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Lee urges lawyers to volunteer for new USPTO initiatives

Michael Loney and Alli Pyrah, Washington DC

USPTO deputy director Michelle Lee spoke of the agency’s latest initiatives to improve the US patent system during a keynote speech at Managing IP’s US Patent Forum 2014

Lee urged lawyers at Tuesday’s event in Washington, DC to volunteer for pro-bono positions created by three new executive actions announced by President Obama last month.

She hopes the initiatives will reduce the “red tape, delay and frivolous litigation” that hampers innovation.

The White House plans to expand ways to crowdsource prior art, offer more robust technical training to examiners and offer pro bono and pro se assistance to inventors struggling to pay for legal representation.

To help these efforts, the USPTO is asking technical experts to volunteer to deliver presentations to examiners to improve their understanding of different types of technology. The agency is also looking for volunteers from the IP bar to provide pro bono advice to individuals and small businesses.

Lee, who replaced Teresa Stanek Rea as deputy director of the USPTO in December 2013, said the office has “made great progress” on five executive actions announced by President Obama in June, along with seven legislative recommendations.

She also spoke of the impact patents had on her family and career motivations.

“My father was an engineer and so were all the other fathers I knew growing up in Silicon Valley,” said Lee. “I wanted to contribute and enable others to contribute to innovation.”

As a result, she became a programmer for HP before joining Fenwick & West. She went on to work for Google, which had “a handful of patents” at the time. Lee spent nine years with the search engine company, where she ended up as head of patents and patent strategy.

She left Google in May 2012 to become director of the USPTO’s Silicon Valley office before being appointed to lead the agency.


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