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Former head of Google patent strategy appointed to run U.S. patent agency

post #1 of 100
Thread Starter 
Michelle Lee, who until July was running Google the firm's patent strategy, has been named the deputy director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, and will run the agency until a new director is appointed.


Michelle Lee formerly led Google's patent law division, now runs the USPTO. Photo: Dino Vournas, BizJournals.


According to a report by Reuters, Lee is the "former deputy general counsel and head of patents and patent strategy at Google."

A profile by BizJournals said Lee "joined the technology giant in 2003 and built the company's IP legal team from scratch."

Lee was cited as saying, "none of the policy positions of my former employers has guided my work. I certainly would be very welcoming of everybody's input."

Lee specifically called attention to her desire to "attack the backlog of unexamined patents and work to improve patent quality." There are currently over 590,000 unexamined patents, and 697 patents have been challenged.

Reexamining Apple's patents



Apple has seen its iPhone patent receive particular scrutiny since Google announced efforts to "defend Android" from a series of patent infringement allegations. Google has paid billions to acquire patent portfolios of its own, including the acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, announced in August of 2011. That acquisition was led by Lee.

That was nearly a year after Motorola's October 2010 initiation of a patent war against Apple, seeking an International Trade Commission sales ban against Apple's products. Apple retaliated with claims of its own, and the case continued until both sides' claims were dismissed by judge Richard Posner June 2012. Apple's case against Motorola was resurrected this August.

Apple also pursued successful patent action against Android phone maker HTC, resulting in a licensing agreement last November 2012, and against Android licensee Samsung, resulting in a nearly $1 billion award for infringement of Apple's patents.

Protect Android at all costs



Several of Apple's touch screen, multitouch and user interface patents in the Samsung case were subjected to high-profile reexamination requests this year, issued by a party that decided to remain anonymous.

Google would benefit greatly from a reexamination of Apple's patents by the USPTO, particularly if the agency decided to take action to effectively grant Google's Android platform full rights to Apple's technology.

In 1992, a U.S. court similarly issued a ruling that gave Microsoft unfettered access to duplicate all of Apple's work on the Macintosh user interface, empowering Bill Gates to release a virtual clone of the Macintosh desktop in Windows 95 after a second appeal by Apple was denied in 1994.

If Lee pursues a dismantling of Apple's patent protections within the USPTO, it could turn around Google's current bleak prospects for Android by erasing its expensive, complicated intellectual property problems.

One Apple patent, the so-called "Steve Jobs patent," was challenged at the USPTO only to be fully reaffirmed in a form stronger than it was prior to the reexamination in mid October.

A USPTO led by a former patent strategy executive from Google wouldn't necessarily need to deny all of Apple's patents in reexaminations in order to disrupt the iPhone maker's attempts to stop infringement by Android makers. All it would need to do is keep Apple's patents involved in regular reexaminations long enough to delay any justice until enforcement actions were no longer meaningful.
post #2 of 100
Ridiculous and disappointing. Isn't this a Conflict of interest,or am I missing something? Shameful Google, I think.
post #3 of 100

As much as I was disappointed when I read the headline, this woman must be given the benefit of the doubt. To suggest that she will pressure staff to rule against Apple simply because of her employment history would be quite outrageous.

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post #4 of 100
Is she still linked with Google in any way? or was she fired for being behind the acquisition of motorola for the patents which thus far has been a complete waste of money
post #5 of 100
Hire a thief to catch a thief --- or let them all get clean away.
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post #6 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post

....Her last name is Korean, no conflict there, I don't suppose.
What does her ethnicity have to do with this?
post #7 of 100
Just out of curiosity, can a patent that has been granted be examined and re-examined forever? So if a patent is re-validated on re-examination, can there be requests to re-examine it again and again? When is the line drawn?

As for the news at hand, I agree with IQatEdo. She should be given the benefit of doubt.
post #8 of 100
Many questions here in the first few posts; so I'm sure someone with extensive knowledge on anything Google™ can shed some light on this development.
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post #9 of 100
Many questions here in the first few posts; so I'm sure someone with extensive knowledge on anything Google™ can shed some light on this issue.
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post #10 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post

Let's see... She's claiming to be separate from Google, who ran her flag to the top of the pole, hmmmm... Her last name is Korean, no conflict there, I don't suppose.

 

AFAIK Lee is predominantly Chinese... And you are really taking it too far... Ofcourse there will be doubts... But, flaming her for her ethnicity (which you have it wrong I think) and her previous employment is not fair... Maybe she knows the underhanded tactics of Google and she might end up backing Apple... ;)

post #11 of 100
Speaking as a software developer, a lot of the patents I see granted are not really original ideas, just things that any qualified engineer would think of.

