By Dennis Crouch
According to Pam MacLean at Reuters, Sarah Harris has now been tapped by USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee as the next USPTO General Counsel. Bernie Knight left the position in August of 2013 for private practice and Will Covey has been acting GC. Covey is expected to now return to his role as Director of the Office of Enrollment and Discipline.
Harris is most recently the Deputy General Counsel for AOL in charge of Intellectual Property and has spent time in-house at several high-tech companies.
General Counsel is seen as the principal legal advisor to the USPTO Director and generally supervises court representation for the agency. Although the role does deal with substantive IP issues, it delves deeply into all sorts of additional issues involving government contracts, employment issues, etc.
From the article:
“The disappointing aspect of this news is that we’re building up a leadership structure in the USPTO without actually having an appointed director in charge,” said Dennis Crouch, a patent attorney and author of the Patently O blog, which covers U.S. patent law issues.
Crouch praised the Harris appointment, saying, “she will bring strong pragmatic leadership in that role.”
Ordinarily, a director would first be named and then given some authority to build his or her team. That was the approach that David Kappos was able to use to great success. It may be more difficult to now find a USPTO leader who fits easily into this already-forming team of supporting cast members.