I've heard from a two well-connected sources that David Kappos will officially be leaving IBM today and literally starting at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tomorrow. I'm calling it a rumor as I haven't yet been able to get confirmation from a second source, though the source is very credible and tThe USPTO says that he is officially supposed to be starting this week, so given my other sources, I'll say tomorrow. (If it's Tuesday, this must be Alexandria, VA.) Clearly Kappos would be making the jump relatively soon in any case, having just been confirmed by the Senate on Friday as Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, meaning head of the USPTO. Many have asked how he would act at the agency, but I think it's time to reflect on a different question: How will his departure affect IBM's IP strategy?
Kappos has been head of IBM's patent and trademark portfolios for many years, and has clearly left a stamp on the organization. The protection strategy he undertook, given the company's wide technical activities and business interests, was to more or less patent anything moving, and to poke everything that was still to see if it would move. Last year, IBM pulled in 4,169 patents, the most of any company. But lawyers can differ significantly in how they approach protection. Although a successor has not been named, it could be that the world will see some shift in IBM's approach, though I wouldn't bet on a radical departure. The company has the money to pursue patents and the shotgun approach seems to have worked for it so far.