The ideal person to head this agency would be someone who was a lawyer and a software developer (is there such a person?) who could set policies to reduce the number of such patents granted.

Because honestly, it's just stockpiling a lot of legal grief for the future. So in a way I'm glad to see someone from a tech company appointed. I can see how some might worry she is a clever strategic move by Google, or a plant, but there needs to be hard evidence for claims like that, in the absence of evidence we must give people the benefit of the doubt.
post #12 of 100
If you can't buy them, join them, I guess.
post #13 of 100
Michelle Lee has been with the USPTO as a regional director working out of "the valley" since last year, and spent several years before that serving on the USPTO Advisory Panel. Her latest position isn't even technically Acting Director due to some Senate rules on appointments. She'll just be doing the things the Acting Director would... if she was. 1bugeye.gif

http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2013/12/11/michelle-lee-appointed-deputy-director-of-the-uspto/id=46699/
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post #14 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

The ideal person to head this agency would be someone who was a lawyer and a software developer (is there such a person?) who could set policies to reduce the number of such patents granted.
 

How about William Alsup? He reportedly learned Java specifically to prepare for the Oracle vs Google case. There was a pretty great exchange between him and David Boies regarding Rangecheck (http://www.i-programmer.info/news/193-android/4224-oracle-v-google-judge-is-a-programmer.html)

Quote:
 I have done, and still do, a significant amount of programming in other languages. I've written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundred times before. I could do it, you could do it. The idea that someone would copy that when they could do it themselves just as fast, it was an accident. There's no way you could say that was speeding them along to the marketplace. You're one of the best lawyers in America, how could you even make that kind of argument?

I think the notion that patents are essential for innovation in the software industry is misguided. Most of the fundamental algorithms and data structures that underlying today's software were invented by computer scientists and published in papers. These inventions were widely disseminated and advanced computing as a whole. Computer science would still be in the stone age if you had to pay someone every time you wanted to use quicksort or implement a priority queue.


Edited by d4NjvRzf - 12/12/13 at 4:51am
post #15 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitol View Post

Ridiculous and disappointing. Isn't this a Conflict of interest,or am I missing something? Shameful Google, I think.


Not really. Unless the article is missing something it sounds like she no longer works at Google. Very few people stay loyal to their previous employer who is no longer paying them. In most cases the opposite happens as people poach the good people and ideas from their previous employer.

 

In this instance Google also now has the disadvantage that the deputy director of the Patent office knows everything about their patent strategy. That's not exactly a particularly great position to be in.

post #16 of 100
Crazy appointment.
TC should talk to O'b again.
Ml
post #17 of 100

We've had lawyers for coal companies head up our Carbon energy oversight, we've had Goldman Sachs execs and MORE Goldman Sachs execs head up the Fed and oversight on banking, and we've had war criminals in charge of outsourcing to war criminals and now we hire Hessian soldiers (AKA mercenaries -- historic reference FTW).

 

No matter what a nice person this is, has anyone NOT realized it's a really bad thing to have people oversee a process they were formerly on the receiving end of? Have we given up the notion of not looking corrupt for the notion that someone has to be proven corrupt before we give them a high paying and powerful job? Free drinks and Single-Click patents all around!

post #18 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by timgriff84 View Post
 


Not really. Unless the article is missing something it sounds like she no longer works at Google. Very few people stay loyal to their previous employer who is no longer paying them. In most cases the opposite happens as people poach the good people and ideas from their previous employer.

 

In this instance Google also now has the disadvantage that the deputy director of the Patent office knows everything about their patent strategy. That's not exactly a particularly great position to be in.

Quote:
Not really. Unless the article is missing something it sounds like she no longer works at Google.

 

I had to write that sentence again. There's a huge problem with how people have been TRAINED to accept crony capitalism and fascism. There are some things that shouldn't be debated -- like gravity. Here is is again; in a Democracy; thou shalt not spy on your citizens and thou shalt be transparent. A Democracy that pretends to oversee a free market; thou shalt not create a revolving door where people from industries oversee those industries. Thou shalt not treat a corporation as an entity with rights. Oh, and thou shalt not torture -- sure that should also be obvious, but since 2000 I've seen a lot of "meh" on the issue.

 

You can't rely on human behavior -- you just DON'T have conflicts of interest. There are thousands of people qualified who do not have a conflict of interest -- choose ONE. I'm waiting for a non-conflict-of-interest appointment for an example, but they are hard to find these days. It's like the age of Caligula in Washington.

