Nominating Alfred E. Neuman for PTO Director

Alfred E. Neuman

Alfred E. Neuman

While we continue to wait for President Obama to nominate an Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, otherwise known as the Director of the Patent Office, I figured it was about time to make another nomination, but who?  From what I hear, the rumor is that President Obama has made his selection but the vetting processing is taking a lot longer than expected, and a lot longer than it should.  How is it possible you can make a Supreme Court nomination within a matter of a few weeks, but the vetting process for PTO Director is taking many months?  I don’t know I buy the rumors, but I suppose if you are going to have a tax vetting problem it is either going to be you didn’t pay taxes at all, took dubious deductions or made enough money to hire the best and brightest tax attorneys to come up with many legitimate uses of the many loopholes in the Tax Code.  So if the rumors are true it has to be David Kappos of IBM.  Nevertheless, with so much delay, and no reputable sources identifying “the candidate,” either this secret is being kept with Fort Knox like security, and far better than secrets having national security implications, or the rumors are wrong, or it is Kappos.  Who knows?  Not me.  But what I do know is that President Obama should definitely have Alfred E. Neuman on his short list.  A character like Al Neuman would be perfect because he wouldn’t (and couldn’t) get in the way of the progress being made by the quite able members of the PTO senior management team who are doing what is necessary to move the PTO forward.  Amazing what can be accomplished without having the watchful eye (and meddling) of a political appointment.  So, without further ado I place into nomination Alfred E. Neuman for PTO Director.

Alfred E. Neuman has a long and storied career, first appearing on the scene in 1954 on the cover of a popular publication, and then subsequently appearing within the pages of the text the following year.  While his exact age is unknown, and some speculate that he may actually have appeared on the scene sometime in the 19th century, his advanced age does not appear to present any problems.  Perhaps Neuman is a modern day Highlander (i.e., an immortal).  Although there may only be one Neuman, thanks to the able services of a particularly savvy publicist, he appeared on the cover of some 500 magazines.  This means Al Neuman has the longevity, name recognition and the media awareness necessary to be able to lead the Patent Office as it attempts to return to the good old days when patent applications were filed and patents were issued as a result thereof.

Repeatedly over the last 9 months I have suggested that the next PTO Director needs to have a particular gravitas, which is absolutely essential if there is any hope that Congress and the President will at all listen to the needs of the Patent Office and propose, approve and enact legislation that can actually help put the USPTO back on track.  In the gravitas area, few would be more universally known to both Americans, as well as those in Congress and the White House, than Mr. Neuman.  His close to “rock star status” should enable him to be easily recognized, and it is hard to imagine that any (or at least many) in Congress have not read the magazine he has so graciously fronted for so many years.

Additionally, Mr. Neuman is no stranger to politics, having run for President of the United States on numerous occasions.  Since his first unsuccessful run for the White House in 1956, Neuman has been frequently inserted into national politics,  mostly as a potential write-in suggestion and with his supporters using the slogan “You could do worse, and always have!”  Notwithstanding, Neuman has more recently been compared in certain ways to President George W. Bush by the elite press, who seem to be intimately familiar with Neuman, which could suggest his nomination as PTO Director come with favorable news reporting that could help ensure speedy confirmation in the Senate.

Even President Obama has drawn comparisons with Neuman due to certain distinguishing characteristics they share.  At one point during the 2008 Presidential Campaign, now President Obama and then Senator Obama stated: “It’s often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Neuman.”  Whatever this means or suggests, it is undeniable that President Obama is familiar with Al Neuman.  Given Obama’s familiarity with Neuman, the fact that many known to President Obama during his campaign have found government employment, and the fact that Neuman has yet to secure a government job under the Obama Administration could suggest that he is being saved for a truly important position.  There is no doubt that the Director of the PTO is just such an important position.

Having said all this, I place the name of Alfred E. Neuman into nomination for the position of PTO Director.  After all, we could do worse, and frequently have!

