Michelle Lee, who heads the Silicon Valley branch of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, on Wednesday was named deputy director of the federal agency, which she will oversee until President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate fill its vacant director's position.
She also was named deputy undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property.
Lee's promotion means the Silicon Valley office, which is moving from its temporary location in Menlo Park to a permanent spot in San Jose City Hall downtown, will be headed by John Cabeca, a 25-year veteran of the agency. He is currently a senior adviser in the patent office, where he specialized in semiconductor-related patents.
Carl Guardino, CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, who worked with Lee to create a permanent patent office in San Jose, hailed her new job as a big plus for businesses here.
"This is a victory for Silicon Valley," he said, noting that Lee is "someone who doesn't have to be brought up to speed about the innovation economy, because she's been an integral part of the innovation economy." He added that while "Silicon Valley is full of people with high IQs, Michelle is that rarer talent with both a high IQ and wisdom and humility to match."
Lee becomes deputy director Jan. 13.
Penny Pritzker, secretary of the Commerce Department, which oversees the patent office, issued a statement praising Lee as "a tremendous asset" adding, "she has a great mix of skills and experiences to assume this leadership position during a time when the administration is deeply focused on strengthening the nation's intellectual property system."
Before taking over the Silicon Valley office in November 2012, Lee was Google's (GOOG) deputy general counsel and the Internet-search company's first head of patent strategy. She also had been a partner with the Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West, where she specialized in patent law, and for a time was a computer scientist at Palo Alto-based Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).
She earned a master's degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a law degree from Stanford University.
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