Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Monday Mar 26, 2012

Realignment in the Office of the Commissioner for Patents Helps to Improve Efficiency

Guest blog by USPTO Commissioner for Patents Peggy Focarino

One of my challenges as Commissioner for Patents is providing my senior leadership team with the tools and flexibility they need to manage a productive and growing workforce. As the USPTO moves forward with implementing the America Invents Act and our Strategic Plan, we continue to invest heavily in organizational growth. In 2011 alone, the patent organization, which comprises nearly 70% of the USPTO’s more than 10,000 employees, hired over 800 new patent examiners. Substantial growth will also occur in 2012, as we are planning to hire 1,500 new patent examiners. This hiring initiative is the backbone of our goal to significantly reduce the backlog of patent applications and decrease the pendency to an average of ten months for first actions.

To manage the necessary increase of our workforce, I announced a realignment within the senior leadership team in the Office of the Commissioner for Patents. Specifically, three new deputy commissioner positions have been created in an effort to continue to build the strength of the senior leadership team and maximize their contributions. The new positions consist of a Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations, a Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, and a Deputy Commissioner for Patent Administration, to be filled by Andrew Faile, Drew Hirshfeld and Bruce Kisliuk, respectively. All three bring unique skills to their respective positions and form a strong and well-balanced team at the Deputy Commissioner level.

As the new Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations, Andrew Faile will be responsible for all patent examining functions in the nine Patent Technology Centers, the Office of Patent Training and the Central Reexamination Unit. Andy was the Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations for the Electrical Discipline and has over 20 years of experience in patent examining and operations management. He first joined the USPTO in 1989 as a patent examiner in the areas of cellular telephony, radio frequency communications, and cable television. In 1994, he earned an examiner master’s rating in telecommunications. Recently, Andy served on a joint management/union task force in charge of modernizing the examiner production system. He was awarded the Department of Commerce Silver Medal for his work on the task force.

Drew Hirshfeld will serve as the Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy. In his new position, Drew will be responsible for providing staff assistance in establishing patent examination policy standards for the Commissioner for Patents. The Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy will direct the activities of the USPTO’s Office of Petitions, Office of Patent Legal Administration, Office of Patent Cooperation Treaty Legal Administration, and the Office of Patent Quality Assurance. As the current Associate Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, Drew is the authority on patent laws, rules, and examining practice and procedure. He joined the USPTO in 1994 as a patent examiner, became a supervisory patent examiner in 2001, and was promoted to the Senior Executive Service in 2008 as a Group Director in Technology Center 2100, Computer Architecture and Software. Drew has also served as the chief of staff to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO.

The Deputy Commissioner for Patent Administration will be Bruce Kisliuk. This new position will act as a single point of oversight for resources and planning, information management and innovation development. Since 2008, Bruce has been the Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations for Mechanical and Chemical Disciplines. He joined the USPTO in 1983 after working as an engineer for the Gulf Oil Corporation. In 1993, Bruce received the Department of Commerce Bronze Medal for individual achievement. In addition, he has also been a member of two different teams that received the Department of Commerce Silver Medal for Nanotechnology-related Patent Examining Initiatives (2007) and Patent Examiner Count System Initiatives (2010).

I am looking forward to working with Andy, Drew and Bruce as we continue to move forward in implementing our Strategic Plan. Each of them possesses the expertise necessary to lead a growing and dynamic patent organization in the 21st century. With its new leadership alignment, the USPTO will be well-positioned to meet its strategic goals and ensure that American innovation thrives.


The USPTO has entered into PPH agreements with Germany and Austria which unfortunately operate to the disadvantage of those who file in English. Both Germany and Austria require that all those who enter the national phase in their countries must communicate with them entirely in German (HO of DPMA in Munich). Those who enter the national phase in the EPO (HO also in Munich) and include Germany as a designated country will probably have no problem because the EPO deals entirely in English. Furthermore, the German patent office DPMA has only about eight hundred patent examiners according to their 2010 annual report. That suggests that pendency in Germany DPMA on filing direct to their national office, DPMA, will be very long relative to the USPTO. Furthermore, the DPMAdirect is just getting going and is offering their first training program for people in the use of their German only website --- set for April and May in Munich. I would suggest that the USPTO issue an advisory on the PPH to Germany, that those who wish their applications to be prosecuted in English file with the EPO.

Posted by Frank Stromotich on March 28, 2012 at 11:49 AM EDT #

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