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Silicon Valley Wins! Obama Picks Ex-Google Lawyer to Head Patent Office

Silicon Valley just won a major victory in the war over patents. On Thursday, the White House announced that it has nominated former Google patent lawyer Michelle Lee as the next director of the USPTO. Lee, who holds a master’s degree from MIT in electrical engineering and computer science and a JD from Stanford Law School, has served as acting director of the office since she was appointed deputy director last year. If approved by the Senate, Lee will be the first woman to officially hold the USPTO’s top position, according to The Hill. The nomination could signal the end of a nearly two year political struggle between the technology and pharmaceutical sectors over the directorship of the USPTO. The technology industry, plagued by “patent trolls”—companies that acquire patents for the sole purpose of suing others—has been fighting to reform the patent system for years. The pharmaceutical industry, meanwhile, has generally sought to preserve the status quo. This push and pull has helped keep the USPTO director role empty since the resignation of former IBM lawyer David Kappos in February 2013, the Washington Post reports. Although Lee has been running the office, the Obama administration previously floated Phil Johnson, a former executive at Johnson & Johnson, for the role. That plan was scrapped thanks to outcry from the technology industry. Last May, the patent reform movement was struck a major blow when Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, yanked the reform bill Innovation Act, which had already passed in the House, off the Senate Judiciary Committee. Observers such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation blamed the pharmaceutical industry for blocking the legislation. But things have been looking up since then. The Supreme Court ruled that ideas can’t be patented, only implementations of those ideas. via WIRED.

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