New Name for Silicon Valley Patent and Trademark Office?

Michelle Lee

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said lawmakers are considering naming the Patent and Trademark Office’s Silicon Valley satellite facility after Michelle K. Lee, who resigned as the agency’s director last week.

“This morning we were talking whether to name the San Jose office after her,” Issa told reporters on the sidelines of the House Judiciary Committee’s June 13 hearing on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent patent venue ruling in TC Heartland.

“That will seriously be considered,” Issa said. Lee has plenty of fans, but few as vocal as Issa. The lawmaker gave a number of reasons for why Lee deserved the honor: she had set up the Silicon Valley office, implemented patent challenge procedures, and addressed a recent scandal involving inflated hours for personnel working remotely.

Lee, the former deputy general counsel and head of patents and patent strategy at Alphabet Inc.'s Google, joined the PTO in 2012 as the Silicon Valley office’s first director. The facility in San Jose, Calif., is the PTO’s West Coast regional office, serving California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii. Lee was confirmed as PTO director by the Senate in March 2015.

Issa suggested giving Lee a position elsewhere in government even before she stepped down as PTO director. At the time he suggested she would be a great pick for the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“I would still vote that she re-enters government, but it may be hard when she gets the big paycheck,” Issa said. Lee has not publicly announced where she is going next.

Issa gave no insight into who will be Lee’s successor. He said only that Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has interviewed candidates. He also said he hoped that the next director wouldn’t have a political or Congressional background.

“That's been a lot of the history--unemployed Congressman or staffers--which there's nothing wrong with,” Issa said. “But I think you can do better by taking people with high level experience.”