Senate panel to question Lee for top U.S. PTO job this week

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Dec 9, 2014

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A U.S. Senate panel will hold a hearing this week on the nomination of Michelle K. Lee as head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.


According to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website, Lee’s hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday. It will be held before the full committee.


President Barack Obama nominated Lee to the position in October. She currently is the deputy under secretary and deputy director of the PTO, and has held the position since January.

The office has been without a permanent director since February 2013, when David Kappos resigned.


From 2012 to 2013, Lee served as director of the PTO’s Silicon Valley office, which won’t open until early 2015.


Before that, she was the deputy general counsel and head of patents and patent strategy at Google -- one of the most vocal critics of the current patent system -- for nine years.


Before joining Google, Lee was a partner and an associate at Fenwick & West LLP, from 1996 to 2003, and an associate at Keker & Van Nest LLP from 1994 to 1996.


She earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her law degree from Stanford.


Obama said he is confident Lee would “serve the American people well.”


U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker called Lee a “terrific talent.”


“Michelle is a proven leader with strong management skills, having ably led the PTO since January, and keenly understands the importance of protecting the ideas and discoveries that form the backbone of our economy,” Pritzker said, adding that Lee brings decades of legal, technical and business experience to the job.


“I look forward to continuing to work as a partner with Michelle in preserving and protecting our world-class intellectual property system.”


The panel also will question Daniel Henry Marti Wednesday.


Marti, currently a managing partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, was nominated by Obama in August to be the intellectual property enforcement coordinator for the White House -- or “IP czar.”


The office works with federal agencies, law enforcement organizations, foreign governments, private companies, public interest groups and others to stop illegal and damaging IP theft.


From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at patents@legalnewsline.com.

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