by Dennis Crouch
In her confirmation hearings on January 21, Michelle Lee reported to the Senate that both the USPTO and the Courts have taken significant steps in addressing problems in the patent system following enactment of the AIA. However, Lee supports further “balanced” statutory reform to particularly address patent litigation abuses. However, Lee was unwilling to take a stance on any particular reform, such as the automatic-fee-shifting that was a central aspect of the Goodlatte patent reform bill in 2014. Republicans now control the Senate, and thus Republican support is a necessary element of the confirmation hearings. However, it appears that Lee will garner full support from the committee. A letter sent the same-day to senate leaders signed by 200+ entities also calls for balance and moderation in any patent reforms. [Inventing America Patent Letter]
Lee did take more of a stand in her speech at the Brookings Institute on the 22nd in explaining her major top priority of enhancing the quality of patents issued by the USPTO to reduce the cost associated with issuing patents that should not have issued. As part of that goal, the agency will soon announce a set of proposed quality initiatives and look for input from stakeholders. In addition, Director Lee has appointed Valencia Martin Wallace as the first Deputy Commissioner for Patent Quality. Martin Wallace was already an Assistant Deputy Commissioner focused on Electrical Disciplines after rising through the ranks of the PTO.