Peter Pappas Appointed as Kappos’ New Chief of Staff

The breaking news from the United States Patent and Trademark Office today is that Peter Pappas, who has been the Director of Communications at the USPTO, will be assuming the role of Chief of Staff of the USPTO as part of a restructuring of the Kappos leadership team.

In the Director's Office, July 2010. L to R: Drew Hirshfeld, Peter Pappas and Director David Kappos.

Effectively immediately Pappas is the new Chief of Staff and the immediate past Chief of Staff, Drew Hirshfeld, will assume the role of Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, which for a long time has been a key role within senior management at the USPTO.

Those familiar with the USPTO senior management remember that initially Director Kappos appointed Rob Clarke to serve as Chief of Staff.  After several months Clarke needed to step aside for personal reasons.  Clarke is now on the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences.  At the time Clarke stepped aside Hirshfeld, who had just been appointed Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, was tapped to become the new Chief of Staff.  Thus, Hirshfeld returns to assume the management position he only briefly held before agreeing to take on the responsibilities of Chief of Staff.

The announcement was made internally via e-mail from David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the Director of the USPTO.  Kappos wrote:

I am pleased to announce that Peter Pappas will assume the role of Chief of Staff of the USPTO under a new front office structure effective immediately. I am also pleased to announce that Drew Hirshfeld, who was appointed Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy just prior to being detailed to the front office to serve as Chief of Staff, will reassume that leadership position in the Patents organization while also staying on in the front office as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary, also effective immediately.

Peter has served as Chief Communications Officer and Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for the last two years. In that capacity he has advised on a broad range of political, policy and management issues and worked closely with senior political officials throughout the Administration on important initiatives and programs. He has also designed and implemented a strategic communications plan that has elevated the Agency’s media presence, helped educate the public on the importance of IP, and played a key role in the passage of patent reform legislation.

In his new role as Chief of Staff, Peter will serve as my principal political advisor, oversee all public engagement functions and manage the interagency coordination process. He will serve as the USPTO’s chief liaison to the White House and Department of Commerce and continue to supervise the strategic communications function of the Office. He will also continue to serve as a member of the USPTO’s Executive Committee.

Drew Hirshfeld is a highly valued counselor to me, and in his role as Chief of Staff for the last two years he has been a key asset to the Agency. I am deeply grateful to Drew for his service, and for agreeing to continue on the front office team as Senior Advisor while reassuming his leadership role as Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy. In his new front office capacity, Drew will be a key liaison to our business units, oversee front office operations and continue to provide counsel to the Office of the Under Secretary on a variety of issues.

Please join me in congratulating Peter and Drew on their new leadership positions at the USPTO.

In his role as Director of Communications I have gotten to know Peter Pappas over the past several years and I think highly of him.  He once upon a time served in the Clinton White House as an Assistant Counsel to the President.  After leaving the White House Pappas became Director of Communications for Economic Affairs at the State Department. Subsequently, Pappas was tapped to become Associate Chief of the Federal Communication Commission’s International Bureau, overseeing international telecommunications policy in several areas, and being principally in charge of the Bureau’s Congressional and media relations. Immediately pior to his appointment at the USPTO, Pappas served an Executive Vice President for Legal and Government Affairs at Pappas Telecasting Companies, which was at the time the nation’s largest privately held commercial television stations group with 27 affiliates in 15 markets nationwide. In that role, he managed the legal and regulatory affairs of the Company and served as its primary spokesperson.

Pappas’ familiarity with government, politics and media relations has been an asset to the Patent Office.   Pappas’ experience will no doubt continue to be quite useful as the USPTO attempts to implement the onerous obligations thrust upon them under the America Invents Act while not receiving adequate funding from Congress.

I have also gotten to know Drew Hirshfeld.  Drew is a career USPTO guy who has risen through the ranks and seems on course to continue his ascension.  He is capable, affable and well respected.

Reading between the lines it seems that Kappos has simply juggled responsibilities on the 10th floor.  Pappas is an accomplished lawyer, a Communications expert and political adviser.  His talents easily seem well adapted to the position of Chief of Staff.  Hirshfeld, on the other hand, is a patent guy.  Hirshfeld was certainly a very capable Chief of Staff from what I can tell, but as a substantive patent person I suspect moving back to the role of Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy is a very good move for him and for the Office overall.  With Commissioner Stoll soon to retire and Deputy Commissioner Focarino set to become the new Commissioner, it will be quite helpful for the Office to have someone like Drew on the front lines of management and as a liaison and advisor to Director Kappos.

Congratulations to both Peter and Drew!


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