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In his spacious, ninth-floor Crystal City, Va., office, James Rogan is in his element. From floor to ceiling, blanketing every wall, are yellowing political posters: Reagan for Governor; Nixon/Agnew; George Bush for Senate — samples from an enormous collection of political memorabilia the former California congressman began amassing at age 10. Sworn in as director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in December, Rogan, 44, represents a new kind of leader for the agency, neither a patent nor trademark specialist, but, as his taste in decor makes clear, a political animal. Not that he isn’t enjoying his new job, which he likens with boyish enthusiasm to “sitting over the ultimate erector set” — although he readily admits that heading the Patent Office was not one of his childhood dreams. “I’m having a magnificent time. It’s a great agency to be a part of,” says Rogan, who is best known as one of 13 House managers during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. In a way, it seems fitting that the PTO is led today by a man without the technical background that has distinguished every predecessor for as long as anyone can remember. As patents have become more pervasive and important to the economy, the PTO has gone from a backwater agency of technocrats to a 7,000-employee powerhouse with a major impact on business. Rogan may not be a patent expert, but he knows how Congress works and has strong connections on the Hill with major IP players such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., as well as within the administration. Those are credentials enough — at least for now — for IP leaders, who have embraced Rogan’s appointment enthusiastically. “At this time, when funding and management issues at the PTO are pressing, we think [Rogan's] background will be helpful, including his congressional experience, his understanding of government funding, and his relationships with the Senate and House appropriations committees,” says Herbert Wamsley, executive director of the Intellectual Property Owners Association. “We think [he] is an outstanding appointee.” Wamsley adds, “We don’t believe there is any particular formula for the best qualifications for the director of the U.S. PTO.” That’s true, sort of. Under the 1999 American Inventors Protection Act, “a professional background and experience in patent or trademark law” is in fact a formal requirement for the PTO director, who as undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property also serves as the administration’s chief IP adviser. What exactly constitutes “background and experience” isn’t defined, but the closest that Rogan, a lawyer, comes is four years of service on the House Commerce Committee and two on the Judiciary Committee, with a spot on the Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property Subcommittee. Still, experience wasn’t an issue during his confirmation hearing, where he faced no opposition. Rogan himself jokes about his qualifications, recounting an exchange with a neighbor who works at the PTO. The neighbor asked if Rogan was an electrical engineer or a patent lawyer or perhaps a copyright lawyer. There’s a word for people at the PTO with such expertise, Rogan responded: “They’re called employees. Those with no background are called ‘director.’ “ Taking a more serious tone, Rogan points out that his congressional district, which included Burbank, Calif. (home of the National Broadcasting Company and Warner Bros., among other media giants), is a “community where IP-related industries are so dominating. I’ve spent years and years dealing with IP issues.” In Congress, Rogan worked to increase the number of H1-B visas for foreign workers with specialized technical skills that have been critical to America’s high-tech community. He sponsored an anti-cybersquatting measure that enabled trademark holders to recover statutory damages from those who registered their marks as domain names and was active on copyright issues. As for the learning curve on his new job, Rogan says he is relying on the “phenomenal staff of professionals” at the PTO to bring him up to speed. He also points out that he has made no staff changes since assuming office. To Bruce Lehman, a copyright specialist who served as head of the PTO from1993 to 1998, technical expertise is not the most important aspect of the job. “What the PTO needs is a high-profile leader, someone who knows his way around Washington and international capitals, rather than knowing his way around the Manual of Patent Examining Procedures,” says Lehman, now president of the International Intellectual Property Institute. Rogan’s appointment is “a coming of age for the PTO,” Lehman continues, an indication that the agency has become important enough to warrant leadership by “someone with clout.” As for the necessary expertise, Lehman points out that “the [Environmental Protection Agency] is every bit as technical, if not more so, than the PTO,” and current head Christine Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey, is hardly an expert in the field. Rogan fans also note that he has held a number of diverse and demanding jobs. A 1983 graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, Rogan was an associate with Los Angeles’ Lillick, McHose & Charles, which merged with what is now Pillsbury Winthrop. He then spent almost six years as a criminal prosecutor in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office handling gang murder cases, and was appointed to a Southern California municipal court judgeship in 1990. He was elected to the California State Assembly in 1994, and to Congress in 1996. In the 2000 election, Rogan was targeted for defeat by the Democratic Party — in part because of his role in the impeachment, and in part because his district was growing more and more heavily Democratic. He lost the most expensive congressional race in history to Adam Schiff. He then joined the D.C. office of Baltimore’s Venable as a partner in the firm’s legislative group. Leaving Venable to return to government service was not an easy choice, he says. “I was looking forward to spending more time at home … and building financial security for my family,” he says, adding that he is the father of twin daughters, age 9. When he was approached by the Bush administration for the PTO position, he says, he told them, “I’d be delighted to do it if you feel I’m the right person for the job. But if you’re just trying to find a spot for a soldier killed in battle, I’ve already found a nice spot.” His political savvy is likely to come into play almost immediately, as the FY 2003 budget process gets under way. Within the IP community, there is a consensus that the biggest issue currently facing the PTO is funding. Since 1992, congressional appropriators each year have diverted millions in fees paid by patent and trademark seekers to fund unrelated government programs — an accounting sleight of hand that amounts to a special tax on inventors, IP leaders complain. In late January, Rogan held a press briefing to announce President George W. Bush’s FY 2003 budget plan for the agency. There was good news and bad. On one hand, the agency will get an eye-popping 21 percent budget increase. Rogan says the money will be used to hire 950 examiners — a net gain of around 750 bodies — and to institute an electronic trademark filing system by 2004. If the $1.365 billion budget makes it through Congress intact, says Rogan, it will be a “huge shot in the arm for the agency.” But there is a downside. Along with the budget increase will come a one-year fee hike of 19.3 percent for patent applications and 10.3 percent for trademarks. The fee surcharge is expected to raise $207 million, of which $162 million will be diverted to fund national defense and homeland security. So far, IP organizations say they are “studying the plan,” but Michael Kirk, executive director of the American Intellectual Property Law Association, says that he personally is “underwhelmed.” The agency, says Kirk, lacks an effective five-year plan and seems to be simply “throwing bodies” at problems like turnaround time and quality control. He adds, “From the standpoint of users, we’re being asked to buy into this sort of like a pig in a poke. We don’t know what we’re getting.” Still, he doesn’t blame Rogan for the lack of strategic vision, noting that “the [five-year] plan was concocted before Jim Rogan came on the scene.” Rogan says his other goals include conducting a “top to bottom” review of the PTO, taking a hard look at jobs and programs that are “superfluous to issues of pendency and quality,” and shifting resources where possible. Electronic filing — first of trademark applications, and then of patents — is another priority, as is working to decrease patent pendency, which now stands at 25 months on average. But what he doesn’t want to do is sacrifice quality for efficiency. “We could issue a patent in two weeks,” says Rogan. “It’s just a matter of the quality.”

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