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Ex-Google lawyer lands position as head of US patent office

Michelle Lee, formerly Google’s chief patent lawyer and currently acting director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, has been nominated by the Obama administration to be the next permanent USPTO director. Lee will be the first head of the patent office to have a background at an Internet company. Lee’s nomination comes months after the administration floated the name of Philip Johnson, a lawyer at Johnson & Johnson who was an outspoken opponent of patent reform. The idea of nominating Johnson evaporated after a negative response from tech companies.

Silicon Valley just won a major victory in the war over patents. On Thursday, the White House announced that it has nominated former Google patent lawyer Michelle Lee as the next director of the USPTO. Lee, who holds a master’s degree from MIT in electrical engineering and computer science and a JD from Stanford Law School, has served as acting director of the office since she was appointed deputy director last year. If approved by the Senate, Lee will be the first woman to officially hold the USPTO’s top position, according to The Hill. The nomination could signal the end of a nearly two year political struggle between the technology and pharmaceutical sectors over the directorship of the USPTO. The technology industry, plagued by “patent trolls”—companies that acquire patents for the sole purpose of suing others—has been fighting to reform the patent system for years. The pharmaceutical industry, meanwhile, has generally sought to preserve the status quo.

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