Obama Taps Former Google Exec for Patent Office

The White House is nominating former Google lawyer Michelle K. Lee to head the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office where she will manage 10,000 employees and possibly set the patent agenda to technology, according to reports.

Lee has already been managing the office's employees as the "appointed deputy director in January," according to the Washington Post. Lee's hiring would also be "a key victory" for those wanting her in the post -- which has been opposed by mostly pharmaceutical companies who want their own "industry insider".

The position has been open for two years while two sides, technology and pharmaceuticals, argue over who should "set the country's patent agenda."

Lee is definitely in the tech camp. With a degree in electrical engineering and computer sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a law degree from Stanford and 20 years experience as a patent attorney. Aside from that, she served as deputy general counsel for Google from 2003 to 2012.

By appointing Lee, Silicon Valley and President Obama will likely have a champion deep inside the patent apparatus pushing for legislation to address so-called patent trolls — people and firms who secure broad patent portfolios simply so they can sue firms for infringement. Despite broad congressional support, a major patent troll bill fell apart in the Senate in May, shortly before the kickoff of election season. Lee has called abusive litigation "a bug in our system" that "ought to be fixed."

Before becoming the deputy director, Lee helped open and lead the Patent Office's landmark Silicon Valley satellite office in Menlo Park. However, she still has to be confirmed by the Senate, and we don't know if senators will be on the tech or the pharmaceutical side of the patent debate.
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