- Posted by Holmes Weinberg, PC
- On June 24, 2017
In 2014, President Obama appointed former Google CEO Michelle Lee to head the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Michelle Lee submitted a letter of resignation. Although the e-mail she sent to all USPTO employees did not specify whether her resignation was immediate, and the USPTO has not yet responded to inquiries surrounding her resignation, it does seem as if Lee’s resignation was effective immediately. Several prominent technology companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Samsung recently wrote President Trump a letter asking for him to allow Lee to stay on, or to appoint someone with similar industry practices. This is why it’s important for skilled patent attorneys, like a trusted Chicago IL patent attorney, stay current with changes in policy and politics that affect the industry.
In a White House full of recent staff turnover, it is difficult to sort out the logical reasons Ms. Lee may have decided to resign from the gossip. According to IP Watchdog, “Her speeches have always been full of rhetoric that leads many observers to believe she is not in favor of strong patent rights, so her departure will undoubtedly be welcome in many corners of the industry and could signal a new pro-patent approach on the horizon for the Trump Administration.” Alden Abbott of the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation had this comment, “The Administration should focus on individuals who are firmly committed to the promotion of strong American IP rights, which are a core aspect of private property.”
There are several reasons she was praised by some in technology companies. One aspect is the Supreme Court’s Cuozzo decision in 2016, which made known that the USPTO Director has great authority to rewrite the rules under which the Patent Trial and Appeals Board (PTAB) operates, while a new director could also choose to revisit examination guidelines created in response to recent Supreme Court judgments such as Alice and Mayo. Any moves away from the policy approach Lee favored, to a more patentee-friendly approach at the PTAB and among the examiner corps would be very unpopular in many parts of Silicon Valley.
Intense lobbying is expected, and perhaps open dissent prior to a confirmation process should a nominee unpopular in certain quarters finally emerge. The USPTO Director’s job is political in a way that it has never been before as technology has an ever-growing impact on local and global economic markets.
An intellectual property attorney with a specialty in complex litigation, Charles Macedo, a partner at the firm of Amster, Rothstein, and Ebenstein LLP, “Michelle Lee was in charge of the US Patent and Trademark Office during tumultuous times. She inherited the Office after the departure of a very popular and successful administrator and his protégé. She was charged with numerous difficult tasks, including implementing the controversial AIA law…and, was one of the few Obama appointees who continued to serve under the new Administration, which presented its own unique set of challenges. Through it all she served the public with grace and poise.” If you have questions on how the changes at the USPTO affect your intellectual property, contact a skilled lawyer today.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Offices of Konrad Sherinian for their insight into patent law practice.