Director David Kappos today offered his first public speech directly to the intellectual property law community since taking office as Director. The 600+ patent attorneys in attendance at the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) appeared cautiously hopeful.
- Kappos intends to focus on process-focused reform in an attempt to drop pendency and increase examination effectiveness. In particular, Kappos suggested a reengineering of the USPTO examiner count system to better encourage compact prosecution; pre-first-office-action interviews as a mechanism to quickly focus on the important issues; easing the acceleration of valuable cases while creating mechanisms for the worthless cases to be more quickly abandoned without wasting resources. While waiting for broad reforms to take effect, Kappos also suggests mechanisms for shortening pendency for focused sectors of technology. As part of this, Kappos also suggested that plans at creating a “nationwide workforce” of patent examiners.
- Legislative patent reform is one of the “highest priorities” of both the USPTO and the Commerce Department. (Kappos did not develop the particular areas of reform).
- In the Q&A session, Kappos was asked about Tafas v. Dudas and its potential resolution. He joked that it might aptly be renamed Kappos v. Kappos based upon his history of opposing the rules package and his new role as PTO director. Despite his predilection against those particular reforms, Kappos may not have power to extricate the Government from its position.
- In the background, is the “big overhanging problem . . . funding.” Kappos reported an expected $200 million shortfall for FY2010. Leaving little money to make improvements or to even keep-up the “extremely fragile” information technology system.