During his campaign, President Trump pledged to fill his administration with “the best people,” “people who are truly, truly capable.”
Now as he prepares to make one of his most important appointments as president, Trump has the opportunity to live up to that promise.
The top position in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) is vacant and must be filled with someone who can rebuild America’s weakened system of intellectual property rights.
Intellectual property, or “IP,” is a term used to refer to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literature, music and brand names. These creations, which are legally protected from theft by patents, copyrights and trademarks, include things such as machines, software, plant varieties, movies, soda formulas, pharmaceuticals and logos.
Simply put, IP rights give inventors the ability to make money off of their ideas, providing the incentive for great advancements in science, communications, transportation and the arts.
The Constitution and 230 years of federal law protects intellectual property rights, but today, IP is under threat both domestically and abroad.
Here at home, decisions by the Obama administration weakened IP protections and devalued patents. It has become increasingly difficult and expensive to obtain a patent, and unreasonably challenging to protect patents against infringement.
In other nations where intellectual property is less valued, government officials often look the other way while Americans’ IP is brazenly ripped off.
As a result, Trump’s nominee for USPTO director must possess the knowledge and track record to restore America’s crumbling IP protections and stand up for American products overseas. No one has more knowledge or a better track record when it comes to IP than Phil Johnson.
Johnson is recently retired from Johnson & Johnson where he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Intellectual Property Counsel, then Senior Vice President for Intellectual Property Policy & Strategy. While at Johnson & Johnson, he managed more than 100 patent and trademark attorneys around the world. Prior to his 17 years at the innovative medical device and pharmaceutical company, he spent 27 years in private practice, counseling business, universities and inventors in all aspects of intellectual property law.
He promotes strong intellectual property rights through his commitments to foundations and professional associations. Johnson served as president of the Intellectual Property Owners Association, the Association of Corporate Patent Counsel, INTERPAT and the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation.
Johnson also regularly provides expert testimony to Congress on IP matters.
Other candidates said to be on Trump’s radar for the position are mid-career patent attorneys at law firms who haven’t done anything of consequence to set themselves apart from the field.
Johnson, on the other hand, was recently inducted into the IP Hall of Fame.
A recent article at IPWatchdog noted the Harvard-educated Johnson “has the experience required to manage and run a large entity, which will be an essential skill set for the next Director of the USPTO.”
“No one is better qualified for the role of USPTO director than Philip Johnson,” wrote David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. Williams called Johnson’s credentials “unassailable.”
Johnson understands that America’s economic success is largely rooted in its IP system, and he has committed his life to ensuring that our nation’s brightest minds are rewarded for creating the ideas that make for a better life.
At a time in which the cost of obtaining and defending patents is discourage inventors and stifling American innovations, Phil Johnson is the best person Trump could appoint as Director of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
Andrew Langer is President of the Institute for Liberty.