Unfortunate: Patent Office Director Michelle Lee Has Resigned
from the not-good-for-patent-issues dept
There was this bizarre mystery earlier this year where no one in the government would even say who was in charge of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). There had been public statements made that the Trump administration was keeping on Michelle Lee, but her picture had been deleted from the Commerce Department website, and public appearances were being canceled and no one would say what was up. Finally, in mid-March, after months of questioning, the USPTO told people that Lee was still in the job. To us, this was a good thing. The past few USPTO directors had been cut from the “more patents is always a good thing” mold, whereas Lee actually recognized that bad patents harmed innovation. And even though the last time the Patent Office got concerned about bad patents it allowed the patent approval backlog to fill up, under Lee the backlog has reached its lowest point in a decade.
She seemed to be doing a great job all around — though patent trolls and the group of patent lawyers who love the trolls were campaigning about her — and it appeared she would stick around. That would be a good thing. For all the craziness going on in the government right now, having competent leadership at the USPTO would be one less thing to worry about. But… now it’s being reported that Lee has suddenly resigned and sent a goodbye email to staff. That’s bad news on the patent front. Of course, it may be ages before any new director is appointed. As I type this, of the 559 key positions requiring Senate confirmation, Trump hasn’t even named a nominee for 431 of them. That number rises to 456 if you include nominees who have been announced but not formally submitted. And that doesn’t even get to the 63 nominations that haven’t yet been confirmed. Adding the new USPTO director to that pile may mean no new USPTO director for…. who the hell knows how long.