USPTO Director Michelle Lee Resigns

The Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Michelle Lee, announced her resignation from that office on June 6th. Lee announced this action by an e-mail to the employees of the USPTO, sent with the subject “Farewell,” and reading as follows:

Dearest Colleagues:

This afternoon, I submitted my letter of resignation from my position as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

It has been a tremendous honor to serve our country for the past several years, first as Director of the Silicon Valley office, then as Deputy Director of the USPTO, and finally as Director of the USPTO. I am tremendously proud of all that we have accomplished together, and appreciate all of your support and dedication during my tenure.

It is no exaggeration to say that the employees of the USPTO rival the best employees of any government agency or private company. The USPTO truly is a “best place to work”– because of you.

I am confident that the leadership team in place will serve you well during this transition.  In the meantime, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors at the USPTO.

With affection and deep gratitude,


The transition between the Obama and Trump administrations had raised some questions about the employment status of former Director Lee. Lee had previously submitted a letter of resignation to President Obama, but in the days just prior to Trump’s inauguration, apparently attempted to revoke this letter of resignation. The USPTO and Department of Commerce declined to provide official comment as to Director Lee’s status until March 10th, at which point it was finally confirmed that she would remain on as Director. However, in late March, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross began interviewing candidates to replace Lee as USPTO Director.

Lee had long been considered to be a favorite of Silicon Valley tech companies, which had encouraged the federal government to retain Lee as Director. A number of tech companies, such as Google and Facebook, as well as a number of lobbying firms, such as Engine and the Internet Association, submitted a letter dated April 25th to President Trump and Secretary Ross encouraging them to retain Lee.

Associate Solicitor Joe Matal has been named Acting Director of the USPTO, and will serve in this capacity during the nomination and confirmation process for a new Director. Matal recently served as acting Chief of Staff for the agency, and previously served as General Counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee and as a Judiciary Committee Counsel to former Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Matal was also the principal staff drafter and negotiator of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), a recent comprehensive patent reform bill.

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