Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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6/23/2009
11:12 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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IBM's Patent Lawyer: From Reform Advocate To Mr. Fix-It

When I was researching an article on the U.S. Supreme Court re-shaping patent law two years ago, everyone kept telling me I needed to talk with David Kappos, IBM's top patent lawyer. Guess President Obama got the same advice.

When I was researching an article on the U.S. Supreme Court re-shaping patent law two years ago, everyone kept telling me I needed to talk with David Kappos, IBM's top patent lawyer. Guess President Obama got the same advice.The President has nominated Kappos to become director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Ars Technica's John Timmer notes Kappos is a nominee who, despite being an outspoken advocate of patent reform, is being accepted even by industries such as biotech that aren't keen on changing the system:

Even if some groups disagree with the specific reforms Kappos has proposed, they're anxious to see someone with demonstrated competence and experience in charge of the USPTO, someone who at least looks likely to make the whole creaking machinery of the office start chugging a little faster.

Kappos comes in amid a Supreme Court that has been steadily revising patent law over recent years, including a number of rulings that have made it tougher to get and defend patents. And it's about to take on one of the most explosive issues in patent law, and certainly in business-technoogy-business method patents, which patent tech-enabled ways of doing business. When I spoke with Kappos two years ago, he saw the court as ready to modernize the patent system for a world where innovation's more a collaborative and incremental process, particularly in IT:

The court is working to update the system, says IBM's Kappos, to accommodate forces such as globalization, greater collaboration, open source innovation, and changing business models. "The court is realizing it's not just about the patents, it's about how people work," he says. "The court realizes there's more incremental innovation occurring all the time." .

Kappos comes in at a time when the Judiciary and Congress are driving toward substantial change in the U.S. patent system, and Kappos will be expected to bring the same change mentality to the Patent Office itself. He's been agitating for reform for years. Looks like it'll soon be his chance to deliver it.

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