Director of Patent Office Michelle Lee Steps Down

No explanation has been given for Michelle Lee’s resignation as director of the US Patent and Trademark Office.

In 2014 Lee was appointed by then-President Obama becoming the first woman to head that office. She was offered the post after the position sat unfilled for two years. Her appointment was seen as a kind of victory for the technology industry, since she had been the head of Google’s patent division. There are ongoing tensions between the high-tech industry and big-pharm over the patent office’s handling of patent applications from these two industries.

When Donald Trump took over as President Lee said she was “open” to the possibility of staying on as head of the Patent Office during Trump’s tenure. For the first few months of Trump’s term it remained unclear exactly what Lee’s status was vis a vis the patent office. Then in mid-March the Patent Office said that Lee was going to remain as director under Trump.

There was no reason given for Lee’s resignation, although rumors were circulating that Trump is considering her for another job in his administration, perhaps as the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Commerce Department did not, however, announce any next step for Lee.

“We thank Michelle Lee for her service to her country and to the Department of Commerce,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in an emailed statement. “As the first woman in our country’s history to serve as Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office,

Michelle K. Lee, Former Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (2014-2017)

Michelle has worked tirelessly to serve our stakeholders and the American public. We wish her well in her next endeavor.”

Gail Nussbaum

Gail Nussbaum has been involved in politics and diplomacy for over 15 years. Her interest in foreign relations, economics and budget policy has led her to her position as fiscal policy writer at Left Justified. Gail can be contacted at gailnussbaum(at)

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