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Monday, March 06, 2017

Farewell and a Final Word on the USPTO Director

I'd like to thank Howard and the Prawfs community for having me as a guest blogger this past month.  I always appreciate the opportunity. 

Since the change in administration, there has been a good deal of confusion about the Director of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.  It was initially reported by The Hill and Politico that Michelle Lee, who has been at the helm since 2014, would remain as Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property in the Trump administration.  Because Lee was at Google before being tapped to head the PTO by President Obama, this was seen as a major victory for the high tech industry. 

Yet, more than six weeks later, the Commerce Department’s website continues to indicate that the PTO Director position is vacant.  The PTO has also delayed responding to a FOIA request seeking information about Lee’s status as Director (the response is now due March 10).  In the meantime, others have been lobbying for her job, namely, the former Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit, Randall Rader, who claims he will “Make Patents Great Again.”

But the tides seemed to shift last week after Wilbur Ross was sworn in as Secretary of Commerce.  Lee subsequently appeared at two public meetings, including the Patent Trial and Appeal Board Bar Association Inaugural Conference, where she delivered a keynote address and was introduced as Director of the PTO.  Let’s hope this week brings further clarity on the matter, so the PTO can focus on its important work, including responding to the Supreme Court’s recent request for input on whether to review Oil States Energy Servs. v. Greene’s Energy Group—a case challenging the PTO’s ability to cancel issued patents on constitutional grounds.

Posted by Megan La Belle on March 6, 2017 at 11:29 AM | Permalink


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