Michelle Lee, a former Google employee who served the company as the head of patents and patent strategy, has been appointed as the deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Lee's role as a deputy director of the federal agency will see her working on the USPTO's Silicon Valley branch of intellectual property issues. She begins her work as a deputy director on January 13, 2014, and will run the agency till a new director is selected.
Former director of the agency David Kappos, an ex-executive of International Business Machines Corp left the office on February 1 this year to return to private practice. Since then the USPTO has been without a director. After Kappos left the agency, Teresa Stanek Rea - a former deputy director of USPTO - took the role of acting director. However, Teresa also left the agency in November this year.
Lee has an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as well as a law degree from Stanford Law School.
"Michelle Lee has proven herself to be a tremendous asset to the USPTO and the Department of Commerce," said Secretary Penny Pritzker. "She has a great mix of skills and experiences to assume this leadership position during a time when the administration is deeply focused on strengthening the nation's intellectual property system. And her years of working in the IP community, both in the private and public sectors, will support the key focus on innovation and the digital economy in the Commerce Department's new 'Open for Business' policy agenda. I look forward to working with her in her new capacity."
Lee indicates that her initial priorities will be to aggressively work on the agency's backlog of around 600,000 unexamined patents and take steps to improve patent quality, which has been an issue over frivolous infringement lawsuits.
Lee's ex-employer Google has been one of the industry's top companies to raise voice and ask the agency to bring patent reforms. However, it seems that Lee is very clear on her objectives and will not be influenced and will make her own decisions.
"None of the policy positions of my former employers has guided my work," Lee said, however, adding, "I certainly would be very welcoming of everybody's input."