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White House Backs Off Patent Nominee After Tech Industry Backlash

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The White House has reportedly backed away from nominating a pharmaceutical executive to run the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office after critics alleged he was unlikely to take a firm enough stance against frivolous patent suits.

Tech website Gigaom reports that the White House has backed away from naming Johnson & Johnson’s chief patent attorney, Philip Johnson, as Director of the USPTO. The prospective appointment raised eyebrows in tech circles as critics pointed to his near decade-long record of opposition to patent reform, which many in the tech sector say is badly needed.

Johnson has represented Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, an industry group which successfully lobbied against several legislative overhauls to the patent system. The group has frequently locked horns with technology companies, which have pressed lawmakers to crack down on frivolous patent infringement lawsuits.

Sen. Charles Schumer opposed Johnson’s nomination in an emailed statement to the Wall Street Journal, saying that Johnson was “unsympathetic” to the proliferation of patent lawsuits by so-called “patent trolls,” particularly within the tech industry.

The top position at the USPTO has remained vacant since its previous director, David Kappos, stepped down last year.


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