After more than six months without a general counsel, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has appointed Sarah Harris to the office’s top legal position.

Harris comes to the USPTO from AOL, where she served as the company’s deputy general counsel for intellectual property. In that position at AOL, Harris oversaw a number of issues which translate to her new role, including all patent litigation, copyright, and trade secrets strategies for the company.

In her new duties, Harris will be responsible for overseeing a staff of 100 lawyers and paralegals, as well as three deputy general counsels. She will replace Bernard Knight, who formerly held the GC position before returning to private practice on Aug. 30, 2013.

“I am honored and thrilled about the opportunity to work with Michelle Lee and the other incredibly impressive people at the USPTO,” Harris said in a statement.

Michelle Lee, deputy director of the USPTO and deputy undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, is also relatively new to her position. The USPTO tapped her in December for the position after former acting director Teresa Stanek Rea left the agency in November. The USPTO has been without a full-time director since David J. Kappos stepped down from the position in February 2013.

“We are thrilled to welcome Sarah Harris as the USPTO’s new general counsel,” said Lee in a statement.

Lee formerly worked as an executive at Google prior to coming on board with the USPTO. This means that both Lee and Harris come from technology backgrounds, which can only help the large slate of technology-related patent disputes facing the USPTO. Technology companies comprised a large percentage of patent troll targets in 2013.


For more on the USPTO, check out these recent InsideCounsel stories:

The top 10 businesses targeted by patent trolls

‘Candy’ Crush company cedes copyright claims

IP: Sufficiency of disclosure and the great divide between the U.S. and Europe

USPTO taps Lex Machina for data on infringement letters