The US government has continued to its policy of turning over its watchdogs over to the corporates they are supposed to police, this time giving the US Patent office to a former troll, writes Nick Farrell.
The administration looks set to appoint Phil Johnson, a pharmaceutical industry executive, as the next Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Johnson has so far spent his life attempting to block legislation aimed at reining in patent trolls. Which makes you wonder what the Obama administration has been smoking.
The top job at the Patent Office has been vacant for around 18-months since the departure of previous director David Kappos in early 2013. Currently, the office is being managed by former Googler Michelle Lee, who was appointed deputy director in December.
Obama was under pressure to replace Lee, although he had done a good job and the White House’s choice of Phil Johnson, who is a long-time lawyer for Johnson & Johnson.
This will effectively mean that anyone hoping for patent reform and tech companies can kiss goodbye to that dream.
In December, Johnson testified before the Senate on behalf of the 21st Century Patent Coalition, a group of companies who opposed a bill that would have made it easier for defendants to challenge low-quality patents, and to recover legal costs in the face of frivolous patent lawsuits. Johnson’s group was probably behind killing the bill.
Johnson has also opposed previous patent reform initiatives, describing them as “almost everything an infringer could ever want.”
To be fair, Johnson’s positionis more that of the pharmaceutical sector, which relies heavily on patents to recoup research spending. But its approach is the antithesis of the problems which face fast-moving sectors like technology.
Still, with someone like him with his hands on the reins, it looks like Obama will be unable to reform the patent system in any meaningful way.