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Former Google DGC Michelle Lee tapped for lead USPTO post.

Summary: On Oct 16, the White House confirmed industry-wide rumblings about their bid for the next head of the United States Patent Office (USPTO), tapping former ...

On Oct 16, the White House confirmed industry-wide rumblings about their bid for the next head of the United States Patent Office (USPTO), tapping former Google lawyer Michelle K Lee to step up to the plate. The office hopes that this most recent nomination will offer stability following the departure of former chief Deborah Cohn in September. Cohn step down amongst allegations of nepotism, and was the most recent in a string of resignations at the office. Lee would be bumped up from her current post as deputy director of the USPTO's patent wing, overseeing both patents and trademarks for the office.

Lee brings deep technology industry experience, with degrees in both electrical engineering and computer science from M.I.T. as well as time spent as deputy general counsel for Google. She will lead the offices efforts in a historic time, as deep questions surrounding United States' innovation continue to make the global stage. As chief, Lee will also address tough questions surrounding the role of non-practicing entities in American patent disputes, perhaps offering the guidance that has eluded those clashes thus far.

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Appointed deputy director of the patent office in January, Lee's transition to chief has been met with resistance from what Reuter's calls "powerful outside groups." Those groups were reportedly comprised of pharmaceutical companies, who sought to install an industry insider to lock in patent laws favorable to drug-makers.

As deputy director, Lee oversaw roughly 10,000 employees at the patent office, adding to the experience she brings to her new post. Following this nomination Lee will await clearance from the Senate before officially taking the post.

Erich Andersen, vice president and deputy general counsel, of the Intellectual Property Group at Microsoft, said "We welcome the nomination of Michelle Lee to serve as Undersecretary of Commerce for IP and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This is an important job - our IP system is critical to our economy, as companies that rely on IP protection contribute $5 trillion to the economy and support 40 million jobs."

Andersen's comments underscore the monumental task set before Lee. If her post is confirmed by the Senate she will have considerable power to direct American innovation. The USPTO has been long mired in backlogs and political turmoil and Lee fresh perspective could offer a chance to redefine the office's meandering direction.

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Publication:Inside Counsel
Date:Oct 17, 2014
Words:462
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