9 Things to Know About the New USPTO Director, Michelle Lee

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 10, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

March is Women's History Month. So it's quite fitting that this month, Michelle Lee joins the league of female pioneers as the first female director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Congratulations Ms. Lee!

But who is Michelle Lee? Here are nine things you may not know about the USPTO's fearless new leader:

  1. She's not new to the USPTO. Lee's official title used to be deputy director of the USPTO. The position of director has been vacant since former Director David Kappos stepped down in 2013. Lee has been serving as the USPTO's acting director for the last year.
  2. Lee was also the Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. Part of her responsibilities while serving with the Department of Commerce was to advise the president on domestic and international intellectual property matters.
  3. Lee greatly influenced the Silicon Valley USPTO. In 2012, Lee served as the first director of the Silicon Valley USPTO. Before that, she served on the USPTO's Patent Public Advisory Committee, advising the USPTO on patent policies.
  4. Lee was an IP power house in the Silicon Valley. Lee was named the Best Bay Area IP Lawyer in 2012 and one of the Top 100 most influential women in the Silicon Valley by the San Francisco Business Times and the San Jose Business Journal.
  5. Lee has also served as deputy general counsel for Google. Lee served as the company's first Head of Patents and Patent Strategy. During her time at Google, Lee built Google's patent portfolio from only a few patents to over 10,000!
  6. She has plenty of experience being a leader. Before Google, Lee was a partner at Fenwick & West, where she represented leading high-tech firms such as Cisco Systems, Logitech, Apple, and Sun Microsystems.
  7. Lee is well versed in electrical engineering and computer science with degrees from MIT. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Lee worked as a computer scientist at Hewlett-Packard Research Laboratories and the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
  8. Lee grew up in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Lee grew up in Saratoga, California, and after going away for college, she returned to the Bay Area to earn her law degree from Stanford University.
  9. She has a surprising skill. Fun fact: Lee trained for 16 years as a classical ballet dancer.

While Michelle Lee has already been acting director for the last year, it will be exciting to see what innovations and changes Lee will accomplish as the new director of the USPTO.

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