David Kappos’ war on poor people, and his indifference to broader public interest reforms

Apparently David Kappos will be leaving the USPTO sometime early next year. Today there is much commentary from patent community giving him high marks, and I’m willing to believe there are high marks to give. But he also had some big shortcomings. Here are a few:

  • Kappos allowed his office to bully developing countries on strong intellectual property rights for drugs and other medical technologies.(/node/1420, /node/1447), and was never willing to meet with his critics, despite having all the time in the world to chat up right-holder lobbies.
  • Under Kappos, the USPTO demanded that developing countries replace copyright negotiators that were too committed to protecting consumers, and humiliated the negotiators that were replaced.
  • He spent four years in a divisive and mean spirited attack on a proposed WIPO treaty on copyright exceptions for persons who are blind or have other disabilities (/r2r). During his tenure, USPTO never bothered to offer a bill to permit the U.S. to share accessible versions of copyrighted works made under exceptions with blind people in other countries, despite telling blind people this was a big priority.
  • The USPTO did sloppy analysis of trade agreements that ignored US norms for policy space for patent and copyright exceptions.
  • Kappos never directed the agency to undertake any serious policy reviews of the shortcomings of the patent system in areas such as medical technologies, software, mobile computing devices, business methods, or Internet technologies.
  • USPTO never did any serious research on the need to reform copyright in the areas of education, Internet technologies or music, or orphaned copyrighted works, and USPTO never considered rolling back US copyright terms or introducing formalities .
  • Under his direction, USPTO tried to turn the office of the chief economist into a propaganda arm for the intellectual property system. (/node/1432)

I could go on, mentioning all sorts of grievances, but the ones that are the most important to me are those associated with the complete indifference the impact of his actions on people who are both sick and poor, and live in developing countries, and his long war against the WIPO treaty for copyright exceptions for blind people. When you attack cancer patients and blind people in poor countries, you are a person of pretty poor judgement and/or low moral standards.

But, aside from that, good luck David Kappos. Unfortunately, I don’t have much confidence we will see anyone much better replacing Kappos.