The director of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO), David J. Kappos, announced last week that he is stepping down, with his resignation effective near the end of January 2013. He did not cite a reason for leaving the agency, although personnel changes throughout the Obama Administration have been widely anticipated for President Barack Obama’s second term.
“I believe we have made great progress in reducing the patent backlog, increasing operational efficiency, and exerting leadership in [intellectual property] policy domestically and internationally,” Kappos said in an e-mail to staff. He has served as PTO director since 2009.
During his tenure, Kappos bolstered PTO’s patent application examining corps and is widely credited with making the agency more efficient. Notably, the backlog of patent applications has dropped from some 750,000 at the end of 2008 to about 605,000 now.
“Director Kappos was able to bring the number of examiners and administrative patent judges in line with the increased amount of workload to keep the backlogs in check,” says Kendrew H. Colton, a partner at Fitch, Even, Tabin & Flannery. “He has earned the respect of the bar and other users of the U.S. patent system.”
Over the past year, Kappos has overseen implementation of the America Invents Act of 2011, the first major overhaul of U.S. patent law since 1952. He also set up PTO’s first-ever satellite office in Detroit and awarded future branch offices to Denver, Dallas, and San Jose.
“Amidst the profound changes to U.S. patent law, Kappos has worked closely with the patent community to implement regulations that best serve patent users and the examination process,” says Paul M. Rivard, a patent attorney at Banner & Witcoff. “He truly has taken great strides toward his goal of creating a 21st-century patent system in the U.S.”
Before Kappos was appointed by the President to lead PTO, he had worked at IBM for 25 years, most recently as vice president and assistant general counsel in charge of worldwide intellectual property operations. PTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea will serve as acting director for the agency until an Administration nominee is confirmed by the Senate.
Kappos has not said what his career plans might be after he leaves PTO.