Nominating Stephen Kunin for USPTO Director

Anyone who has followed my writings over the past couple years knows that I have become increasingly critical of the political appointees who have been put in positions of authority at the Patent Office.  Nevertheless, I do want to be a part of the solution to the greatest extent possible.  With this in mind I have been writing about individuals who I think would lead the Patent Office in the right direction, such as Judge Pauline Newman of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and Dr. Paul Kaminiski, a former Undersecretary of Defense and 2006 winner of the National Medal of Technology.  I do not know either of these individuals, but they certainly both have the skills for the job, and knowledge of the patent system and the role that innovation plays in our economy, which ought to be prerequisites for the next Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property (a.k.a. USPTO Director).  The person I nominate today also has the skills and knowledge for the job, so without further ado I nominate Stephen Kunin for USPTO Director.

Unlike my previous suggestions, I do know Stephen Kunin.  I do not know him well, but what I do know of him I certainly like.  I have heard Kunin talk about patent issues at the PLI’s Second Annual Patent Law Institute, and he is slated to be on the faculty of the Third Annual Patent Law Institute, which will take place in March 2008.  I can tell you that Kunin is accessible to the patent bar, extremely well respected by patent attorneys and is knowledgeable about patent law and policy to a degree that is remarkable.  Of course, this comes as no surprise really given that he is a former Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy with the US Patent & Trademark Office. 

Kunin has more than 38 years of expertise in intellectual property rights protection and 24 years of organizational management and leadership experience.  Prior to serving as the Deputy Commission for Patent Examination Policy he served as Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Patents. He participated in the establishment of patent policy for the various Patent Organizations under the Commissioner for Patents, including changes in patent practice, revision of rules of practice and procedures, establishment of examining priorities and classification of technological arts, and oversaw the operations of the Office of Patent Legal Administration, Patent Cooperation Treaty Legal Administration, and the Office of Petitions. Additionally, in January 1993, Mr. Kunin was designated by the Secretary of Commerce to perform the functions of the Assistant Commissioner for Patents on an acting basis until a new Assistant Commissioner for Patents was appointed in 1994.

One of the things that makes Kunin such a perfect choice to be the next Director of the Patent Office is that he rose from the ranks of an examiner.  Kunin joined the PTO as a patent examiner in June of 1970, became a Senior Examiner in 1977, Director of the Manufacturing Group in May of 1983, and when a new Electrical Communications examining group was formed in April of 1984, he became its first Group Director.  Yet another thing that makes Kunin extremely attractive is that he has been in private practice since November 1, 2004, serving as a partner with Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt, P.C.

Stephen Kunin is one of the few individuals in our industry that can claim experience in all of the aspects of patent practice.  He has reviewed applications as an examiner to determine whether a patent should issue, he has supervised examiners both as a Senior Examiner and as a Group Director.  He has engaged in creating and implementing patent policy, and he has advised clients.  This means that Kunin would understand the impact any particular action would have on all of the players in the patent game, which makes Kunin one of the best choices, if not the best choice, that President-elect Obama could make.

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Gene Quinn is a patent attorney and the founder of

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