Caspar W. Ooms was born on August 30, 1902, in Chicago. He attended Knox College and the University of Chicago School of Commerce and Administration. He received a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1927.
Following graduation from law school he clerked for a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Afterward he practiced law with various Chicago law firms until he entered government service. He specialized in patent litigation in courts throughout the United States, representing both patent owners and defendants. He argued three cases before the Supreme Court.
President Harry Truman appointed Ooms commissioner of patents, and he entered service on July 29, 1945.
According to an editorial in the Journal of the Patent Office Society, “He assumes the office of Commissioner at a time when the patent system has been under constant attack for a decade by those who question its value as a vital factor in our industrial progress.” Ooms’ task was viewed as “restoring the public’s confidence in a strong patent system . . . .”
Study continued on the role of the patent system in the economy. Following reports by the Temporary National Economic Committee in 1941 and the National Patent Planning Commission in 1943-45, the secretary of commerce appointed a patent survey committee of prominent citizens in 1945. Ooms gave a speech in New York on December 7, 1945, in which he remarked, “No patent we may issue . . . will be any better than its prospects in patent litigation.”
In 1946 Congress passed the landmark Trademark Act of 1946, popularly known as the Lanham Act. The act greatly increased the Patent Office’s trademark responsibilities and made numerous changes in federal trademark law, including allowing registration of service marks and certification marks, making registrations incontestable under certain circumstances, and requiring proof of continued use by the sixth year. Ooms planned the implementation of the act, which took effect in July 1947.
Also in 1946 the Atomic Energy Act became law. It banned patents for the production of fissionable material and the military utilization of atomic energy.
After World War II the office began hiring more patent examiners to replace those who had resigned during the war and to cope with a large increase in patent filings. By 1946 some of the examining divisions were moving back to Washington, D.C., from Richmond, Virginia, where they had relocated during the war. By 1947 the office had more than 1,800 employees and the number continued to grow.
The Administrative Procedure Act, one of the most important pieces of U.S. administrative law, was enacted in 1946. In a seminal article in 1947 Ooms sorted out how the act applied to the Patent Office.
Ooms resigned as commissioner on September 9, 1947. He returned to private law practice in Chicago and became director of the patent law program at John Marshall Law School.
He was a patent adviser to the Atomic Energy Commission and served as chairman of the commission’s Patent Compensation Board, established in 1949. He died in Chicago on February 19, 1961.
Stacy V. Jones, The Patent Office (1971).
Caspar W. Ooms, The United States Patent Office and the Administrative Procedure Act, in The Federal Administrative Procedure Act and the Administrative Agencies 253 (George Warren ed., 1947).
Caspar W. Ooms, What Should be Done to Make Our Patent System More Effective in the Accomplishment of Its Intended Purpose?, 28 JPOS 5 (1946).
USPTO, Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Patents (1946-47).
USPTO, The Story of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (1988).