David Kappos, the celebrated former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), has joined Cravath, Swaine & Moore as partner.

The Obama administration appointee announced in November 2012 that he would be stepping down as the head of the PTO in January. “I believe we have made great progress in reducing the patent backlog, increasing operational efficiency, and exerting leadership in IP policy domestically and internationally,” Kappos said in a statement at the time of his announcement.

Kappos has been praised for the work he did at the PTO, and many credit him with significantly improving an outdated intellectual property system. In his new role, he will also be confronting IP issues as a part of Cravath’s intellectual property team.

“Dave will be an outstanding addition to the firm, supporting our clients when they are addressing their most complex intellectual property issues, including those involving our clients’ deal activity as well as their litigation and antitrust matters,” C. Allen Parker, Cravath’s presiding partner, said in a statement.

Kappos’ move to New York-based Cravath comes as a surprise to some, as the firm has a reputation of not bringing in partner-level lawyers from outside. In 50 years, the firm has only hired four outside partners—and one of them was another Obama administration lawyer, Christine Varney.

Kappos said he’s “thrilled” to join the firm. “I was fortunate to work closely with Cravath on many intellectual property matters over the years as a client at IBM, and I developed an extremely high regard for the firm’s unique ability to achieve the best possible results handling the most complex and important corporate and contested IP issues,” he said in a press release. “Of critical importance to me, Cravath handles intellectual property in the context of the client’s business objectives, with absolutely first-in-class legal expertise, both in the corporate and litigation arenas.”

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