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

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
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.
«1345

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 100
    Ridiculous and disappointing. Isn't this a Conflict of interest,or am I missing something? Shameful Google, I think.
  • Reply 2 of 100
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,595member

    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.

  • Reply 3 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
  • Reply 4 of 100
    eluardeluard Posts: 319member
    Hire a thief to catch a thief --- or let them all get clean away.
  • Reply 5 of 100
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 100
    ....Her last name is Korean, no conflict there, I don't suppose.
    What does her ethnicity have to do with this?
  • Reply 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.
  • Reply 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.
  • Reply 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.
  • Reply 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... ;)

  • Reply 11 of 100
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 100
    If you can't buy them, join them, I guess.
  • Reply 13 of 100
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,288member
    Michelle Lee has been with the USPTO as a regional director working out of "the valley" since [B]last[/B] 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. :err:

    http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2013/12/11/michelle-lee-appointed-deputy-director-of-the-uspto/id=46699/
  • Reply 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.

  • Reply 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.

  • Reply 16 of 100
    Crazy appointment.
    TC should talk to O'b again.
    Ml
  • Reply 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!

  • Reply 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.

  • Reply 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.

  • Reply 20 of 100
    What!!! Oh no.
Sign In or Register to comment.