By Donald Zuhn --
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced earlier today that U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has appointed Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy Drew Hirshfeld to be the new Commissioner for Patents effective immediately. Mr. Hirshfeld should be familiar to readers of this space for his role, as Deputy Commissioner for Patent Examination Policy, in helping to develop and explain the Office's guidance regarding the examination of claims for subject matter eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Mr. Hirshfeld may also be recognizable as the signatory for the Office's "Guidance For Determining Subject Matter Eligibility Of Claims Reciting Or Involving Laws of Nature, Natural Phenomena, & Natural Products" (or "Myriad-Mayo Guidance"), which was issued in March of 2014; the "Preliminary Examination Instructions in view of the Supreme Court Decision in Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International," which was issued in June of 2014; and the "2014 Interim Guidance on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility," which was issued last December and which supplemented the Alice guidance and superseded the Myriad/Mayo guidance.
Mr. Hirshfeld also oversaw the Office of Patent Legal Administration (PCT), Office of Petitions, Office of the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, Office of PCT Legal, and Office of Patent Quality Assurance. According to the Office's announcement, Mr. Hirshfeld also played a key role in the creation of the position of Deputy Commissioner for Patent Quality to help the USPTO focus on improving patent quality, and helped implement multiple provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011, including the provisions for First-Inventor-to-File, Preissuance Submissions, Inventor's Oath/Declaration, and Supplemental Examination. Prior to being named Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Hirshfeld served two years as the USPTO Chief of Staff, managing operations and intergovernmental communications for then-Director of the USPTO David Kappos. He also served as a Supervisory Patent Examiner as well as a Group Director of Technology Center 2100, overseeing Computer Networking and Database workgroups. Mr. Hirshfeld began his career at the USPTO in 1994 as a patent examiner. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Vermont and a Juris Doctor from the Western New England College School of Law.
Mr. Hirshfeld replaces retired Commissioner Margaret "Peggy" Focarino, the first woman to serve as Commissioner for Patents since the position's creation in 1790, who retired earlier this month after 38 years with the Patent Office.