WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate on March 9 confirmed Michelle K. Lee by voice vote to be the under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements:

Michelle K. Lee
Michelle K. Lee

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC chair: “I congratulate Michelle Lee on her confirmation … Her historic confirmation is an important step forward for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and marks the first time in history that a woman of color will lead the USPTO.

“With over two decades of experience in property and patent law, I have no doubt that Michelle will continue to be a great asset to the Department of Commerce as it works to promote industrial and technological progress and strengthen our national economy. I look forward to our continued work together in her new role.”

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “Michelle’s confirmation is a reflection of her vast experience and knowledge, including serving as deputy director of the Patent and Trademark Office. When we met in November, I was impressed by Michelle’s vision for her new role and look forward to continuing to work with her on ensuring that our intellectual property laws work for everyone to drive innovation and grow our economy.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Santa Clara), CAPAC chair emeritus: “I applaud the Senate for confirming Michelle … and I extend my heartiest congratulations to her. Michelle has served admirably as acting director and as the first director of the Silicon Valley office, and I was pleased to support her nomination. She has been actively involved in patent reform discussions for years. Her expertise in the field is unmatched, and she is highly regarded by her colleagues.

“Michelle brings fresh perspectives from Silicon Valley and the AAPI community to the USPTO. She is eminently qualified for the position, and her leadership will be beneficial to the USPTO and the nation. I look forward to working with her in this new capacity to bolster American innovation and grow the Silicon Valley office.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles): “Congratulations to Ms. Michelle Lee on her appointment … I would also like to congratulate President Obama on appointing the first woman and person of color to serve in this position. With California rich in the creative economy, it is imperative to protect grants, patents, and intellectual property. I look forward to Ms. Lee helping American businesses thrive in our growing economy.”

Lee currently serves as the deputy under secretary and deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at the Department of Commerce, a position she has held since January 2014. Previously, she served at USPTO as the director of the Silicon Valley Office from 2012 to 2013. In 2011, Lee was appointed by the secretary of commerce to serve as a member on the Patent Public Advisory Committee for USPTO.

From 2003 to 2012, Lee was the deputy general counsel and head of patents and patent strategy at Google Inc. She was a partner and an associate at Fenwick & West LLP from 1996 to 2003 and an associate at Keker & Van Nest LLP from 1994 to 1996.

Lee was a judicial clerk to Judge Paul R. Michel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and to Judge Vaughn R. Walker in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. She received a B.S. and an M.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.

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