Mr. Wilbur Ross is now Secretary of Commerce and I expect that we will likely begin to receive further information from the PTO as to its current and future management structure.
Meanwhile, Michelle Lee appears to still be leading the PTO and again signed this week’s patents. A somewhat odd and steady steady drumbeat from several sources has been demanding Michelle Lee’s resignation or removal. Lee has acted in pro-patent-applicant ways in several respects. Notably, she has issued more patents per year than any other USPTO director in history; acted to limit the much of the impact of the Supreme Court’s Alice/Mayo on patents being prosecuted (except in the business method area); and has substantially reduced patent application pendency. The calls for her removal, however, appear to be coming from the PTO’s new role as arbiter of patent disputes at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Still, during her tenure, the PTAB has been somewhat tamed as compared to its initial cancellation pace under Director Kappos. The problem largely seems to be that Lee has not been an outspoken advocate of patents-as-property.
This political setup is interesting and somewhat troubling — because of their high-value, patent trial participants have begun to exert substantial political influence on the USPTO in ways that may not align with the goals and desires of ex parte patent applicants. More to explore on that front.