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What is Barack Obama’s IP record?


As November 6 approaches, the IP community waits to see whether there will be a new USPTO director at the helm next year, which is likely to be the case if Mitt Romney is elected. In the meantime, Managing IP recaps some of President Barack Obama’s IP accomplishments during his four years in office

August 2009: After a long lag due to problems with appointing a Secretary of Commerce, Obama’s nominee for the new head of the USPTO is finally confirmed. David Kappos is a welcome leader due to his background as IP counsel at IBM, and becomes one of the most popular directors of the USPTO. IP professionals supporting both political parties have expressed fears to Managing IP about losing him as director.


March 2010: Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. As part of the bill, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act grants 12 years of exclusivity to innovator manufacturers of biologic drugs and provides a framework for biosimilars. Obama had proposed a shorter period of exclusivity for innovators, but the timeframe was extended by Congress.

March 2010: Obama nominates Kathleen O’Malley, a district court judge from Ohio, to fill the vacancy on the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.As a US district judge for the Northern District of Ohio, O’Malley teaches patent litigation at Case Western Reserve University School of Law as distinguished visiting jurist, and handled numerous IP cases prior to joining the CAFC, including while sitting by designation with the Federal Circuit. The IP community welcomes her appointment.

January 2011: Obama’s pick to fill the position of US solicitor general raises the eyebrows of some copyright stakeholders. Before joining the Department of Justice in 2009, Donald Verrilli was a partner at Jenner & Block for 20 years in Washington DC.He represented Viacom in its controversial fight against YouTube; served as one of the lead lawyers in MGM Studios' successful Supreme Court case against Grokster; and won a battle for the recording industry against Jammie Thomas, an individual file sharer.News blogs such as TechDirt criticised the nomination. "[Verrilli] has been the copyright maximalists' go-to guy in court for extending and twisting copyright laws in anti-competitive and free speech-destroying ways," said Mike Masnick of TechDirt. Verrilli was confirmed to the post in June 2011.

September 2011: Obama signs the America Invents Act into law. It represents the most comprehensive change to the patent law in more than 50 years.

November 2011: US attorney general Eric Holder announces that the Obama administration will begin a new public service campaign linking counterfeit products to criminal gangs and US job losses. The administration partners with a nonprofit, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), in a series of public service announcements warning against purchasing counterfeit goods.

February 2012: The interagencyTrade Enforcement Center is launched. The Center is charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries such as China, and conducting inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from entering the country.In September 2012, the administration announces that the Center’s investigations led to a major enforcement action against China for illegally subsidising the auto and auto parts sectors. The administration notes that this unit "is expanding and accelerating the United States’ trade-enforcement capabilities and activities".

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