Lee named head of Patent Office

Updated: 2013-12-12 08:36

By Chen Jia in San Francisco (China Daily USA)

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Michelle Lee, a former Google Inc executive, was officially named by the Obama administration on Wednesday to head up the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). She will begin her new role Jan 13, 2014.

"Michelle Lee has proven herself to be a tremendous asset to the USPTO and the Department of Commerce," Penny Pritzker, the US Secretary of Commerce, said on Wednesday. "I look forward to working with her in her new capacity."

Pritzker said Lee has a great mix of skills and experience ideal for this leadership position at a time when the administration was deeply focused on strengthening the nation's intellectual property system.

Her years of working in the IP community, both in the private and public sectors, will support the key focus on innovation and the digital economy in the Commerce Department's new Open for Business policy agenda, she said.

A graduate in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT and Stanford law school, Lee said her first job out of school was tutoring algebra.

At Google, she built the search engine giant's patent legal team and played key roles in some of its largest patent deals. She led the Google team that purchased the Nortel patent portfolio that was resold three years ago for $4.5 billion.

In November of 2012, she was tapped to lead the Silicon Valley patent office.

"I have truly valued my years working with the USPTO, both on the Patent Public Advisory Committee and more recently helping to build a robust USPTO office in Silicon Valley," Lee said on Wednesday.

"One of the best parts of my experience has been working with the talented and hard-working women and men at the USPTO. In my new role, I'm excited to further my service to the agency, the Commerce Department, and the American innovation community," she added.

Named one of the 100 Women of Influence, she described herself a "dedicated" person, according to an earlier report in Silicon Valley Business Journal.

"My five-year goal is the same as my one-year goal, which is the same as my daily goal: Be a good person, friend, mother and wife and try to leave this world in a better condition than when I entered it," she was quoted as saying.

On Wednesday, Lee's promotion won approval from Congressman Mike Honda.

"I applaud President Obama's appointment of Michelle Lee, and I extend my heartiest congratulations to her. I was pleased to support Ms Lee as she was being considered for this position," Honda said. "Lee's expertise in the field is unmatched."

"She has been actively involved in patent reform discussions for close to a decade, and as the first director of the Silicon Valley office, she was an instrumental ally in our efforts to open it and — in the face of budget sequestration — find a creative solution to keep it here permanently," he said.

"I look forward to working with her in this new capacity to bolster American innovation as well as grow the Silicon Valley office," he said.

Contact the writer at chenjia@chinadailyusa.com