Michelle Lee has been the director of the US Patent and Trademark Office since 2014, but today she resigned without any explanation. Lee was especially appreciated by the tech sector, who believed she brought a balanced approached to patents. Michelle Lee formerly worked for Google and was congratulated by industry professionals for being one of the first corporate lawyers to speak about the growing problem of “patent trolls”.
Since Trump took over the US Presidency role in January, leadership at the USPTO has been unclear. Although Lee was appointed by Obama during his reign, it was suggested that Lee would nonetheless remain during Trump’s leadership. However, this became increasingly confused when Trump would not even release information about who was in charge.
More than 50 companies stepped forward in April – Including Facebook – asking President Trump to allow Lee to remain a part of the office to maintain and improve strict standards to technology and software patents under her leadership.
The USPTO Director is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. There’s no telling how long the position will take to fill. The Trump administration still has not submitted nominees for 431 positions that require Senate appointment, according to The Washington Post. The lack of nominees, combined with a somewhat slower confirmation process in the Senate, has resulted in a far slower staff-up than any recent presidency.
“I am confident that the leadership team in place will serve you well during this transition,” Lee told her colleagues in a memo that was obtained by the Post.
The newspaper also reported a message Lee wrote on her Facebook page, saying: “It has been a special honor to be the first woman to hold the position of Under Secretary and Director of the USPTO in our country’s 200+ year history.”