In a 10 March response to attorney Gary Shuster’s Freedom of Information Act request with the office, the USPTO confirmed Lee’s position “as a matter of administrative discretion”.
Shuster, who is senior counsel at Coleman & Horowitt in California, requested that the agency provide any document written by or on behalf of Lee constituting a resignation from office, a request to withdraw a resignation from office, or a request to retain her position.
He also asked the agency to provide the most current document identifying the director or acting director of the USPTO, as well as any written instructions received between Trump’s inauguration date (20 January) and the date of the request (26 January), regarding the deletion of any data from websites operated by or on behalf of the USPTO.
The USPTO was required to answer the request by 24 February, but that deadline was extended by 10 working days to 10 March, under Section 102.6(c) of the Freedom of Information Act, which allows for extensions under “unusual circumstances”.
This follows nearly three months of silence regarding the matter following Trump’s inauguration.
The US Department of Commerce’s leadership page still shows Lee’s position as undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property and USPTO director as vacant.
Though it remains unclear whether Lee will stay as director throughout the Trump administration, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) said it supported her continuing role.
Ed Black, president and CEO of the CCIA, said: “This is a wise decision, bringing continuity to critical issues at a critical time.”
“It supports the patent office’s ongoing efforts to improve patent quality under Michelle Lee’s leadership.”