AOL's Ex-Deputy GC for IP Sarah Harris Named USPTO General Counsel

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on March 10, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office named Sarah Harris as General Counsel, even though the USPTO's top leadership position is still vacant, reports Reuters.

Like many patent attorneys, Sarah Harris obtained a degree in electrical engineering before receiving her J.D. She went on to establish her career as an intellectual property attorney at Hewlett Packard and Compaq, was of counsel at Hayes and Boone, and Chief Intellectual Property Counsel at Cooper Industries, according to the Practising Law Institute. In addition, Harris was formerly president of the Houston Intellectual Property Law Association.

Currently, Harris is Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property at AOL, where she is responsible for all of AOL's IP issues, policies and strategies including "patent litigation, patent prosecution, copyrights, trade secrets, defamation, publicity rights, [First Amendment] rights, trademarks, and domain names."

Focus on Tech

The appointment of Sarah Harris as GC of the USPTO is part of a new trend of hiring from the tech filed, as also evidenced by the recent addition of Michelle Lee, who came from Google, as Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Bernard Knight, the former USPTO GC who left the post to return to private practice, noted that this trend "is likely to be seen as a boost to White House efforts to thwart companies accused of abusive patent litigation," aka "patent trolls," according to Reuters.

Positive Response

In a statement, Michelle Lee proclaimed: "We are thrilled to welcome Sarah Harris as the USPTO's new general counsel. ... She has a stellar record directing a global patent and trademark portfolio while leading a team of talented and skilled IP professionals," reports Corporate Counsel. While Harris could not speak about her new role, she stated, "I am honored and thrilled about the opportunity to work with Michelle Lee and the other incredibly impressive people at the USPTO," Reuters reports.

Harris will begin her new post on April 21, 2014, and will manage 100 lawyers, paralegals and three deputy general counsel, according to Corporate Counsel.

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