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Patent Office CIO Moves To Interior Department

CIO exits as business leaders call for faster processing of patent applications.
At a time when intellectual-property issues promise to be a sensitive and hotly contested for years to come among software users and vendors, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is losing its IT chief. Douglas Bourgeois, who has been CIO at the agency for more than three years, announced Monday that he has accepted an offer to become director of the Department of Interior's National Business Center.

Bourgeois, whose last day with the Patent Office is Sept. 3, leaves an organization dealing with a business environment that increasingly places a high priority on defending intellectual property. Over the past few years Bourgeois has led the Patent E-Government initiative, which provides online access to the full-text database of more than 3 million patents and published applications using the Electronic Filing System or traditional paper filing.

Industry leaders say that the Patent Office must do more for companies seeking patents. At a June meeting of the Business Software Alliance in Washington, D.C., Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the efficiency of the Patent Office is crucial to helping software companies combat piracy. He and other high-tech CEOs want their patent applications processed more quickly, he said, and he's looking to the government for help. The Patent Office's goal should be to balance its ability to review and approve patent applications with the volume of patent requests, Ballmer said.

Such talk has stirred the open-source community, which is looking to avoid intellectual-property showdowns such as the one they've been facing from the SCO Group.

Bourgeois, who will be succeeded in the interim by Deputy CIO Ronald Hack, has been the principal adviser to the Patent Office on the application of IT to support the office's business processes. Prior to joining the office, he served as the managing director of customer-service technology for FedEx. As director of the Interior's National Business Center, Bourgeois will oversee the department's budget, procurement and contracts, and finance and accounting systems.