In no particular order and making no great claims for the selection other than it is one I have given quite a bit of thought to, here are my – and, by extension, the IAM blog’s – top IP personalities of 2007:
• Kamil Idris – For the moment, still the Director-General of WIPO. Accused of many things, but only ever convicted of one: that he did not state his proper age and failed to correct his error until it was made public. He may leave office a year early, but if he does he will walk away on his terms having helped paralyse what should be the world’s single most important IP institution.
• Mark Mendel - A lawyer based in El Paso, Texas, who has persuaded the WTO to allow the government of Antigua to suspend obligations it owes to US IP owners. This because the Antiguans have no other way of retaliating against US actions which have damaged the Caribbean island’s lucrative online gambling sector. A precedent has now been set that could have profound implications for IP owners across the world.
• Neelie Kroes – Led the European Commission’s successful anti-trust case against Microsoft. IP owners should read her triumphant proclamation of victory, substitute “Microsoft” for their own companies’ names and get very worried indeed.
• Alain Pompidou – His term as President of the EPO ended in the middle of the year, but his legacy has been France’s decision to ratify the London Agreement (something for which he had lobbied painstakingly throughout his term of office) and also the publication of the Scenarios Project; this will inform patent policy making in Europe and beyond for years to come.
• James Cacheris – The judge of the Eastern District of Virginia who enjoined the USPTO from introducing its new claims and continuations rules the day before they were due to come into effect. In doing so he dealt a significant blow to the office’s Director Jon Dudas and his advisers, and won a legion of new friends among members of the US patent bar.
• Angela Merkel – The German chancellor is a scientist by training. Maybe this has given her the levels of insight and experience which mean she is now a driving force behind the renewed interest in IP rights at the top end of European politics. Something which may lead to significant progress during 2008.
• John Roberts – Since he became its Chief Justice, the US Supreme Court has looked at an unprecedented number of patent cases and has helped to reshape US patent law and practice. In 2007, it handed down two major decisions in MedImmune v Genentech and KSR v Teleflex, both of which will have major implications for patent owners. We are now waiting for the judgment in Quanta v LG Electronics – which could prove a landmark case in the area of patent exhaustion.
• David Kappos – Along with other senior colleagues, the head of IP law at IBM has helped keep the company at the cutting edge of patent policy making and thought leadership in the US and further afield. Support for the Peer to Patent project and advocacy of the European Interoperability Patent have won Big Blue many friends in the open source community. At the same time, however, IBM has continued to build a powerful patent portfolio and has no problems in going to court to assert its rights.
• Tian Lipu – The Commissioner of the China’s State Intellectual Property Office has won a number of high-profile admirers during his time in office as he seeks to integrate the office into the world’s patent mainstream. During 2007 he worked closely with colleagues from other patent offices and continued to put in place structures to enable SIPO to deal with the unprecedented number of applications with which it is now dealing.