Changing of the Guard: David Kappos Leaving USPTO in January

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 28, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As the end of President Obama's first term comes to a close, there are going to be a number of leadership changes.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton already announced that she will be leaving the State Department and trying to catch up on her sleep. Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner has said that he will not return for the second term. Attorney General Eric Holder isn't sure what his future holds.

And over at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Director David Kappos is ready to hand the reigns to a worthy successor.

After almost four years at the helm, Kappos will leave his position as the U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the President's chief advisor on intellectual property matters, Patently-O reports.

Kappos, of course, will be remembered for shepherding in the America Invents Act, increasing the number of patent examiners to eliminate the patent prosecution backlog, and his cameo in a patent-themed music video.

The America Invents Act is the most significant change, as it transformed the U.S. from a first-to-invent system to a first-to-file system. The downside for attorneys is that litigation is far less complex in a first-to-file system.

While attorneys may lose patent litigation work under Kappos' AIA changes, they can always pick up work in a growing field: patent applications. With the new AIA "you snooze, you lose" policy in place, inventors won't hesitate to hire an attorney to file an application.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, the backlog of patent applications facing the agency fell during Kappos' tenure from 750,000 at the end of 2008 to about 605,000 now, despite application totals increasing about 5 percent every year.

Though patent applications are approved more rapidly these days, that may not be a good thing. Critics suggest that the USPTO issued too many patents under Kappos' leadership.

Whether you loved or hated the way Kappos ran the USPTO, he won't be at the agency much longer. Teresa Stanek Rea, the patent office's deputy director, will be take over as the acting director when Kappos leaves in January, the Journal reports.

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