EDITORIAL NOTE (i.e., disclaimer and explanation):

Hopefully this article has made you laugh a bit, which was its intention.  My intention is also to point out that given the encouraging initiatives that have been started by career employees of the PTO it might be a good idea to stand back and let them fix the Office and not be burdened by a political appointment.  The last several political appointments have not been at all knowledgeable about patents, innovation or the Constitutional role played by the Patent Office.  We do not need a politician leading the Patent Office, we need folks who care and who understand the system.  The first rule President Obama should follow with respect to appointing a new PTO Director is this — do no harm.  Given that Alfred E. Neuman is a fictional character there is no way he could do any harm.  If Mr. Neuman is unavailable, perhaps the lead of the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s” could be a viable alternative.

Lets let the experts have a turn at running the Patent Office Mr. President.  They seem to be turning the ship about already.


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Join the Discussion

7 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    June 20, 2009 05:10 pm

    Examiner 9-

    I am well aware that second pair of eyes was started by Doll, and that is in my opinion the single largest reason why we have the crisis that we have now. Without being a fly on the wall it is hard to know whether it was Doll alone, or whether it was Doll reacting to the dictates of a politician who was trying to solve a non-problem and just made it worse.

    The attrition is a huge problem, and lack of experience even a bigger problem. That coupled together with the telecommuting program where senior examiners are not on campus to help and trainer younger examiners has created a large number of young, inexperienced examiners that lack resources and necessary mentoring.

    Kappos is going to have his hands full. I am hopeful that a patent guy like Kappos can help, and explain to Congress and the White House what really needs to be done and why.


  • [Avatar for examiner #9]
    examiner #9
    June 19, 2009 05:12 pm

    I too have heard rumors both some good and a lot of bad. I don’t like to point to them as signs of change until actions actually occur. Lets not forget it was Doll not Dudas that initiated the 2nd pair of eyes review which has caused a drop in allowances more than anything Dudas has ever done.

    Yes attrition in the patent office is down but to think that senior management had anything to do with that would be naive after all we are in the worst economy in decades and the only significant changes made by management thus so far have been cuts to benefits. I have talked with many examiners who are already in the midst of applying for other jobs ( I even predict that after the economy is back on its feet that patent office will suffer the worse attrition yet).

    I do not mean to suggest patent quality as some arbitrary percentage of total patents that are allowed on yearly basis. I believe a lot of very well written and useful patents are held back the current system as well as some applications allowed that never should have. In my mind patent quality is irrevocably linked to the experience and effort put forth of the related examiner. When roughly 30% of my art unit has less than one year of experience and when applications continually get more complicated and lengthened allotting less time for examination, its no wonder why some perceive quality as lacking. This needs to be addressed.

    In any case it is good to hear Obama has picked a commissioner and I wish him the best facing all the current issues.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    June 19, 2009 02:13 pm


    You are not being fair. I respect examiners very much, and throughout my writing I have over and over announced my support and respect for examiners. There are some, I believe a minority, that abuse certain rules, but in my opinion the overwhelming majority of examiners are good, professional and hard working. It is unfair to say “Quinn cannot possibly walk in the examiner’s shoes.” That is extremely arrogant. Do you really think that examiners are the only ones who know what they are talking about? If you do, then I would respectfully suggest that you might be part of the problem.

    The fact that you have not seen a trickle down does not mean the trickle down has not started to happen. You have to realize that there are 6000 examiners, and just because the trickle has not come down to you doesn’t mean it hasn’t started. You can’t possibly be saying you know all 6000 examiners, including those who work from home and are not on campus.

    I have talked to examiners and some have said they have not heard they should change, or issue patents. I have talked to others who have said they have heard that they should work with examiners attorneys and applicants. I have also talked to attorneys that have heard from both types of examiners, those with and those without “trickle down knowledge.” The Commissioner told me that training would roll-out, and I have heard from some that they have had such new training. The fact that you have not had it yet doesn’t make what I have written untrue. It simple means you have not had the training and word has not reached you.

    I agree with you. Whispers are not enough, but it will take time for everyone to get on the same page, particular after the Dudas era left many examiners with the opinion that the patent bar was the problem, and that examiners are far more capable than patent attorneys. Examiners play a vital role, but thinking that examiners with a year or two of law school are more capable of writing applications and drafting claims is naive. The role of the examiner is very different than the role of the attorney and just because you have skills to debug and debunk claims doesn’t mean examiners are capable of writing good claims, at least from the client’s perspective and the perspective of the Federal Circuit.

