Former Google executive Michelle Lee has been tapped to lead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office until a permanent chief is named. Lee formerly served as the deputy general counsel and head of patents and patent strategy at Google. The former search engine executive will run the agency until a new director is named. She’ll begin her new position in January. The agency is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and awards patents and registers trademarks.

Lee holds an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and law degree from Stanford Law School. Prior to her position at Google, Lee was a partner at the law firm of Fenwick & West LLP where she represented high technology companies on a range of legal matters. Lee is also a founder and current board member of ChIPs (Chief IP Counsels), an organization dedicated to advancing the careers of women in patent-related field

Reuters reports that Lee’s appointment comes at time when the Silicon Valley company is fighting “patent assertion entities” which buy or license patents and sue companies for infringement, but Lee vows to be objective in handling disputes. “None of the policy positions of my former employers has guided my work,” Lee said. “I certainly would be very welcoming of everybody’s input.”

The USPTO has been without a director since David Kappos left in February to return to the private sector. Another consistent complaint for the agency has been its backlog. According to patent office, the number of backlogs is 590,070. At one point, it had reached a staggering 722, 000 patents in backlogs. According to the Economic Times, another problem the patent office is facing is implementing a new inter parties review system required under the 2011 patent reform.

There have been 697 challenges, and they each must be handled within a year with no additional resources.

“They are meeting it so far, but it’s a huge challenge and it’s a brand new law. They’re like trials,” Bernard Knight, former general counsel at the USPTO told the Economic Times.


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