In a Twitter post on Monday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) confirmed that Michelle K. Lee is the organization’s new director. Lee once worked as a legal counsel for Google and now goes down in history as the first woman to lead the USPTO, filling a seat that has technically been vacant since 2013 (Lee was already serving as acting director).
According to Reuters, Lee won the position by an unrecorded voice vote in the full Senate a mere week after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination. As such, she now officially leads a federal agency with more than 12,000 employees, though she's pretty much been in charge for over a year since former IBM executive David Kappos left the position.
Lee will be under the spotlight as Congress pushes for a level of patent reform. Part of her job entails deciding which inventions deserve to be patented, and there will be continued scrutiny over those decisions, especially since the agency has been criticized in the past for approving what some consider to be weak software patents that ultimately end up in litigation.
Former commissioner of patents Robert Stoll weighed in on things and said that Lee's primary focus will be improving the quality of patents granted. He added that "better quality patents will help blunt the patent troll problem" that's so prevalent in today's technology world.