Enlarge / USPTO Deputy Director Michelle K. Lee, left, tours the Denver satellite office of the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2014. US Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado is on the right.Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images
reader comments 11
Share this story
With President Donald Trump having taken office today, many government offices are in the midst of a major transition.
In one office that’s closely watched by technology and internet companies, however, the leadership looks to remain the same—the US Patent and Trademark Office.
There’s been no official announcement about USPTO leadership from Trump’s team, with the new president having been inaugurated earlier today.
But The Hill reported yesterday that Michelle Lee, a former top lawyer at Google, will remain as USPTO director under President Trump. Politico reported the same news, sourcing it to statement from Rep.
Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and confirming it with other unnamed sources.
Lee’s remaining at USPTO is a a surprise victory for the technology sector, which offered scant support for President Trump while he was campaigning for office.
She supported President Barack Obama’s patent reform agenda, and Trump’s views on patents are a cipher.
Speculation about who might get the top patent job focused on two candidates with very different backgrounds from Lee’s: Philip Johnson, the top IP lawyer at Johnson & Johnson, and Randall Rader, former chief judge for the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Johnson was nearly chosen in 2014 but was set aside after outcry from the tech sector, who was concerned about a top pharmaceutical lawyer and opponent of patent reform heading up the US patent system.
Early responses from tech sector advocates on the choice to keep Lee have been positive.
‘Michelle Lee has started a number of programs to enhance patent quality, and it’s important that those programs be allowed to continue,” said Matt Levy, chief patent counsel for the Computer and Communications Industry Association. “With Director Lee continuing on, those programs will have the chance to produce real improvements in the patents the USPTO issues.”
“Abusive, meritless litigation brought by patent trolls has been a job killer for literally thousands of American businesses over the last decade,” Beth Provenzano, co-chair of the United for Patent Reform coalition, said in an e-mailed statement. “Director Lee has worked to improve the tools that allow innovative business to defend themselves against truly frivolous litigation.”