Scope of the Position:

The Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property/Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is responsible for the efficient use of career civil service and IT infrastructure in processing patent applications. The position is also responsible for the creation and implementation of intellectual property policies. The Director also serves as a representative on patent-related matters in the U.S. and advises the Secretary of Commerce, the President, and the Administration on patent-related policy matters. As a leading expert on intellectual property in the U.S., the position serves as a representative at foreign patent conferences and negotiates patent agreements overseas.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

A continual management challenge for the USPTO is its commitment to making timely patent decisions. According to the March 2016 Inspector General Semiannual Report to Congress, the USPTO "has been unable to achieve some of its annual pendency targets, such as Patent Average First Action Pendency and Patent Average Total Pendency."1 In addition to these challenges, the Agency has also encountered difficulties improving upon examination quality, and the composite score in past years has fallen short of target ranges. Patent quality concerns in an April 2015 Inspector General Report Audit were summarized in the Semiannual Report: "(a) USPTO's official quality metrics may underrepresent the true error rate on patent determinations; (b) USPTO's performance appraisal plan and related policies are ineffective at measuring whether examiners are issuing high-quality patents; and (c) USPTO is not collecting data that could improve patent quality." In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office determined that "USPTO does not currently have a consistent definition for patent quality articulated in agency documents and guidance, which would be in line with federal internal-control standards and best practices for organizational performance."2 Unclear quality guidelines result in millions of wasted dollars and may contribute to increased patent infringement. In the past, the USPTO has encountered controversy regarding its telework program. In 2014, several employees were reported as "end-loading" and "mortgaging."3

     Sources:

      1U.S. Department of Commerce Inspector General U.S. Department of Commerce Officer of Inspector General Semiannual Report to Congress
       www.oig.doc.gov; March 31, 2016.
      2Intellectual Property: Patent Office Should Define Quality, Reassess Incentives, and Improve Clarity; www.gao.gov; June 16, 2016.
      3One Year After Scathing Report of Abuses, Patent Office Telecommuter Win Review Panel's Blessing; www.govexec.com; July 31, 2015.

USPTO Directors:

Nearly all USPTO Directors hold a law degree and had some experience practicing patent and trademark law in some capacity--either in the private or public sector--before assuming their role as Director. Given the heavy legal emphasis in the patent industry, it is necessary that any Director be well-versed in the legal work that goes into developing a patent.

Current Incumbent:

Michelle K. Lee (2014-present): Prior to her appointment as Director, Lee served as the USPTO's Deputy Director and the Director of the USPTO's Silicon Valley Regional Office. Before her career with the USPTO, Lee was the Deputy General Counsel for Google and the firm's Head of Patents and Patent Strategy. She also worked with Fenwick & West LLP, where she advised various clients on issues regarding intellectual property, litigation, corporate matters, and technology licensing. Lee holds a BS and MS in electrical engineering and computer science, as well as a JD.

Previous Directors:

Teresa S. Rea (Acting) (2013): Rea is currently a partner with Crowell & Moring LLP's Intellectual Property Group and a Director of C&M International, a trade and investment consulting affiliate firm. Before her tenure as Acting Director of the USPTO, Rea served two years as the Agency's Deputy Under Secretary and Deputy Director. Prior to her time with the USPTO, Rea served as the President of the American Intellectual Property Law Association. She received her BS from the University of Michigan and her JD from Wayne State University Law School.

David Kappos (2009-2013): Kappos is currently a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. Preceding his appointment to Director, Kappos spent 25 years with IBM, where he worked with the company's global intellectual property activities including patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret protection. From 2003 to 2005, Kappos served as the company's Vice President and Assistant General Counsel for Intellectual Property. He earned his JD from the University of California, Berkley.

John J. Doll (Acting) (2009): Doll currently serves as a Patent Expert Witness in Mooresville, North Carolina. Before assuming the role of Acting Deputy Director, he served more than 35 years in the USPTO in various positions, such as Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. Doll holds a BS in physics and chemistry as well as an MS in physical chemistry.

Jon Dudas (2004-2009): Dudas currently is the University of Arizona's Senior Associate to the President and Secretary of the University. Prior to his appointment as Director of the USPTO, Dudas worked for the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives as the legal policy and senior floor assistant. He also served as Staff Director and Deputy General Counsel of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. Dudas earned his JD from the University of Chicago and has a bachelor's degree in finance.

James E. Rogan (2001-2004): Rogan currently sits as a Judge of the Superior Court of California. Preceding his tenure as Director of the USPTO, Rogan served in the U.S. House of Representatives for California's 27th District. Rogan previously served as a civil litigation attorney, prosecutor, and municipal judge. He earned his JD from the University of California Los Angeles Law School.

Q. Todd Dickinson (1998-2001): He currently serves as the Executive Director of the American Intellectual Property Law Association. Prior to his appointment to Director of the USPTO, Dickinson began his career as a patent and trademark lawyer. He served as legal counsel for Chevron Corporation with a focus on domestic and international intellectual property matters and Chief Counsel for Intellectual Property and Technology at Sun Company, Inc. He received his JD from the University of Pittsburgh.

Bruce A. Lehman (1993-1998): Lehman founded the International Intellectual Property Institute. Prior to his appointment as Director, he served as legal counsel to several groups, including the Wisconsin State Legislature; U.S. House of Representatives; the Committee on the Judiciary; and the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice. He also worked as a partner at Swindler & Berlin, as well as with the U.S. Department of Justice. Lehman received his JD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.