Senate Confirms Lee as New Patent & Trademark Office Chief

The Senate Monday confirmed Michelle Lee as the new director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, drawing plenty of reaction from the programming and tech communities.

Lee has been essentially heading the office as deputy director of the office following the departure of David Kappos in 2013. Before that, she was director of its Silicon Valley office in 2012-2013. From 2003 to 2012 she was deputy general counsel and head of patents and patent strategy at Google.

The office was in the news last year given its role in denying federal protection to Redskins trademarks in June and its role in deciding whether over-the-top video providers qualify for a compulsory license.

"As the digital world continues to grow, protecting IP rights is key to encouraging the innovation and creative works that boost economic productivity and create jobs," said Motion Picture Association of America chairman Sen. Chris Dodd. "We congratulate Ms. Lee on being named to this important post and look forward to working with her.”

"Ms. Lee has served admirably in the Obama Administration as a voice of reason urging a balanced approach when examining changes to the patent system," said Innovation Alliance Executive director Brian Pomper. “The startups, independent inventors, venture capitalists, universities, and companies of all sizes who have voiced concerns with many of the sweeping changes being proposed in Congress can look to her to ensure their perspective is heard in the administration and among policymakers in Washington."

“The tech sector innovates rapidly but new advances often don’t make it past the drawing board because of patent application backlogs, delays, and patent trolls manipulating shortcomings in the current patent system," said Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). "That is why it’s important to have a strong hand at the helm of the Patent and Trademark Office, and we congratulate Michelle Lee on her confirmation. She brings a wealth of experience to the leadership of this key agency, especially as it expands its services and outreach across the country, and we look forward to working with her to advance homegrown innovation and the American economy.”

“TechNet congratulates Director Lee on her confirmation,” said the group’s president Linda Moore, of TechNet:.  “After more than two years without a permanent director, PTO now has a leader with the background and experience to aggressively fight for America’s intellectual property and patent holders.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.