The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has hired a senior attorney from the Milwaukee-based law firm Foley & Lardner LLP to help restructure the agency.
Sharon Barner, who chairs Foley's intellectual property department from the firm's Chicago office, will become the deputy director of the patent office. Barner steps into the No. 2 role immediately under David Kappos, who previously oversaw IBM's patent portfolio. The Senate confirmed Kappos in August as the Obama administration's nominee as the agency's director.
"I have directed the USPTO to significantly reduce the time it takes to process patent applications," U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in announcing Barner's appointment.
In a series of stories in August, the Journal Sentinel examined the problems that beset the agency, which lies at the heart of America's innovation economy. Although inventors have relied on the patent system to promote and protect new technologies, the agency has been unable to keep pace with the torrent and complexity of applications it receives.
As it has struggled to keep pace, the office in recent years added hurdles, delays and improper rejections that have handicapped start-ups and entrepreneurs. Locke has said the agency's performance impedes the nation's economic recovery.
The appointment of Barner is important for Foley, which touts its global patent and intellectual property division. Foley and Lardner has nearly 240 attorneys that specialize in patents and intellectual property, ranking the firm among the nation's top 10 patent litigation and patent procurement law firms.
In February, Foley hired Jon Dudas, who ran the patent office under former President George W. Bush and was the immediate predecessor to Kappos in the agency's top position.
In a telephone interview, Barner said she knows President Barack Obama personally, with ties that extend through much of his political career in Illinois. She said she helped him raise funds for an Illinois state senate race; worked on a voter registration effort; and had him speak several times at symposiums that she organized.
While Barner said she has not helped write patent applications, she is an experienced litigator of patent cases. She also helped Foley expand its intellectual property practice in Japan and China.
Over the past 10 years, Barner has been featured as a top intellectual property lawyer in The National Law Journal, Black Enterprise Magazine, Diversity and the Bar and IP Law & Business and was recognized in the Illinois Super Lawyers for her intellectual property litigation work.
Barner plans to "telecommute" and
work from Chicago without moving to Washington. ""
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