USPTO Director Michelle Lee has announced her resignation — noting that “It has been the professional experience of a lifetime [and] a true privilege serving our country by supporting what I believe to be some of America’s greatest heroes—our inventors and entrepreneurs.” The resignation appears to be effective immediately. Prior to joining the USPTO, Lee was chief patent counsel for Google, and I expect that Lee will return to high-level industry position.
Lee will be known as a stabilizing force – managing the agency during these tumultuous post-AIA and post-ALICE years. Although critics suggest that she is not sufficiently pro-patent-property-rights, the PTO has continued to issue a record-number of patents each year. Although the timing is a surprise, Lee was an Obama appointee and the departure itself is not a surprise.
There has been no word from the White House or Commerce Department on a successor. It is unclear to me at this point whether Tony Scardino (current acting deputy director) or Drew Hirshfeld (current Commissioner of Patents) will be tapped as Acting Director.