In the modern U.S. — and global — economy, intellectual property is a valuable form of currency. A great deal of attention from businesses, citizens and the government, has been placed on patents and trademarks. But, even though patents are more valuable than ever, the government agency that oversees such matters, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), has been without a leader for the past two years. Now, though, that has officially changed, as Michelle Lee was confirmed as head of the USPTO on March 9.
In February 2013, David Kappos, a former executive at IBM, stepped down from his position as the head of the USPTO, and the job has been vacant ever since. Lee, though, seems a good fit to take his place. She formerly served as deputy general counsel and head of patents and patent strategy at Google before taking on the job of deputy director of the USPTO on an interim basis, a position she took in December 2013. Then, in October 2014, the White House nominated Lee to be the next head of the office.
Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave its blessing to Lee’s nomination and then on Monday the Senate approved her candidacy in an unrecorded voice vote. Lee has a great deal of experience in the hi-tech space, where patents are an important source of revenue — and a cause for occasional controversy. She is tasked with running an organization that has been entrenched in backlogs of applications and which has been racked with scandal.
In addition to Lee’s confirmation, the Senate also confirmed Daniel Marti in the role of U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement coordinator. “Having the right leaders to serve as Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator is critical to the future health of our patent and intellectual property systems and to American innovation. Microsoft applauds the Senate’s confirmation of Michelle Lee and Daniel Marti to lead those important organizations. We look forward to working with Ms. Lee and Mr. Marti to help ensure the U.S. continues set the pace in innovation and technology,” said Erich Andersen, vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft.