New names continue to surface for potential leadership of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office under the Trump administration, even as an influential Republican congressman has publicly called for the current director to be retained.
Randall Rader, the former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, is among those to have thrown his hat in the ring. “Yes, several senators have sent my name to the Trump team for the position of director of the USPTO,” Rader said in response to an email query. “The best way to protect U.S. jobs is to protect worldwide the IP that creates and guarantees those jobs.”
Before his appointment to the bench in 1988 Rader spent many years as an attorney for Sen. Orrin Hatch and others on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that confirms presidential nominees to the USPTO. At the Federal Circuit, Rader was a voice for strong patents, famously criticizing the Patent Trial and Appeal Board as a “death squad” for property rights. He also stressed the need for international cooperation on IP. Rader resigned from the Federal Circuit in 2014 in the wake of an ethical breach involving an email that disclosed his colleagues’ impressions of an attorney’s performance during oral argument. He has since done IP work with Oblon, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt and Tsinghua University School of Law in Beijing.
It’s still not clear there will be an opening at the USPTO. Rep. Darrell Issa of Southern California said at a CES panel over the weekend that the current director, Michelle Lee, “has to stay at the patent office,” according to Bloomberg. An Issa spokesman told Politico that “if the Trump administration wanted to keep her on, the congressman certainly wouldn’t be disappointed.”
Like most presidential appointees, Lee has submitted her resignation effective Jan. 20. She has said she’s open to the idea of staying if the Trump transition requests it.
Meanwhile, names of other potential appointees are surfacing. Patent blogger Harold Wegner on Monday described “speculation” about an administration short list that includes former Johnson & Johnson IP chief Philip Johnson, Fish & Richardson partner Michael McKeon and former USPTO Deputy Director Stephen Pinkos.
Johnson previously confirmed his interest. Pinkos, a partner in the lobbying shop American Continental Group, said by email Monday night that he is not seeking the job. “I enjoyed my past service at the USPTO and it’s a great organization with a lot of wonderful and dedicated people working there, however, I’m not headed back,” he said.
McKeon is a member of Fish & Richardson’s management committee who has litigated many cases at the International Trade Commission. He did not respond to an email seeking comment.
David Carlson, a senior partner at Seed Intellectual Property Law Firm in Seattle, confirmed Tuesday that he has submitted an application. Carlson was a patent examiner and worked in-house at Texas Instruments before beginning a nearly 30-year career at Seed IP.
Carlson said he’d like to see U.S. patent laws strengthened while minimizing the impact nonpracticing entities have on American business. He said he subscribes to a notion advanced by Stephen Haber of Stanford University and the Hoover Institution: “There are no wealthy countries with weak patent rights, and there are no poor countries with strong patent rights.”