Patent and Trademark Office head Michelle Lee resigns

Michelle Lee

UPDATE 1 — US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) director Michelle Lee resigned from her position late on Tuesday.

In an email to colleagues, Lee wrote: “This afternoon, I submitted my letter of resignation from my position as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“It has been a tremendous honor to serve our country for the past several years, first as Director of the Silicon Valley office, then as Deputy Director of the USPTO, and finally as Director of the USPTO …

“I am confident that the leadership team in place will serve you well during this transition.”

Lee joined the USPTO in 2012 and became interim director in 2013 before being nominated as director by then-President Barack Obama in 2014.

Reuters reported that more than 50 companies, including Facebook and Cisco Systems, in April sent a letter to President Donald Trump and US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross urging them to retain Lee as director of the patent office.

The companies said in the letter that Lee’s efforts had led to a fall in litigation filed by “patent trolls.”

The Trump administration has yet to put forward a nominee for the position of USPTO director.

Lee was the first woman to serve as director of the USPTO.

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said: “We thank Michelle Lee for her service to her country and to the Department of Commerce.

“As the first woman in our country’s history to serve as Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Michelle has worked tirelessly to serve our stakeholders and the American public.

“We wish her well in her next endeavor.”

Prior to public service, Lee was deputy general counsel for Google and the company’s first head of patents and patent strategy.

Lee was also a partner at law firm Fenwick & West LLP.

Before her work as a legal advisor to technology companies, Lee was a computer scientist at the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Hewlett-Packard Research Laboratories.