In what I expect will be a
several-month-stasis several-week-stasis, the USPTO has reshuffled some of its personnel to fill vacant slots and better-fit with the Trump administration. [Updated]
Michelle Lee remains at the top as Director of the USPTO and Undersecretary of Commerce. As one of the few political-appointee holdovers from the Obama administration, Lee’s position remains somewhat tenuous, but I expect that it will be solid for at least several
months weeks. One noticeable gap is that the Commerce Dep’t website still fails to indicate Dir. Lee’s position. [LINK]
Second-in-command is Anthony Scardino, Acting Deputy Director of the USPTO and Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. One problem with this appointment is the statutory requirement that the Deputy Director be a member of the PTAB which requires “competent legal knowledge and scientific ability”, 35 U.S.C. 6, and also have “professional background and experience in patent or trademark law.” 35 U.S.C. 3. My understanding of the Agency’s position is that these requirements only apply to actual Deputy Directors and not an “Acting Deputy Director.” Dir. Lee apparently sees Scardino’s position as filling an important administrative roll, but there is no chance that he will be appointed to the position of Deputy Director. In addition Scardino apparently will not be participating as a member of the PTAB.
[Updated to correct typo] Joe Matal has been quiet for the past few years, but is
not now rising again and has been named the acting Chief of Staff of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – “principal policy advisor” to the Director. For the past several years, Matal has worked as an Associate Solicitor in the USPTO’s Office of Solicitor. Prior to that, he worked as counsel for Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and was a primary drafter of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act.
Paul Rosenthal is now the Acting Chief Communications Officer – moving from his prior position as Deputy Chief that is now being filled by Paul Fucito.
Finally, Drew Hirshfeld and Mary Boney Denison remain as the respective Commissioners for Patents and Trademarks as do the directors of the regional offices, all of whom had ties to the Obama Administration but are also very well respected IP attorneys.
I’ll take this chance to give a big shout-out to Russ Slifer who joined the PTO in 2014 to join and was named Deputy Director by Michelle Lee the next year. Russ stepped down in January. Thank you for your service to the agency and the profession!