Michelle Lee, a former key lawyer for Google Inc. who runs the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Silicon Valley satellite office, has been tapped to become the agency’s deputy director.
On Jan. 13, Lee will take on her new role at PTO headquarters in Alexandria, Va. She’ll perform the duties of the patent office director, now vacant. Once President Obama nominates a new director, Lee’s title will change to acting director pending that appointee’s confirmation.
During a conference call with reporters, Lee expressed support for the goals of Innovation Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this month to target patent litigation abuses.
Many in the legal community, on the other hand, worry about the bill’s broad wording.
“We appreciate the leadership Chairman [Bob] Goodlatte (R-Va.) and others have shown in putting forward legislation that shares the president’s goal of encouraging innovation, not litigation. The [patent office] looks forward to working with Congress and the administration to advance this important bipartisan legislation for the benefit of American innovators,” Lee said.
She deflected a question about how the bipartisan budget deal announced late Tuesday would affect the patent office. “I’m not familiar with the detail,” she said. Patent office press staffers said the agency would have no public statement about the deal right now.
Patent office veteran John Cabeca will become director of the Silicon Valley satellite office. Cabeca is senior adviser to the undersecretary for intellectual property and director of the main patent office.
Lee led the effort to establish the temporary patent outpost in Menlo Park, Calif., which opened in April. She also worked with California officials to secure a permanent site in San Jose’s city hall, set to open by the end of 2014.
Lee’s previous experience includes two terms on the patent office’s advisory committee, a stint as Google’s deputy general counsel and as the first director of patent strategy for the company. She’s also a former partner at Fenwick & West in Mountain View, Calif.
“I’ve spent the entirety of my career focused on creating innovative technologies … or supporting others in their efforts to do the same,” she said.
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