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Paths to making a difference in government - David J. Kappos - EY - United States

Paths to making a difference

David J. Kappos

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Fulfillment in this job is all about accomplishing our mission and improving our organization.

EY - David J. Kappos

Mr. Kappos was nominated by President Obama to serve as Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in June 2009 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in August 2009.

The challenge

There was no shortage of items on the agenda when he arrived.

"I was well aware of several key issues based on my prior experience and impressions of the agency. I had been working on intellectual property issues my whole career, so I came into the job with a sense that I knew the agency and the challenges it was facing," said Kappos.

"I also knew we had to improve the IT infrastructure, as well as improve the agency's workforce and work processes. The agency manual for its patent attorneys had not been updated for the 21st century."

Responding to the challenge

As Director of USPTO, Kappos has led the effort to reduce the backlog of patent applications and speed up the review process. The task is made even more challenging by the continued increase in number of patent applications, now over 500,000 annually.

"The USPTO has a critical role to play in our economic recovery," said Kappos. "And that's why people really care about the backlog, which hinders innovation and economic growth. In response, we set specific targets."

He aims to reach 699,000 for FY 2011 and 325,000 for 2015.

"The job of leadership is to work on all the challenges. You need to do it all," he said.

"I believe philosophically that you are never done. Change goes on forever."

USPTO faced a unique set of budget challenges. With the 1990 legislative changes, USPTO became a 100-percent fee-funded operation. Under the existing funding system, however, USPTO only has access to the portion of its collections provided in the annual appropriations bills.

Congress is working on improving the funding system, and Kappos says improved funding would help speed up the application approval process.

"We have made progress and are still working on many items on our agenda. If I leave and haven't achieved our goals, then I would have failed," he said. "Fulfillment in this job is all about accomplishing our mission and improving our organization."

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