Commissioner Focarino Set to Retire

Margaret (Peggy) Focarino is the Commissioner for Patents for the United States Patent & Trademark Office.  She joined the USPTO in 1977 as a patent examiner and joined the Senior Executive team in 1997 under Bruce Lehman. Throughout this time, Focarino has continued as a much admired and trusted administrator of the agency.  In many ways, her role has been that of a strong stabilizing force within an office facing a rise in political pressure on a variety of fronts.  Although the job does involve setting policies regarding patent policies, much of the work is centered around operations — running a 10,000+ member governmental organization.

This week, Focarino announced her upcoming retirement scheduled for early July 2015.  Congratulations Peggy on your commitment and service to the office!

I suspect that Director Michelle Lee will name Focarino’s successor quickly.  There is a natural chain of succession that would raise one of the deputy commissioners to the role of commissioner.  Current deputies include Deputy Commissioner for Patents Operations Andrew Faile; Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy Andrew Hirshfeld; Deputy Commissioner for Patent Quality Valencia Martin-Wallace; Deputy Commissioner for Patent Administration Bruce Kisliuk; and Deputy Commissioner for the Office of International Patent Cooperation Mark Powell.  Of these, Faile and Hirshfeld are the most likely candidates. Of course, there is no requirement that Director Lee follow this order of succession or even that she appoint a “career” patent office employee to the position.


11 thoughts on “Commissioner Focarino Set to Retire

    1. 2.1

      Peggy should go work for Don Dunner. Dunner was president of the AIPLA circa ’77 when Peggy started at the PTO. He still is actively arguing all sorts of appeals 30+ years later.

      Might also consider working for Pauline Newman. Judge Newman was a IPO director circa ’77, and, with Don Dunner, was instrumental in getting reexaminations passed into law. Appointed by the Gipper, she still on the bench 30+ years later.

      Remarkable these two. Simply remarkable.

  1. 1

    I hope the replacement ramps up the quality, accountability, training and supervision.

    I’ve been very disappointed in the PTO the past few years. Not all, but too many patent examiners don’t appear to understand the procedures and basic regs, for example, improper final rejections, improper rejections, etc.

    Not all examiners, but I think the lack of training and lack of supervision caused by examiner’s being able to work anywhere/anytime (vs working along side other senior examiner) has hurt quality a lot. In the past, junior examiners could walk down the hall and ask questions etc. Not sure what sort of training and supervision is happening now, but clearly not working for too many cases.

    Many clients do not understand what’s happening, etc.

    We need reforms.

    1. 1.1

      In addition to hotelling/teleworking causing a “brain drain” or lack of mentoring availability, the production requirements also discourage senior examiners from devoting too much time to mentoring, as it takes away from the all-important production numbers.

    2. 1.4

      Imagine a list of people to go to with questions regarding specific areas (e.g., transmission belts). Now imagine that emails to those people get replied to roughly 50% of the time. And imagine a place where every single office door is shut at all times. That’s the PTO.
      I do think know of that hoteling is THE issue, it’s certainly one. I think the bigger issue is that the office employs some of the most awkward people imaginable. I think in person interviews to confirm basic social skills and are than basic grasp of the English language would be just as valuable. But if they raise the bar too high for examiners they’ll end up competing with law firms and lose the compensation battle.

      1. 1.4.2

        Confirmed 50% response rate. Not only that but the responses are usually just a list of subs. Examiners do not have conversations about their cases with other examiners. As far as training, i didnt go to academy, but from what i can tell, they teach formula rejections and how to make production. Actually addressing substance is strongly discouraged because it takes too much time to produce and review.

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