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Q. Todd Dickinson may be remembered as the great organizer. During his two-year stint as head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, he restructured the agency’s management team, expanded the number of patent and trademark attorneys, and emphasized quality review for patent and trademark applications. PTO staff and patent attorneys praise his organizational skills as well as his ability to communicate with the disparate members of the IP community. “Dickinson dedicated a lot more effort to the actual running of the office” than his predecessor, Bruce Lehman, said Michael Kirk, executive director of the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) who served as deputy commissioner under Lehman. “Bruce was more interested in policy issues of IP on a broad spectrum.” Dickinson also is interested in policy issues, Kirk added, but he has put “more emphasis on processing applications and the quality of patent examinations, which are critical to the office.” Dickinson, a Clinton appointee, stepped down as head of the agency on Saturday following George W. Bush’s inauguration. Nicholas Godici, the PTO’s commissioner for patents, is serving as acting director until Bush appoints Dickinson’s successor. Although the position is a political appointment, it is not considered a partisan office. To date the Bush administration has been mum about possible candidates to fill the post, which pays about $130,000 a year. However, at least two people, Roger May, former chief patent counsel for Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn Mich., and Terry Anderson, a senior attorney at Northrop Grumman Corp. in Los Angeles, have expressed interest in the job. An aide to former California Republican Congressman James Rogan said his boss had been approached by members of Congress who want to see him get the job, but hasn’t been approached by the Bush administration and isn’t lobbying for the position. May and Anderson have both sought the backing of the prestigious AIPLA. While the association does not endorse candidates for public appointments, it will assess an individual’s qualifications upon request. May, who declined an interview, has strong ties to the IP community. “He is an expert in IP patents” and has management experience, said Gerald Mossinghoff, who was head of the PTO during the first Reagan administration. May retired as CEO of Ford Global Technology, the entity overseeing Ford’s IP portfolio, last year. He is a member of the PTO’s patent advisory committee and is chairman of the board of trustees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Anderson, who began his career as a patent examiner, has been a senior attorney at Northrop since 1984. Prior to that he was with Trans-Lux Corp., a communications and entertainment company in Norwalk, Conn. for three years. He also was an attorney at Xerox Corp. for 15 years. Anderson said one issue he would like to address is the congressional diversion of PTO revenue. “The patent bar has taken the position that those fees should be sent to the patent office exclusively,” Anderson said. “While I don’t take any position one way or another — Congress has the right to [redirect] funds and probably won’t give that up — I believe there should be discussion.” Kirk said two people have voiced interest in the No. 2 position at the PTO: Ralph Oman, counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of Philadelphia-based Dechert Price & Rhoads; and Stephen Kunin, a PTO deputy commissioner. The commerce secretary will appoint the deputy director. DICKINSON’S LEGACY Whoever takes the helm at the PTO will benefit from Dickinson’s tenure. Members of the IP community praised his work in improving the operation of the office and boosting communication both with the staff and public. “He’s very skilled at dealing with people,” said Mossinghoff, a professor at George Washington University Law School. “He has good relations with the three unions — particularly the patent examiners’ union, which is tough to get along with.” “Dickinson was a breath of fresh air for the PTO,” said Ronald Stern, president of the Patent Office Professional Association, the patent examiners’ union. “He had an outlook that was concerned with the merits of our business and he managed to heal some of the dissension we had in the past.” Kimbley Muller, president of the International Trademark Association, added that Dickinson has been “more customer friendly and more willing to go out and talk to people about their concerns.” In an effort to improve relations with independent inventors, for example, Dickinson established an office devoted to them. Dickinson regards his greatest accomplishment as having improved the operations of the agency. “Probably the thing I’m most proud of is reorganizing and refocusing the management of the organization and identifying and recruiting senior level managers,” he said. Dickinson’s tenure has coincided with a boom in activity at the agency. During the Clinton administration, trademark applications nearly doubled and the number of patent applications increased by 70 percent, Dickinson said. At the same time, the agency has received an unprecedented amount of public attention. “I can’t think of a commissioner who had more to deal with,” said Meg Boulware, chair of the PTO’s patent advisory committee and past president of the AIPLA. She cited the PTO’s implementation of the American Inventors Protection Act, which mandated numerous changes to the patent system and the launching of electronic filing. The agency also took some flak for issuing controversial business method patents. High-tech companies and members of the legal community criticized the PTO for issuing patents that they contend are overly broad. In response, the PTO implemented a second layer of review for business method applications last year. As to challenges the next PTO director will face, Dickinson and others in the IP community cited the ongoing battle against congressional diversion of PTO revenue. Since the agency became fully fee-funded in 1991 Congress has taken a portion of its revenue to fund other government projects. For fiscal year 2001 Congress is diverting $161 million from the PTO’s anticipated revenues of $1.2 billion. Dickinson said his successor also will have the task of overseeing completion of the PTO’s new office complex. Groundbreaking on the building was held last week. IP lawyers say Dickinson’s success in pushing through development of the complex — which will consolidate staff now spread out in 18 buildings — is one of his greatest achievements. Loathe to lose $50 million in rent per year, the PTO’s current landlord lobbied Congress and sued to block the move. Dickinson now is mulling several job offers, which he said range from traditional legal positions to management opportunities. “One thing I’m looking at seriously is coming back to the Bay Area,” he said. In the 1980s Dickinson worked in San Francisco as counsel to Chevron Corp. Prior to joining the PTO as deputy commissioner in June 1998, Dickinson spent three years with Philadelphia-based Dechert Price & Rhoads. “Whatever it is, I look forward to the next challenge,” Dickinson said.

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