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Former Google attorney Michelle Lee nominated to run US patent office

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Kazuhisa OTSUBO / Flickr

Former Google patent chief Michelle Lee has been nominated by President Obama to run the US Patent and Trademark Office, potentially placing a tech-industry leader in a key position as the government continues to work toward reforming the patent process and stamping out trolls. Lee is currently the USPTO's deputy director and was previously running its Silicon Valley office, having come there in 2012 after nearly a decade at Google as an attorney and head of patents. She also holds degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. Her nomination to director still needs to be approved by the Senate. Businessweek reports that the lead position has been vacant for nearly two years.

Bringing reform to the US patent system has been an ongoing goal for a number of tech industry giants, many of which see it as allowing predatory companies to too easily file frivolous suits, earning them money and using up others' resources without contributing to innovation. The US was actually moving toward passing legislation to cut down on so-called patent trolls earlier this year, but the legislation has since stalled in the Senate. With much of the impetus for reform stemming from the tech industry and a broader struggle around software patents, Lee's background puts her in a strong position to move the system toward efficiency.