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Senate confirms former Google attorney Michelle Lee as patent office director

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The US Senate has confirmed Michelle Lee as director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, filling a role that's been vacant for over two years. Lee has effectively been serving as the USPTO's acting director for half of that time, but she wasn't nominated for the position proper until last October. Before then, she had been working in the USPTO's Silicon Valley branch, which she came to by way of Google, where she'd spent nearly a decade as an attorney and head of patents. Lee also has a background in electrical engineering and computer science, holding degrees in both from MIT. Lee's confirmation makes her the the first woman to run the USPTO.

Though Lee's confirmation as director seemingly won't have a major change on the agency — she has, after all, effectively been running the place for over a year now — it's an important appointment that places a knowledgable Silicon Valley figure in a critical position to deal with one of technology's biggest legal issues: patent trolls. Reuters spoke with a former commissioner of patents, Robert Stoll, who says that Lee's job will be to improve the quality of patents that are issued. The issue isn't quite so simple, but Stoll puts it plainly, "Assuring better quality patents will help blunt the patent troll problem."