 

Even having to explain this crap disgusts me, and I am frustrated that the internet cannot just reach through the wires, out a computer monitor and smack the stupid out of some people.

 

The OP here might have made an innocent mistake, this time, but I'm prepared to press the "smack button" on my keyboard if it happens again.

post #19 of 100

IF you use my "if statement" then pay me a royalty!

 

Yeah, in the early days you just programmed, now you hire a lawyer and program around the patent.

post #20 of 100
What!!! Oh no.
post #21 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by d4NjvRzf View Post

How about William Alsup? He reportedly learned Java specifically to prepare for the Oracle vs Google case. There was a pretty great exchange between him and David Boies regarding Rangecheck (http://www.i-programmer.info/news/193-android/4224-oracle-v-google-judge-is-a-programmer.html)
I think the notion that patents are essential for innovation in the software industry is misguided. Most of the fundamental algorithms and data structures that underlying today's software were invented by computer scientists and published in papers. These inventions were widely disseminated and advanced computing as a whole. Computer science would still be in the stone age if you had to pay someone every time you wanted to use quicksort or implement a priority queue.

He might be a good choice, but his decision in the oracle case is about to be overturned on Appeal. Further these people run the agency, but don't make the law.
post #22 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

Speaking as a software developer, a lot of the patents I see granted are not really original ideas, just things that any qualified engineer would think of.

The ideal person to head this agency would be someone who was a lawyer and a software developer (is there such a person?) who could set policies to reduce the number of such patents granted.

Because honestly, it's just stockpiling a lot of legal grief for the future. So in a way I'm glad to see someone from a tech company appointed. I can see how some might worry she is a clever strategic move by Google, or a plant, but there needs to be hard evidence for claims like that, in the absence of evidence we must give people the benefit of the doubt.

 

 

I don't think there needs to be hard evidence for claims like that. We've had far too many people in leadership positions now that we have to PROVE GUILTY beyond a reasonable doubt, while at the same time we've got drug-using politicians in Florida suggesting we drug test people who collect Welfare or Unemployment -- assuming guilt until proven innocent.

 

The world we live in is standing on its head, and the first thing any office needs to do is to get rid of favoritism, inside deals, revolving doors and while we are at it, this concept of "campaign donations" which is legalized bribery by another name.

 

I know I must sound like I'm ranting today -- but it's really an Emperor Has No Clothes moment. It's mind-boggling that people don't see this as wrong immediately. Any chance of conflict of interest must be eliminated first, then we look for qualified. I'd rather a dumb bureaucrat than a smart crook.

post #23 of 100
I'll just assume for the time being that DED has done a sloppy job on this story and that the reality is not as bad as 'reported'...that, or start a letter-writing campaign complaining about the appointment.

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post #24 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Amhran View Post


What does her ethnicity have to do with this?

 

It's important that if you want to ruin a discussion, you get distracted by side nonsense. Instead of talking about a conflict of interest, we'll be talking about ANYTHING else, right? This lady should not be given this job on the hope that they won't show favoritism or have a bank account somewhere in the Caymans.

 

In this case, the lady may be fine, I really don't know her and never really will -- but we can't really prove corruption so that's why you don't hire from the companies you are supposed to oversee. And people in oversight should never be allowed to consult for the companies they once oversaw, or ever get compensation in any way. Of course, the horse ran out of that barn before we closed the door a long time ago.

post #25 of 100
Whether or not there's an actual conflict of interest, it's the appearance of a conflict that bothers me. If it looks, walks and paddles like a duck, we're damn fools for not suspecting it's a duck.

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post #26 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

Speaking as a software developer, a lot of the patents I see granted are not really original ideas, just things that any qualified engineer would think of.

The ideal person to head this agency would be someone who was a lawyer and a software developer (is there such a person?) who could set policies to reduce the number of such patents granted.

Yes there is such a person. You just described Michelle Lee.

1. An MIT graduate with a Masters in computer engineering and another degree in
2. Electrical engineering who went on to work in
3. HP's Research Labs as well as MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

before she decided to add a law degree from

4. Stanford Law School eventually landing at
5. Law partner at Fenwick & West, specializing in patent law and intellectual property. Also worked in the federal judiciary serving as
6. Law clerk for the Honorable Vaughn R. Walker on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and in the
7. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for the Honorable Paul R. Michel
8. Built the IP legal team at Google from the ground up drawing from her extensive experience in engineering, computer science and intellectual property law. (thanks Digitalclips)
9. Served two terms on the USPTO Advisory Council before agreeing to serve as
10. Director of the Silicon-valley satellite office of the USPTO.


