What an oddity – for the past 26 days, it has been an open secret that Michelle Lee remains USPTO Director but officials at the office have repeatedly refused to confirm or deny that role or to provide any answer to the question “Who is in charge at the USPTO?”
According to a Politico squib report, both Rep. Darryl Issa and USPTO PR Director Paul Fucito have confirmed that Dir. Lee is “in charge” but it is unclear whether she is still USPTO Director.
Paul Fucito tells [Politico Reporter] Nancy that Lee has been signing the certificates since since Inauguration Day. That function by law is handled by the director, but Fucito declined to clarify Lee’s status at the agency.
[Politico Report] I requested both confirmation and further comment from the USPTO and Department of Commerce and was provided with “no comment.”
Representative Issa is now the Congressman with the most direct influence and oversight of USPTO activities in his role as chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. Also communicating with Politico, Issa indicated his support for Dir. Lee but suggested that she may be transitioned into another administration role outside of the USPTO – such as trade negotiations or as a member of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Thus, we may still have a new USPTO director this spring.
We will not begin to see action until a Commerce Secretary (likely Mr. Ross) is confirmed and puts in place his pick for PTO Director. This will likely happen next week.
For anyone pushing patent reform this term – either at the PTO or in the courts, you should recognize that all roads lead through Rep. Issa – nothing will go forward without his direct support.