    In many areas I know first hand that it is not business as usual at the PTO. I also have heard the same second hand. This is evidenced by quick office actions and quick allowances in some areas even without acceleration.

    Finally, I do not treat examiners with skepticism. I have banned one alleged examiner from posting because he was providing clearly erroneous advice to inventors. If you followed what he wrote rights would be lost, or at least severely compromised, and I do not find that acceptable. I do hear from many examiners like you that I am clueless, but then in due time what I said was true comes out into the open as being 100% accurate. For example, multiple examiners wrote that my quality review article showed I didn’t understand anything. Then the Commissioner’s Office contacted me and thanked me for getting the word out and offered to provide more details. You will see from my interview with her what I wrote about quality review was dead on accurate.

    Whether examiners choose to acknowledge it or not, I research what I write and investigate. When I hear something enough and cannot confirm it I present it as a rumor. When I hear something and it checks out then I say it as a matter of fact. If you look back you will see my “matter of fact” statements have been correct 100% of the time, even though some alleged examiners call me crazy and say I don’t know what I am talking about. I can assure you, I do know what I am talking about and I do not rely on questionable sources. I also pass on stories without substance or which cannot be verified. I am not in the gossip business.

    Thanks for contributing to I hope more examiners join in the debate, but please do realize that just because you have not heard something yet doesn’t mean that what I write is inaccurate.


  • [Avatar for Examiner]
    June 19, 2009 01:59 pm

    Only an examiner in the PTO actually knows what he/she is talking about. I agree with Examiner 9 and have noticed that any comments by Examiners here are treated with some skepticism. Mr Quinn cannot possibly walk in the examiner’s shoes. There may be talk about changes but it has yet to trickle down to the trenches. Middle management has not pushed anything down yet (officially) and it has been business as usual. Whispers heard in corridors aren’t enough.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    June 18, 2009 08:02 pm

    Examiner 9-

    I am sorry to hear that you do not think that the initiatives over the last few months are positive. Quite clearly, the initiatives are aimed at issuing patents and addressing the backlog. It is odd to see the PTO heading downward and then as soon as Dudas left a shred of hope. If you think senior management is to blame, fine, but I don’t know how you blame people for trying to do better.

    In terms of quality patents, what I think you need to realize is that quality that leads to no patents issued and duplicative reviews led to the enormous backlog.

    I certainly agree that attrition needs to be addressed (I understand it is better, but not where it needs to be) and the production system is horribly out of date and needs fixing. The budget can right itself in time if patents start getting issued.


  • [Avatar for Examiner number #9]
    Examiner number #9
    June 18, 2009 06:05 pm

    I sincerely hope this whole post was a joke, especially this statement

    “wouldn’t (and couldn’t) get in the way of the progress being made by the quite able members of the PTO senior management team who are doing what is necessary to move the PTO forward. Amazing what can be accomplished without having the watchful eye (and meddling) of a political appointment”

    They only thing PTO senior management is “able” at is complete lack of initiative.

    Initiative to fix employee attrition
    Initiative to fix the backlog
    Initiative to fix the production system
    Initiative to fix “quality: of patents
    Initiative to even budget the office

    While it may be popular to blame Dudas for these shortcomings, holding the PTO senior management not responsible at all would be a grave error, especially in light of the last few months.

    My only hope (as well as many of the current examiners) is that the new appointee will realize the lack of leadership of many of these bureaucrats in management and appropriately fix it.

  • [Avatar for j. white]
    j. white
    June 18, 2009 12:48 pm

    Tis true, the PTO is a non-partisan entity. I think what matters most is simply that the “trains run on time”, ie, issue patents having quality commesurate with the time and resources available. How can that be a political issue? In addition, what interest is served by giving away the position as a minor Ambassadorship? This hasn’t worked in the recent past. The PTO needs someone who can help and “get’s it” as to the PTO role and resources. Maybe Neuman could pull off what is necessary, i.e., get out of the way, be friendly, and do no harm!

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