The USPTO’s Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) is an advisory board that advises the USPTO Director on management of the patent operations of the office, including policies, goals, budget, fees, and other office operations. PPAC members are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce – typically on nomination from the PTO Director. Although the PPAC has no direct power, the USPTO Director is bound by statute to at least consider its input.
Most recently, the Secretary of Commerce is in the process of naming Michelle Lee to the PPAC. Ms. Lee is Google’s Head of Patents and Patent Strategy. She was previously a clerk for former Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel and partner at Fenwick & West. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School (where she was a law review editor) and MIT (where she graduated at the top of her class with an electrical engineering degree). Google is becoming more and more involved in the patent law system. Probably most importantly for the company, Google has been sued hundreds of times for patent infringement. It has been those lawsuits that have pushed the company to call for patent reform that limits the “temptations and opportunities for abuse.” Google has also become a major patent holder – with over 1,000 issued patents and over 1,000 pending patent applications. Google has been active in the market for patents and a large number of its patents and patent applications were purchased from other companies. Last week, Google significantly upped its market profile by offering to $900 million to purchase bankrupty Nortel’s portfolio of 6,000 patents. In addition, Google has taken a lead in providing free access to patent data. Ms. Lee is filling the spot left by former PTO Deputy Director Steve Pinkos.
Earlier this year, the Secretary of Commerce appointed Esther Kepplinger and Wayne Sobon to the PPAC. Ms. Kepplenger was a longtime USPTO employee – spending five years as the Deputy Commissioner of Patents and is now a Wilson Sonsini’s “Chief Patent Counselor.” Mr. Sobon was Director of Intellectual Property for Accenture for many years, but recently took on the role of Chief IP Counsel for Rambus. At that time, Louis Foreman, Founder of Enventys, was also re-appointed to the board.
Other board members include: