As I mentioned in my twitter feed, Russ Slifer has now been sworn-in as Deputy Director of the USPTO after being nominated by Director Michelle Lee and then appointed by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The PTO leadership is again at its full strength with a healthy mix of PTO insiders and outsiders, but all having years of direct intellectual property law experience. We should expect Lee and Slifer to stay on the job for the next two years. But, as political appointees, the expectation is that they will be out once a new president is sworn-in, although that transition can come in different forms depending upon the new administration.
The team is making a strong push for patent quality initiatives associated primarily with aspects under their control – internal examination processes – rather than changes in substantive law. However, they are also now renewing their focus on helping guide congressional patent reforms in order to avoid unbalancing the system. Two key questions on that front: (1) what clout with PTO input carry on the Hill when the focus is on litigation reform; and (2) how will PTO actions on that front be curtailed or shaped by the White House.
As Gene Quinn writes, Slifer was hard at work yesterday leading various aspects of the Patent Quality Summit.
The Deputy position is something like a vice president – little actual defined job responsibility. However, when I spoke with Director Michelle Lee who has been in that position for more than a year, she indicated that Slifer’s plate will be extremely full.