U.S. Patent Office Director Michelle Lee resigned on Tuesday, a White House official confirmed.
Lee stepping down concludes a long saga of ambiguity over the leadership of the Patent and Trademark Office. Early into President Trump’s tenure, observers speculated that Lee — who was appointed by Obama — would step down or replaced. Some were more optimistic, believing that she could have a place at the USPTO in Trump’s administration, but the office didn’t give clarification.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), however, in January told a crowd of D.C. technology industry officials that Lee would maintain her role as director.
USPTO declined to officially confirm Lee’s role at the agency until March, after attorney Gary Shuster filed a FOIA request to the office, asking who was in charge of the office.
It was still unclear how firm Lee’s position was. Aware of this, Lee solicited support for her role at the USPTO from industry allies, according to an industry source. This culminated in a letter signed by over 50 D.C. trade associations and technological companies including Amazon, Facebook, The Internet Association and Google, where she had previously worked as the company’s deputy general counsel.
“We have been very pleased with the leadership of Director Lee, who has been committed to making sure that the USPTO creates the maximum economic benefit for American inventors and businesses,” the groups wrote in their letter.
“We believe that the American economy would greatly benefit from her continued leadership, or the leadership of a USPTO Director committed to the priorities she has instituted and championed.
The USPTO did not immediately return a request for comment on Lee’s resignation.