Sounds like just the experienced, educated, hands-on, not-satisfied-with-the-status-quo person you'd like to see at the US Patent Office
Edited by Gatorguy - 12/12/13 at 7:01am
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post #27 of 100
Google's lobbying money paying off!

Fox%u2026 meet Henhouse key.

Give 'benefit of the doubt'? I can't think of one technocrat bureaucrat of a government agency that has caused me to be as gracious. On the other hand, my bipartisan suspiciousness of everything government has hit the 'off the chart' levels, not seen since Hillary was squealing about some "vast right wing conspiracy" during Bill's constant infidelity!

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post #28 of 100
Wow. The real problem is the patent system and how all these patent trolls are able to prey on innovative and creative companies. The effect of the patent system is the exact opposite of what it was originally intended to do - which is stimulate and protect innovation. This isn't just about one company stealing or suing another company - this is about a system that is being taken advantage of and is putting all these tech companies on their heels. There is little to no trust anymore within the tech industry - in fact I would equate the level of security around tech secrets to the CIA.
post #29 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Yes there is such a person. You just described Michelle Lee.

1. An MIT graduate with a Masters in computer engineering and another degree in
2. Electrical engineering who went on to work in
3. HP's Research Labs as well as MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

before she decided to add a law degree from

4. Stanford Law School eventually landing at
5. Law partner at Fenwick & West, specializing in patent law and intellectual property. Also worked in the federal judiciary serving as
6. Law clerk for the Honorable Vaughn R. Walker on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and in the
7. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for the Honorable Paul R. Michel
8. Served two terms on the USPTO Advisory Council before agreeing to serve as
9. Director of the Silicon-valley satellite office of the USPTO.

Sounds like just the person you'd like to see at the US Patent Office

10. 2003 - 2013 Built Google's IP legal team from scratch.
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post #30 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fake_William_Shatner View Post
 

 

I had to write that sentence again. There's a huge problem with how people have been TRAINED to accept crony capitalism and fascism. There are some things that shouldn't be debated -- like gravity. Here is is again; in a Democracy; thou shalt not spy on your citizens and thou shalt be transparent. A Democracy that pretends to oversee a free market; thou shalt not create a revolving door where people from industries oversee those industries. Thou shalt not treat a corporation as an entity with rights. Oh, and thou shalt not torture -- sure that should also be obvious, but since 2000 I've seen a lot of "meh" on the issue.

 

You can't rely on human behavior -- you just DON'T have conflicts of interest. There are thousands of people qualified who do not have a conflict of interest -- choose ONE. I'm waiting for a non-conflict-of-interest appointment for an example, but they are hard to find these days. It's like the age of Caligula in Washington.

 

Even having to explain this crap disgusts me, and I am frustrated that the internet cannot just reach through the wires, out a computer monitor and smack the stupid out of some people.

 

The OP here might have made an innocent mistake, this time, but I'm prepared to press the "smack button" on my keyboard if it happens again.


Thousands, really? What do they do?

 

I don't disagree with the argument having a person from an industry then become involved in the regulation of that industry can lead to a conflict of interest. It absolutely can as they can either be lenient to the company they worked for, or dislike and then actively be against. But the industry also tends to be where all the most qualified people are.

 

Other than people that started work at the patent agency, who else really has expert knowledge of the patent system and isn't in a position where they've worked for a company either receiving a patent or doing something related to a competitor having a patent that affect them.

post #31 of 100
First Nokia, now the patent office. Trojans are the new business strategy
post #32 of 100
Clear revolving door. No doubt she will be at least biased in favor of Google and anti-Apple patents, if not taking orders from Google directly. It is not as though Lee didn't spend 10 years with Google doing Google's bidding; that was her job. One's loyalty doesn't change merely because of a change in decor.

Most agencies (federal and state) are captured by the industries which they are supposed to regulate. And when they aren't they get hell from the politicians, with help from the press. In this case, it's obvious Google has been able to place one of their own in a position to control the USPTO, and will do so.
post #33 of 100

Fox guarding the hen house.

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post #34 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eluard View Post

Hire a thief to catch a thief --- or let them all get clean away.

 

With the ratio of Thieves being hired in financial oversight, to the number of FBI convictions of rich people, I'd have to say that this strategy may not be working for us.

post #35 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by waldobushman View Post

Clear revolving door. No doubt she will be at least biased in favor of Google and anti-Apple patents, if not taking orders from Google directly. It is not as though Lee didn't spend 10 years with Google doing Google's bidding; that was her job. One's loyalty doesn't change merely because of a change in decor.

