Deputy Director __________?

Now that USPTO Director Michelle Lee has fully taken office as Director, the next position-filling step will be to hire a Deputy Director.  The Patent Act provides that the USPTO Director (Lee) will nominate a Deputy Director but that the Secretary of Commerce (Pritzker) has the power to make the actual appointment.  35 U.S.C. 3.  According to the statute, the Deputy Director must “be a citizen of the United States who has a professional background and experience in patent or trademark law.”  In a speech yesterday, Director Lee added her goal of “identifying the perfect individual for this position, someone who from day one can join with me and the rest of the agency’s leadership in promoting intellectual property and advancing innovation.”

Hal Wegner has mentioned two possible nominees: Russ Slifer (Director of the USPTO Denver Office) and Christal Sheppard (new Director of the USPTO Detroit Office).  Slifer and Sheppard are current USPTO executives who have spent most of their careers outside the agency.  Mike Walker (DuPont) has also been suggested as an excellent candidate, but it may be difficult to draw him away from his chief-IP-counsel role.  It would be fun to have Kevin Noonan.

Terry Rea was the Deputy under Dave Kappos after Sharon Barner resigned from the post.



58 thoughts on “Deputy Director __________?

  1. 9

    I’d like to see someone who has deep experience and a working knowledge of our patent system. Someone with the guts to stand up to some of the nonsense that is going on now.

    For example, Alice is ridiculous. It is a case for liberal arts majors to contemplate a couple of patent cases a year–not a case law that is needed to examine 100’s of thousands of patent applications a year. Alice has caused untold hours of misery and expense to many people. Alice is clearly judicial activism and a I know it when I see it test. Terrible law from a terrible SCOTUS.

    We need someone that is intelligent enough to fight for the PTO and case law that works for examination. Someone who is strong enough to stand up to Congress too and Obama. Tell Obama stop! Stop! Do not appoint another liberal arts major to the court of science. A national disgrace. Someone that is strong enough to tell Congress to correct Benson and Alice. To either remove them from the jurisprudence or codify them. But, make the law clear so we can all move forward and the PTO can concentrate on substantive examination and not trying to apply voodoo laws from the SCOTUS.


    1. 9.2

      But given that Lee is the director, we can count on someone with a professional exterior and a secret agenda to be appointed. Oh boy. Thanks Obama.

    2. 9.3

      We need someone that is intelligent enough to fight for the PTO and case law that works for examination. Someone who is strong enough to stand up to Congress too and Obama. Tell Obama stop! Stop! Do not appoint another liberal arts major to the court of science. A national disgrace.

      There’s definitely a “national disgrace” associated with our patent system.

      It definitely isn’t Obama or “liberal arts majors”.

      Here’s a great idea: let’s put 22 year old “engineers” who can’t tell the difference between a patent claim and an object falling within the scope of that claim in charge of deciding what’s patent worthy. Wouldn’t that be a great idea? All function, all the time! Let’s drop the reliance on weasel words like “configured to” and just claim the information processing and logic functionalities as functionalies.

      What could possibly go wrong?

      Fun times. Glad you’re still hanging in there NWPA, fighting tooth and nail. Assuming you still have teeth, of course.

      1. 9.3.1

        >>All function, all the time!

        It is so clear that this is the latest judicial activist push. Lemley you are no scholar. You are shame. Your functional paper is a joke.

  2. 7

    OT, but maybe we should just keep the nomination “secret”…

    And in the “gee that’s shocking what was the campaign slogan again?” category:

    The Obama administration set a record again for more often than ever censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

    The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents, and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

    Law Daily News: Most-Transparent-Administration-in-History-Obamas-Sets-Record-for-Least-Transparent–Again-

  3. 6

    It would be fun to have Kevin Noonan.

    Kevin Noonan could not wrap his brilliant mind around the issues or the facts in Prometheus v Mayo even when those issues were laid out before him in the plainest terms possible. All he cared about were the precious business interests of the data crunchers who were attempting to protect correlations with patents.

    He certainly wasn’t the only to fail in that regard. But the episode revealed a willful blindness that we absolutely do not need in the USPTO. There’s more than enough of that already.

    1. 6.1

      So in other words an acid test for whether or not they agree with the SCOTUS’s judicial activism.

      1. 6.1.1

        in other words an acid test

        In other words he’s a terrible choice.

        If you can’t get the really important stuff right, you don’t deserve to be holding the reins.


            in other words, an acid test.

            The important thing, of course, is that NWPA would never, ever apply any “acid test” to somebody else’s preferred candidate.

            He’s very serious and not hypocritical in the least.


              Pretty interesting that the vested interests that pay MM to blog here now have an acid test like abortion for judges. It shows two things: 1) that this has become very political, and 2) GUESS (!), it proves that this is judicial activism.


                1) that this has become very political

                Oh no! Politics! People’s opinions might be heard and someone might respond. Grab your guns!

                it proves that this is judicial activism.


                1. An acid test brings us to the next level just like judicial appointments became filled with acid tests.

                2. “Acid”…?

                  It’s more like he his soaking something in urine, the way he simply tries to misapply a b@nal “you can’t have a patent for mere aggregation claims.”

      1. 5.2.1

        Pretty horrible thing to say. Pretty much indicates you are a person never to be trusted with any responsibility.


          Or just someone who lives in the United States today and has half a brain.

          The pundits on TV say the same thing, yet you trust them without question.

      2. 5.2.2

        I’m all for diversity in the patent office, but this sort of generalization is repugnant.


              I can’t remember the last deputy director we had that was a white dude. Can you guys? I mean, there was the blonde lady here when I got here (peterson?), then there was the older lady, then the other older lady, then michelle.

