President Obama names IBM Vice President David J. Kappos to serve as the next director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Kappos, IBM's assistant general counsel for intellectual property law, testified in March that he supports the controversial patent reform law before Congress.
Not many presidential nominees come with the public record of David J.
Kappos, President Obama's pick to serve as the next director of the U.S. Patent
and Trademark Office. But Kappos, currently serving as IBM
vice president and assistant general counsel for intellectual property law, is
a familiar face for Washington
If confirmed, as expected, Kappos will be stepping into the one of the most
contentious legislative battles before Congress: patent reform. For the last
six years, high-tech companies have been battling with big pharmaceuticals and
traditional manufacturing over a number of patent issues, particularly over
willful infringement rewards.
The technology industry favors narrowing the damages, while big pharma
favors the current system, fearing diluted damages will hurt the value of patent
In the 110th Congress, the House approved patent reform
by tech that would limit damages in relation to the economic value of the
patent's contribution to an overall product, but the legislation never gained
traction in the Senate. Currently, infringement damages are based on the entire
value of the product.
In the current Congress, the Senate Judiciary
Committee voted 15-4 in April for a compromise bill that seeks to bridge the
longstanding dispute between technology companies and the pharmaceutical
industry over patent infringement damages. The bill, though, has stalled.
"A particular point of contention has been and remains the appropriate
standard for reasonable royalty damages determination," Kappos testified
in March before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "As with other issues with
competing interests that have been resolved, IBM
believes that this issue is reconcilable and a balanced solution can be
Kappos also said he supports the patent reform bill approved by the Senate
"IBM supports [the bill's] approach
to improving patent quality," Kappos said. "While progress has been
made in recent years through judicial reform in areas such as obviousness,
injunctions, willfulness and most recently venue in patent litigation, much
remains to be done to restore balance to our patent system."