In the ten weeks between the election and the inauguration, we will have plenty of time to ponder what changes, if any, might be in store for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Many believe its interminable quest to improve so-called patent quality has led to a precipitous drop in patent allowances.

The question is, will there be some shift in policy that might ease the tension between the Patent Office and the patent community? First, we have to look at what the Obama administration might want to do.  According to an Obama campaign statement:

Reform the Patent System: A system that produces timely, high-quality patents is essential for global competitiveness in the 21st century. By improving predictability and clarity in our patent system, we will help foster an environment that encourages innovation. Giving the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) the resources to improve patent quality and opening up the patent process to citizen review will reduce the uncertainty and wasteful litigation that is currently a significant drag on innovation. With better informational resources, the Patent and Trademark Office could offer patent applicants who know they have significant inventions the option of a rigorous and public peer review that would produce a “gold-plated” patent much less vulnerable to court challenge. Where dubious patents are being asserted, the PTO could conduct low-cost, timely administrative proceedings to determine patent validity. As president, Barack Obama will ensure that our patent laws protect legitimate rights while not stifling innovation and collaboration.

References to predictability and clarity in our patent system may signal a need to clarify issues with the obviousness standard set out by KSR. which has been made into a hammer by the Patent Office.  But then, there is that statement about wanting to “improve patent quality and opening up the patent process to citizen review will reduce the uncertainty and wasteful litigation that is currently a significant drag on innovation,” which is a clear hat tip to the high tech industry.

It would be a shame if the a “gold-plated” patent scenario where to be implemented.  It would seem to amount to a stamp marking all other patents as “crap” patents. Better time and resources could be put towards the need for administrative proceedings to determine patent validity, if made to be truly low-cost and timely.

And what about the USPTO administration itself?  Currently, Jon W. Dudas serves as Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  He was nominated by President George W. Bush.

As Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, Mr. Dudas advises the President of the United States, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Administration about intellectual property matters. As Director of the USPTO, he administers the laws of granting patents and trademarks and the day-to-day management of the $1.8 billion agency and its more than 8,900 employees.

Most likely, we will see Director Dudas leave his position by inauguration day since he a political appointee — appointed by the President after Senate confirmation. The Deputy Director is also a politically-appointed position (by the Secretary of Commerce)  but the previously embattled Deputy Director Margaret Peterlin has already announced her resignation.

Commissioner for Patents John Doll and Commissioner for Trademarks Lynne Beresford are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce for 5-year terms that are not tied to the date of election of the President. They may or may not bere-appointed when their terms expire.

Most likely, any changes will come slowly.  We’ll keep you informed.

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    […] Will The U.S. Patent Office See Change? Or More Of The Same? Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  He was nominated by President George W. Bush. […]

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    […] Another area that might shift under the Obama administration is the U.S. patent office, says Stephen Albainy-Jenei of Patent Baristas. “Most likely, any changes will come slowly,” he says, but does believe that Jon Dudas, the undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and a Bush appointee, would be leaving. […]