USPTO director Michelle Lee announced her resignation noting that,” it has been professional experience of a lifetime a true privilege serving our country by supporting what have to believe to be some of the America’s greatest heroes our inventors and entrepreneur.”
Lee will be known as stabilizing force managing the agency during these tough post AIA and post-ALICE years. Although critics suggests that she is not sufficiently pro-patent-property-right, the PTO has continued to issue a record number of patent each year. Although the timing is a surpurise,Lee was an Obama appointee and her resignation was not a big deal. There has been no words from the White House or COMMERCE department on a successor. It is unclear to me at this point , whether Tony Scardino (current acting deputy director) or Drew Hirshfeld (current Commissioner of Patents) will be tapped as Acting Director.
Former Chief Financial Officer Anthony Scardino has been filling the role of Acting Deputy Director of the USPTO for several months. Although no confirmation has been received from the Communications Department of the Patent Office it would seem logical to assume he would become Acting Director or the USPTO once Lee’s resignation is effective.
Getting replies was tough
Getting a clear answer from the USPTO on the employment status of Michelle Lee has not been simple. Both the USPTO and the Department of Commerce had declined to speak on the record about Lee’s status through the middle of February. The whole time, Lee’s signature continued to be seen on issued patents and other official documents coming out of the USPTO. On March 10th, the USPTO responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on Lee’s employment status, finally confirming that she was indeed remaining on as director. By late March, news had broken that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had interviewed candidates to replace Lee as USPTO director
Lee’s e-mail to employees of the USPTO, sent with the subject “Farewell,” reads as follows:
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 tremendously proud of all that we have accomplished together, and appreciate all of your support and dedication during my tenure.
It is no exaggeration to say that the employees of the USPTO rival the best employees of any government agency or private company. The USPTO truly is a “best place to work”– because of you.
I am confident that the leadership team in place will serve you well during this transition. In the meantime, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors at the USPTO.
With affection and deep gratitude,