Michelle Lee, head of the United States Patent and Trademark Office has just resigned from her position. The big question that everyone is asking is why? Lee has been in the position since 2015, when she was appointed by President Obama. There was speculation late last year that she might not stay on under the Trump Administration, but that was only speculation. Lee’s resignation comes as a blow to the technology industry as she was seen to be an ally. Part of her work included improving the quality of the patent process, and earned high praise from tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Samsung.
Lee was the former head of patents and patent strategy at Google, so she was sympathetic to the tech industry. She was also extremely critical regarding how easy it was for someone to file a patent lawsuit. Thus, giving the ability to cash in on potentially unwarranted lawsuits. With all of this expertise, the USPTO seems like a good place for her. So why would she leave? There is some speculation that she was being eyed for the top position in the Office of Science and Technology Policy with the White House. If true, then isn’t that a step up for her? This is merely speculation, however.
Let’s assume for a moment that it is true. The position would require her to provide advice on technology and science policy directly to the President. On one hand, this sounds like it could be a good fit. A dream job even. But when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Right? As far as the technology side of things goes, advising Trump might not be too difficult. However, does anyone want to be in the position to advise Trump on science related topics? You either have to tow the party line, or you voice your concerns and deal with the backlash. But either way, you’re in a bit of a no win situation. Let’s say you don’t think that global warming is a Chinese hoax, and maybe it actually exists. How do you convey this to someone who is arguing that it’s false?
If we continue with this line of speculation, what are her options? Can she turn down the position? Is that career suicide? And does she even care? Lee’s background is mostly technology related, so perhaps this job wouldn’t be that difficult for her. But given the state of the current administration, is this a sinking ship that anyone wants to join? This is all speculation after all. Lee resigned, she wasn’t fired. So it’s hard for us to know what her reasons were. She could have personal issues that she needs to address. She could have found another job that she’s moving into. Or she might just be stepping down because that’s the decision she made.
Although, there are people who resign out of pressure. Which could be the case here. Unfortunately, we won’t know until she or someone else comes forward to make that statement. I would doubt, however, that if it was a result of pressure that we will find out. The current administration wouldn’t want that kind of information to get out to the public. This is a possibility, but given Trumps penchant for the dramatic, and his previous career of firing people, he likely would want people to know. What do you think happened at the USPTO?