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Two patent lawyers and two inventors have filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez for allegedly violating the U.S. Patent Act by hiring a patent office deputy director who they claim lacks a background and experience in patent law. On May 8, Gutierrez tapped Margaret J.A. Peterlin as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deputy and deputy undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property. Peterson was formerly counsel for legal policy and national security adviser for the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, J. Dennis Hastert. The suit filed by San Francisco lawyers David Pressman and David Lentini, also an inventor, and two California inventors said the appointment violates the Patent Act and is “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.” The plaintiffs want the court to order Gutierrez to dismiss Peterlin and to establish rules to outline qualifications for the deputy post. Aharonian v. Gutierrez, No. 07-1224 (D. D.C.). The Commerce Department referred questions to the patent office, which issued a statement. “Peterlin is well qualified for her job . . . having had direct involvement in oversight of the USPTO and every piece of patent-, trademark-, and copyright-related legislation considered on the House floor over the past five years.”

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