New (Temporary) USPTO Leadership

Note, I’m calling these folks “ACTING ____” because it is simpler and makes sense.  BUT, the “acting” title is a term of art defined within the US Code.  To avoid some of the legal requirements associated with being an “acting director,” the temporary leadership is using the longer title of someone “Performing the functions and duties of ____”

  • Acting Director – Drew Hirshfeld. Hirshfeld started at the PTO back in 1994 as a patent examiner and rose through the ranks. Has held a number of leadership positions within the Office: Director of TC2100 (computer architecture and software), Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy; Chief of Staff to Director Kapps; and Commissioner of Patents.  For over 100 years, the position of Commissioner of Patents was the head of the Patent Office.  In 1999, the PTO Director / Deputy Director positions were created.
  • Acting Deputy Director – Coke Morgan Stewart. Stewart’s permanent role is Senior Counsel to the PTO Director and was previously in the PTO Solicitor’s office where she handled a number of Federal Circuit appeals.  She was previously a patent litigator at Kaye Scholer.

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20 thoughts on “New (Temporary) USPTO Leadership

  1. 6

    Dear Dennis —

    Is “Acting” a term of art in U.S.C.? Or is it shorthand that everyone uses instead of “Performing the Functions and Duties of…” (I truly don’t know, and don’t know of a statute that defines “Acting”).



    1. 6.1

      D – It is codified. The examples that I know about are found in 5 U.S.C. § 3345 and 3346. These create time-limits for how long someone can serve as in an “acting” role. Presidential admins have been thinking that they are avoiding the statute by using a different name.

      1. 6.1.1

        Thanks Dennis. §§ 3345 and 3346 are the Vacancies Reform Act. Look at how the Act uses “Performing the Functions and Duties of…” as a synonym for “Acting”.

        I hadn’t noticed that before. We now DOMINATE our next trivia contest.

    1. 4.1

      Wow, that was an unusually thorough Fed. Cir. sustaining of an IPR 103 decision, scope of rebuttal arguments, etc., and a fast changing of the case title page. But I assume that the PTO’s solicitor staff had intervened here re the challenge to APJ appointments?

  2. 3

    Don’t the statutes and regulations vest power in the “Acting…” individual? If they are not named “Acting…” are their actions ultra virus?

  3. 2

    “simpler” and “makes sense” are not necessarily congruent — especially for a law blog.

    Einstein’s quote on why simplicity is appropriate comes to mind.

    Not the first time in recent days that aiming for colloquial is not necessarily a good or proper thing.

      1. 1.1.1

        I think Drew is very well-capable of leading the office, but he was not Acting Director in 2017. Associate Solicitor Joseph Matal took over for Lee the day after she left. I have the farewell email from Lee on June 6, 2017.

        link to

    1. 1.2

      Over his head in what exactly? Isn’t he just a caretaker?

      Acting Director Checklist:
      1. Assure the agency employees that their paychecks are still coming.
      2. Don’t do anything.
      3. Shake the hand of the new director.

      I have total faith that Drew is up to the task.

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