Report: Johnson Out as Pick to Head USPTO

The White House has backed away from its pick to head the United States Patent and Trademark Office after very vocal opposition from the tech sector in the United States. Two weeks ago Philip Johnson, the top intellectual property lawyer at Johnson & Johnson, was set to be named the next director of the patent office, according to multiple reports.

Leaders in the tech industry were not pleased with this pick, pointing out that Johnson had consistently opposed making any kinds of changes to patent laws for years; he was also the head of the Coalition for 21st Century for Patent Reform, a 21C umbrella group opposing broad patent reform.

Once word got out that Johnson would be appointed to the post, the tech sector and some lawmakers expressed deep concerns:

"That the administration might consider appointing an active opponent of reform efforts is stunning," said Ed Black, president and chief executive of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

"American business owners remain vulnerable to patent troll lawsuits, and now one of the most prominent opponents of reform has been appointed to be the umpire, calling balls and strikes for USPTO," said Michael Meehan, the manager for the Main Street Patent Coalition, a group of retailers, restaurants, and other non-tech businesses seeking patent reform. Johnson can't be expected "to make fair calls," Meehan added.

A few days later, pro-reform legislators. including Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John Cornyn (R-TX), who played key roles in attempting to negotiate the ultimately unsuccessful patent reform bill, both voiced disappointment with Johnson as the potential pick.

“I have big concerns," said Schumer, adding that the White House "seemed very open" to listening to those concerns.

The Johnson selection "strikes me as odd," added Cornyn.

For its part the White House denies that it pulled Johnson as a nominee, noting that it never announced him as a pick in the first place…

Source: Ars Technica

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