The United States Patent and Trademark Office will soon officially have a new Director: Michelle K. Lee, who is currently the Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO. Ms. Lee was nominated by President Obama for the position of Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO on October 17, 2014. She awaits confirmation by the Senate, although she is already performing the duties of Director and has been since becoming Deputy Director on January 12, 2014.
The position of Director was previously held by David J. Kappos, who resigned on February 1, 2013. The position has been vacant since that date, although Teresa Stanek Rea served as the Acting Under Secretary of Commerce and Acting Director of the USPTO from February 1, 2013 until November 21, 2013. The Commissioner for Patents, Margaret A. (Peggy) Focarino, took over the duties of Director between Ms. Rea's resignation and Ms. Lee's appointment as Deputy Director.
Ms. Lee brings a unique perspective to the position of Director, having experience in a variety of intellectual property-related settings. Ms. Lee began her career as a computer scientist for Hewlett-Packard Research Laboratories and for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. After law school, Ms. Lee served as a law clerk to both district court and Federal Circuit judges, where she worked on a variety of intellectual property cases. She was then a partner at a law firm specializing in technology before moving in-house, serving as Deputy General Counsel for Google from 2003 to 2012. Upon joining the USPTO in 2012, Ms. Lee was Director of the Silicon Valley office until taking up the Deputy Director position this year.