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Head of patent office to step down

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The popular director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, David Kappos, will be stepping down in January, according to an email sent to agency employees on Monday.

In the email, Kappos said he would be leaving around the end of January and thanked agency employees for their work. A patent office spokesman confirmed that Kappos would step down.

Kappos, who is famous for his long hours, has been popular with patent attorneys and industry for being responsive to their desire for more communication and a reduced backlog in patent applications.

Under Kappos, the huge and much-criticized backlog of patent applications fell from more than 750,000 in 2009 to about 605,000 currently, according to patent office data.

He also improved communication between the patent office and lawyers who help companies apply for patents.

"He's also given examiners more time to work on cases, especially at the beginning," said Gene Quinn, a patent attorney and blogger for IPWatchdog Inc. "He encouraged examiners to not just reject claims but to make suggestions for patentability. He did fundamentally alter the relationship between the attorney and examiners."

(Reporting By Diane Bartz; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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