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According to the former IBM consul, the patent system has never been healthier

Amid increasingly noisy criticism about questionable patents (see: Apple, Inc. (AAPLpatents animating turning pages) and criticism from veteran judges regarded as some of the nation's foremost intellectual property experts, the head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is firing back.

David Kappos, who has served as USPTO Director for the past several years, delivered a pointed speech a week ago entitled "An Examination of Software Patents" in which he argues that software patents are perfectly valid and comments, "[Critics should] move beyond the flippant rhetoric and instead engage in substantive discussion."

He said in the speech that rather than proof of a broken system, the deluge of smartphone patent lawsuits is a sign that the smartphone industry is engaging in innovation at a "breakneck pace".  Directly addressing those who say the system is broken, he comments rhetorically, "Broken? What?"

But Director Kappos' days of defending the USPTO's current policies are coming to a close, as he announced this week that he would be stepping down.  The lawyer, who previously served as an attorney for International Business Machines, Inc. (IBM) did not say what his future plans were.  The announcement was considered somewhat unexpected.

David Kappos
USPTO Director David Kappos [Image Source: Center for Am. Progress/Flickr]

Even Director Kappos' critics praise some of his moves, such as his push to appoint more patent examiners, to reduce a backlog of filings, which in turn tend to lead to hasty examinations.  During his tenure examiners increased to 8,000, a 30% increase.

He also pushed for cooperation with the engineering community via making information available to Stack Exchange, as a means of expediting the search for prior art.

Other moves were largely outside the Director's control.  For example, Congress tasked him with implementing the America Invents Act of 2011, which switches the U.S. from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system for patents filed after March 2013. 

Director Kappos was tasked with executing the change to first-to-file. [Image Source: Unknown]

Yet other moves still were viewed in a mixed light; for example his decision to open patent examination offices in New York City and Silicon Valley drew praise from some, but raised fears from others who feared that it would give software companies a quicker path to inundated the filing channels with "junk" patents.

There has been no announcement yet on who will take over as Director at the USPTO.

Source: Patently





"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs



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