U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director David Kappos reportedly plans to leave the position in January 2013. Kappos joined the office after serving as vice president and assistant general counsel for intellectual property at IBM. Widely lauded for progress in reducing PTO’s patent backlog and efforts to implement the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), Kappos thanked “the entire USPTO staff for their dedication and hard work.” He also said, “I believe we have made great progress in reducing the patent backlog, increasing operational efficiency, and exerting leadership in IP policy domestically and internationally.”

According to a news source, USPTO has reduced the backlog of unexamined patents from more than 750,000 to about 605,000, or 20 percent, even while applications increased 5 percent annually during his tenure. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, “Director Kappos’s leadership of the PTO has been applauded by Democrats and Republicans, and by all sectors of the business community.” He also recognized the efforts Kappos had undertaken to implement patent reforms under the AIA.

Meanwhile, in an address to the Center for American Progress in late November, Kappos focused on software patents and responded to recent criticisms by noting that “during the so-called smartphone patent wars, innovation continues at a breakneck pace. A system like ours, in which innovation is happening faster than consumers can keep up, cannot fairly be characterized as ‘broken.’” He also claimed that in 80 percent of the vast majority of cases involving software patents, the patents at issue have been found valid. While acknowledging challenges facing patent examiners making patentability determinations for software-implemented patent applications, Kappos also said that the United States should not “treat software differently than hardware when it comes to patentability.”