Patents play an at times all too instrumental role in technology, so it's a potentially momentous event whenever there's a change in the gatekeepers at the patent office. Brace yourself for a possible sea change, then, as USPTO director David Kappos says he's bowing out in January. While we're still waiting on the reasons and a confirmed replacement, the exit will likely be a disappointment for those who like Kappos' patent reform efforts: the former IBM executive has taken steps during his tenure to implement the soon-to-be-active America Invents Act, which speeds up the patent approval process while filtering out some of the junk, and to cut back on a filing backlog that was getting out of hand. We can see how some might not mind the departure, however. Kappos has been quick to defend software patents as needed for innovation at a time when they're being tossed out and challenged over questions of obviousness and possible abuse in stifling competition. We'll only know his full legacy in technology once the AIA takes effect; depending on the choice of successor, it might not be long afterwards that the USPTO changes course.
[Image credit: Center for American Progress, Flickr]