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IBM tops at US patent office

Nobody has dominated the annual list of new U.S. patents like IBM. Now Big Blue may put one of its own officials at the top of the government office that oversees patents in America.

David Kappos, vice president and assistant general counsel for intellectual property at IBM, was nominated by President Obama for the post last month and is scheduled to undergo a confirmation hearing Wednesday. If confirmed, he will become the new Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Kappos would be charged with reforming an office that suffers from a backlog of 770,000 patent applications. Kappos has argued in favor of overhauling the patent system, providing testimony in front of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary in March.

IBM is also one of the key contributors to the patent backlog, having been awarded the most patents of any company for 16 consecutive years. IBM set a record in 2008 with 4,000 new patents, and could benefit substantially from a patent office equipped to more speedily approve applications.

If confirmed, Kappos will replace acting director John J. Doll, who has been filling in since Bush nominee Jon W. Dudas resigned in January.

Kappos was scheduled to appear Wednesday morning in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is also considering the appointments of two new federal judges.

In his current role, Kappos “manages IBM's patent and trademark portfolios — protecting and licensing intellectual property worldwide, ” the U.S. patent office said in the announcement of his nomination last month.

“Over a 20-year career, Kappos has accrued deep knowledge of the patent system and broad respect from professionals across the field — including the biotech, life sciences and high tech sectors,” the announcement states.

“The United States Patent and Trademark Office faces significant challenges, and it needs an experienced leader like David at the helm,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in the statement. “He will be a strong voice for patent reform and I have tasked him to reduce dramatically the unacceptably long time the office takes to review patent applications.”

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