – and crows about having ‘quality’ in the high ninety percent metrics – at the same time that the other half (after the horse has left the barn) ‘serves its customers’ with an almost equal rate of annihilating those SAME ‘high quality’ (now granted) examined applications — and ‘makes money**’ on both sides – there is an apparent duplicity going on, and NO ONE should be happy with this ‘adaptability.’

    ** I put quotes around ‘make money’ because obviously, the Patent Office is not a ‘for profit’ organization, Here the ‘make money’ signifies the obtaining, mostly from innovators, funds that support the bureaucracy itself, and as noted on another thread FUELS the paychecks of those who SHOULD BE neutral, objective, and should be applying the law as members of the Executive Branch, such as they are.

    Congress — at the capture of forces that are clearly anti-patent — have rendered the patent system a mess.

  12. Anon July 19, 2020 10:00 pm

    Well, JB, Have you had a chance to think things over?

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