Monday, June 01, 2009

Waiting on the Naming of USPTO Director

Back on April 30, reports started to surface that Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke has announced that he has chosen the next Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and that the chosen candidate was "being vetted."

Well. Presuming that the original reports were accurate, either the candidate situation has changed, or the Department of Commerce is being extra-fastidious in "vetting" said candidate. Currently, the three most-mentioned names for the position remain Q. Todd Dickinson, former PTO Director under President Bill Clinton; David Kappos, VP, AGC for IP at IBM; and Jim Pooley, a Silicon Valley lawyer who was recently nominated to become deputy director of WIPO (and thus presumed to be out of the running).

Joff Wild, at the IAM Blog, noticed that Todd Dickinson, who recently spoke at the BIO Conference, gave a rather detailed account of the problems at the PTO and how to fix them. This led Joff to wonder if Dickinson indeed was "the one" since he wondered "whether Dickinson would have felt able to be so open in his analysis if he believed he was still in the running for the job."

Now, a new report has surfaced that Doug Luftman, associate general counsel for smartphone manufacturer Palm, has been nominated by Rep. Michael Honda for the position. According to the report from Tech Daily Dose:

Luftman has at least one cheerleader in Congress, Rep. Michael Honda, D-Calif, vice-chair of the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee, who wrote to the White House director of presidential personnel recommending him for the job. Although the letter was not made public, a spokesman for Honda said his boss believes Luftman's key asset "is his knowledge of the patent process from idea to product." Luftman has followed the product development process from the industry viewpoint at Palm and before that as general counsel of Caspian Networks; at CIENA Corp., and at Intel. He also worked for Fenwick & West's Silicon Valley office. Honda's aide said Luftman "recognizes the disarray" of the PTO and has management experience that could help.

Doug would be a fantastic candidate for the position and holds a great measure of respect from peers, practitioners and commentators alike (even PTO critic Greg Aharonian cheekily commented that "as a measure of his wisdom in the IP world, Doug has been a reader of PATNEWS for over ten years.")

Thus it appears that we may be waiting a while longer for a formal decision. For those keeping track of timelines, Bruce Lehman was nominated in April during Clinton's first year in office, Bush nominated Jim Rogan in May of his first year in office.

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