  4. 4

    I’d strongly favor some one with experience in industry or doing patent prosecution in law firms. This is, after-all, the majority of the PTO’s “customers.” I’d also like to see someone with an experience other than IT, to balance the director’s perspective.

  5. 2

    Why not someone from Wilson Sonsini? Regardless of who it is, those guys are movers and shakers, and know the value of startups and then some.

      1. 2.1.1

        She does seem well qualified.

        As for members of patent firms moving to the PTO, it’s been my experience that most law firm members (partners or otherwise) wouldn’t be qualified for that. Most law firm members are poor managers, for instance. Many of them (in patent law anyway) are highly intelligent, but strange to very strange. (Me included.) Plus, few of them have backgrounds in managing huge institutions, and gov’t institutions are even harder to manage.


          I disagree that they can’t. Managing a firm while billing 1800 hours (i.e., running production) and developing business (i.e., running sales) is the real problem with attorneys trying to manage firms.


            And managing production, quality, people and bills is core to successful law firm partnership, and is something that the PTO also struggles with.

  6. 1

    Need to look into Shepperd’s experience a little more. A 2001 grad but wasn’t admitted to CA bar until May 2002. Ever admitted to DC bar while practicing in DC? Plus very little time actually practcing as an attorney. And what’s the deal with the “not eligible” status (see below)? That could mean “suspension, involuntary transfer to inactive status and failure to pay mandatory State Bar fees”

    Effective Date Status Change
    Present Inactive
    2/8/2008 Inactive
    8/21/2006 Active
    1/1/2004 Inactive
    12/23/2003 Active
    9/16/2003 Not Eligible To Practice Law
    5/14/2002 Admitted to The State Bar of California

    1. 1.1

      Sheppard has an interesting background that including a half decade as IP counsel for Democrats in the House. (Leading up to passage of the AIA). She has been a law professor for the past several years and a
      member of PPAC. She also previously worked in Foley’s patent department. JD PhD.

      1. 1.1.1

        Nothing personal against academics and political advisors, but those experiences can’t take the place of real world engineering/law/business experience. Bolster, yes, replace, no. I can teach you a lot about space flight, but you would be a f00l to let me build you a spaceship.


          These are good points Anony. The position should be filled by someone with deep knowledge of the system and its history. The one (major) caveat though is that a substantial part of the job includes (1) managing the 15,000 employees and multi-billion-dollar budget and (2) working the politics of DC to ensure that the PTO has funding and freedom to do its job.


            I agree – in fact, I would consider experience in patent law to be pretty low on the list of criteria, considering that we’ve got that aspect well-covered by numerous people in upper management. Throwing a bone to pharma or to the AIPLA in order to achieve some sort of “balance” is not a good reason to hire someone.


            Dennis: The position should be filled by someone with deep knowledge of the system and its history

            It would also be nice if the position were filled by someone capable of thinking about the future when it comes to making agency decisions about the interpretation and implementation of the patent statutes and case law.

            Someone with “deep knowledge” of history will presumably spend some time wondering how much of a role the agency’s behavior over the past 20 years has played in diminishing the credibility of the patent system.


              And let’s keep in mind reality. The US has powered past all contenders as the number one place for innovation.

              Let’s all keep in mind that the areas you want to exclude in 101 are the same areas that we are number and grew to number with those areas firmly in 101.


                The US has powered past all contenders as the number one place for innovation.

                Therefore our patent system must continue to churn out ever more and more incredibly junky patents on information processing logic and computer “functionality” that do not promote progress but only litigation, gambling and grift.

                Sure, that makes a lot sense.


                Like Kappos?

                Give me a break.

                While I do not endorse the pending anti-troll legislation, I think it should all but be mandatory to pick someone who is as hostile as possible to software and business method patents.

                Who runs eBay?

                1. What factual basis is there for your opinion Ned?

                  Certainly the big picture reality does not support your opinion.

                2. Night, creatures of the AIPLA or IPO (Kappos) are advocates of business method patents. Obviously, these folks need to be barred from any further Directorships until this changes.

                  I am aware that people who oppose business method patents are behind the radical reforms pending in Congress. This is why getting someone who opposes those reforms and also opposes business method patents is going to be very hard.

                3. >I think it should all but be mandatory to pick someone >who is as hostile as possible to software and business >method patents.

                  I completely disagree with this. And I will note again that this is an acid test and has brought us to the brink of appointments that are as controversial as judicial appointments.

                  Anyone with any sense knows why. It is because the SCOTUS has made new law with Alice. And what happens when you do that is the system becomes unstable.

                4. Ned, don’t be ridiculous. Any serious judicial scholar can see all the hallmarks of judicial activism in Alice even to the extent that has turned the director into a political quasi judicial officer since now the law is made by the courts and not Congress. Whenever you get the law being fabricated by the courts, you get instability because then the law depends on who is the judge.

                  Any objective person can see this is now true with patents. We now have Alice (the Roe v. Wade) case of patents. The only solution is for Congress to assert its power, like it did in over ruling the absurd flash of genius standard.

                  (Again, the arrogance of people that know nothing of science or innovation is astounding. )

      2. 1.1.2

        I think that’s exactly what he was referencing – she’s out of touch with the real world of business

    2. 1.2

      Not to “pile on” here, but when Dr. Sheppard was mentioned here a couple of months ago in connection with the Detroit satellite, I notice that her resume seemed to fit the category of superficially impressive but lacking in IP/patent/TM depth. She lasted a year at Foley before ending up doing doc review for a while, which is a bit of a head-scratcher, then got into the congressional counsel gig. From there it seems all roses, but still, overall, very much a “politically acceptable* (in the sense that she’s worked with a lot of politicians) resume.

      OTOH, maybe someone whose primary focus has been thinking about policy rather than practice/practical considerations is what is desired.

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