Former IBM IP legal chief David Kappos has been confirmed by the Senate just before it left for the summer recess, and so becomes the new Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, otherwise known as the head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He certainly understands patents and served for a time as head of IBM's IP program in Asia, so he has an international perspective that should be useful.
And as Foley & Lardner partner Hal Wegner pointed out on his email list, it's also likely that Barack Obama will be appointing a number of judges to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Strictly my take: putting judges into place on the CAFC could prove even more influential an action on IP policy than nominating the director. The judges ultimately have say over interpretation of patent law, and they are in place far longer than the person in charge of the department. Figure that many in the patent community -- and many in legal departments of high tech companies -- will carefully watch future appointments.