Most agencies (federal and state) are captured by the industries which they are supposed to regulate. And when they aren't they get hell from the politicians, with help from the press. In this case, it's obvious Google has been able to place one of their own in a position to control the USPTO, and will do so.

 

I worked at a financial services company and I came away with the idea that in most cases, it's a bogus endeavor and that money is money and not a "product". But I'm the exception and not the rule. Most people tend to believe that whatever pays them is vital and important -- which is healthy for morale and life. This lady looks far too positive and sweet not to be a person who isn't well adjusted and happy -- which is a recipe for "not biting the hand that feeds you."

 

If I EVER wanted someone from the Tech industry to ride herd on the Tech industry -- I'd find someone cranky, overweight, who is miserable and angry at their company. Being adversarial and dissatisfied with the status quo is a QUALITY you want in this case, but it is rarely rewarded as it is a non-productive quality.

 

Too many people are thinking that people have to take money and be crooks to corrupt the system -- no, they can also just be too NICE and corrupt the system. Most people I've met are very much susceptible to this bias. Humans are naturally rationalizing creatures -- not driven by rationality.

post #36 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by timgriff84 View Post
 


Thousands, really? What do they do?

 

I don't disagree with the argument having a person from an industry then become involved in the regulation of that industry can lead to a conflict of interest. It absolutely can as they can either be lenient to the company they worked for, or dislike and then actively be against. But the industry also tends to be where all the most qualified people are.

 

Other than people that started work at the patent agency, who else really has expert knowledge of the patent system and isn't in a position where they've worked for a company either receiving a patent or doing something related to a competitor having a patent that affect them.

 

I could find a few dozen in a day. I'm sure that with ~350 million people in the country there are many, many qualified people who have tech and legal backgrounds. Sounds like Alan Greenspan who was shocked that people on Wall Street might take a low oversight system and abuse it for personal gain.

post #37 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kibitzer View Post

Whether or not there's an actual conflict of interest, it's the appearance of a conflict that bothers me. If it looks, walks and paddles like a duck, we're damn fools for not suspecting it's a duck.

 

To improve your analogy, I'd like to say I want to hire someone to oversee patents who has no possibility of being a Duck.

 

It's this nonsense that we have to prove people in power guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and that people without power have to prove themselves NOT guilty before they can get benefits that has taken our country off the rails.

 

People in power should have to live up to a higher standard than people who don't have power.  Or else you get Crony Capitalism -- like we have right now.

post #38 of 100

Conflict of Interest is the norm in Washington these days.  No one cares, even when it extends to the SCOTUS where they make decisions where they stand to gain financially from he results.

 

We have supposedly ex-Google people running the patent office, where there is a huge opportunity for them to re-examine and invalidate Apple patents and help Google and Android.  Apple better hunker down and hire more attorneys. The Google/Android people must be having huge celebrations now that they know Apple patents will be under attack from the Patent Office.

 

The FCC is being run by a supposedly ex-cableco/telco lobbyist and it's obvious that consumers will suffer.  No one expects him to do anything to help consumers. The DOJ has been turned into an entertainment industry enforcement agency and wastes time hunting down people who take pictures in movie theaters.

 

Sometimes I wonder exactly how much you have to pay to the right people in Washington to be named head of government agencies? Who do you bribe?

 

Bribery and corruption are the name of the game in Washington.


Edited by old-wiz - 12/12/13 at 7:19am
post #39 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kibitzer View Post

Whether or not there's an actual conflict of interest, it's the appearance of a conflict that bothers me. If it looks, walks and paddles like a duck, we're damn fools for not suspecting it's a duck.

The previous director, David Kappos, was formerly general counsel at IBM responsible for their intellectual property policies and enforcement. After Apple developed the iPad and began a push into the education market Obama appointed an Apple executive, Karen Cator, as Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the Education Department. Are those ducks too?
Edited by Gatorguy - 12/12/13 at 7:30am
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post #40 of 100
Quote:
Originally Posted by timgriff84 View Post
 


Not really. Unless the article is missing something it sounds like she no longer works at Google. Very few people stay loyal to their previous employer who is no longer paying them. In most cases the opposite happens as people poach the good people and ideas from their previous employer.

 

In this instance Google also now has the disadvantage that the deputy director of the Patent office knows everything about their patent strategy. That's not exactly a particularly great position to be in.

 

Having worked at Google though, how much GOOG does she own?  That's a source of conflict of interest right there if she has significant holdings.

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