October 3, 2014 / 3:26 PM / 5 years ago

Exclusive: Acting head of U.S. patent office considered for top job permanently- sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The acting head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, former Google Inc executive Michelle Lee, is being seriously considered to permanently head the agency, sources have told Reuters.

Lee, a former deputy general counsel and head of patents and patent strategy at Google, the search and advertising group, has been acting head of the agency since January. After leaving Google and before coming to the Virginia-based patent office, Lee headed the U.S. patent office’s Silicon Valley outpost.

She is being considered for the agency’s top job on a permanent basis, two sources told Reuters. The sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, knew of no other potential candidates.

The USPTO has been under fire for approving what critics say are bad or weak patents, particularly software patents, which became fodder for infringement litigation. It has also been criticized for lax oversight of examiners and others who telecommute and fill out time cards though they are not working.

A perennial complaint about the patent office has been its backlog. In December 2011, the unexamined backlog was almost 722,000 patents. It was 615,000 as of August, according to patent office data.

The USPTO has been without a permanent director since David Kappos, a former International Business Machines Corp executive, left on Feb. 1, 2013.

The USPTO is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and awards patents and registers trademarks. The USPTO declined to comment.

Lee has an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a law degree from Stanford Law School.

Editing by Jim Loney and Jeffrey Benkoe

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