Patent News

Aug. 3, 2014

IP Watchdog: Phil Johnson – An Outstanding Choice for USPTO Director, by Gene Quinn

This post originally appeared in IP Watchdog on August 3, 2014.

The Washington Post recently reported that the anticipated nomination of Phil Johnson to head the United States Patent and Trademark Office is dead. News of the death of Johnson’s nomination is both a shocking surprise and yet all too predictable in a town that increasingly makes little logical sense. Johnson is extraordinarily qualified, he is willing to take the position, he has seen the patent system from virtually all vantage points, and yet his nomination has stalled after many months of vetting and no legitimate red flags surfacing.

It seems that Johnson’s major flaw may be that he strongly supports the patent system, which is a very sad commentary. In fact, there are some starting to believe that the only candidate that may be acceptable to certain political forces is one who opposes the patent system on a fundamental level. Of course, such a candidate would be unacceptable to a great many other powerful industry interests, so this could mean that the USPTO will indefinitely be without a politically appointed and confirmed leader, at least unless the White House is willing to step up and make a nomination.

I am on record supporting the nomination of Phil Johnson, and simultaneously pointing out that the proffered rationale used by his detractors is factually false. Those suggesting Phil Johnson hasn’t been supportive of patent reform efforts are simply misinformed. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the private sector who has been more supportive of patent reform over the last 8 to 10 years. In fact, Johnson was a strong supporter of the American Invents Act (AIA), which has been one of President Obama’s signature accomplishments. Johnson was also a strong supporter of fee-shifting legislation. Stay tuned more on Johnson’s support of patent reform efforts in the coming days and weeks.

From what my sources are telling me, Johnson’s nomination is dead at the moment, but there have been no bridges burned. However, absent the White House reconsidering and moving forward with a Johnson nomination he will not be the next Director of the USPTO. From what I have pieced together so far all of this seems to translate as follows: Johnson has opposition on the Senate Judiciary Committee not inside the White House. Given that Johnson, like the overwhelming majority of the industry, was against expanding covered business method (CBM) review it is easy to speculate where that opposition is coming from, but more on that in the coming days and weeks.

To read the full post please visit the IP Watchdog site here.