Back in July the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced that it would be opening three new branches — and former Google attorney Michelle K. Lee is heading up the Silicon Valley office. Google's former deputy general counsel and head of patent strategy, Lee spent nine years with the company before leaving earlier this year. According to Reuters, Lee confirmed she had accepted the position during a conference today at Santa Clara University.
Lee officially started her new position on November 5th, but prior to that had been serving on the USPTO's Patent Public Advisory Committee — a group focused on evaluating the office's performance and policies. During her time at Google, she frequently voiced concerns about the state of the modern patent system and the need for reform, stating in one blog post that "Low-quality patents and escalating legal costs are currently hurting the ability of U.S. companies to compete globally." While the opening of the Silicon Valley branch itself seemed a step towards addressing the concerns many in the tech community have about the patent system, the fact that it will be headed up by someone with such a clear focus on reform sends a very promising signal.