Michelle Lee has
been appointed the next deputy under secretary of commerce for
intellectual property and deputy director of the USPTO. She is
the replacement for Teresa Stanek Rea, who left the agency last
The appointment has led to some speculation that Lee could eventually become the director of the
USPTO as well as questions about whether legally she could be
appointed at all.
Lee is the director of the USPTO’s Silicon Valley
satellite office and will begin her new role at USPTO
headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, on January 13 2014.
Before becoming director of the Silicon Valley USPTO, Lee
served two terms on the USPTO’s Patent Public
Lee previously served as deputy general counsel for Google
and was the company’s first head of patents and
patent strategy. She also served as a partner at the Silicon
Valley-based law firm of Fenwick & West, where she advised
a wide range of high-technology clients.
Lee will perform the functions and duties of the USPTO
director, a position that has been vacant for almost a year. In
accordance with statutory law, she will assume the title of
acting director once President Obama nominates a director.
After Lee begins her new role in January, John Cabeca, who
has been at the USPTO 25 years, will serve as the director of
the Silicon Valley satellite office until the permanent office
in San Jose City Hall becomes operational. He is the
senior advisor to the under secretary for intellectual property
and director of the USPTO and a former Semiconductor Technology
The American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA)
welcomed the appointment but expressed its hope that a
nomination for director would be forthcoming soon.
"Having been without the full complement of permanent
leadership for too long, we are encouraged that this process is
now continuing," said Todd Dickinson, executive director of the
AIPLA. "We fully appreciate the challenges Michelle will be
facing, especially at this critical time, both at the Office
and in the world of IP generally, and finding the right balance
among diverse stakeholder interests will be perhaps the most
important test. We have worked with Michelle as director of the
Silicon Valley Office of the USPTO, and we look forward to
doing all we can to help her in her new role. We congratulate
her on her appointment."