Leadership Changes at the USPTO

Posted Thursday, April 23, 2015.

In February of 2013, David Kappos left his position as the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Upon his departure, Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea became Acting Director, and held the post through November of 2013. Margaret Focarino, who had been Deputy Commissioner for Patents filled in through January 2014, at which time Michelle Lee became Acting Director.

Ms. Lee had been Director of the Silicon Valley USPTO satellite office and became Deputy Director following her move to the USPTO’s main campus in Alexandria, VA. She was subsequently nominated for the position of Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the permanent Director of the USPTO position by President Obama in October 2014. Ms. Lee sat for two Senate confirmation hearings, and was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 26th. The full Senate confirmed her on March 9th.

Director Lee has now been sworn in. She is the first woman to hold the position since the official creation of the Patent Office in 1836. Interestingly, the swearing-in ceremony took place on March 12th at the SXSW festival in Austin.

The ascendancy of Director Lee left a void at Deputy Director. That position has also now been filled. Russell Slifer, formerly the Director of the Rocky Mountain USPTO satellite office, was appointed following Director Lee’s swearing-in. Mr. Slifer was subsequently sworn into his new position on March 25th.

Additionally, a new Deputy Commissioner for Trademark Operations, Meryl Hershkowitz, was appointed. Ms. Hershkowitz reports to Commissioner of Trademarks Mary Boney Denison and has been with the USPTO since 1990, starting her career as a trademark examining attorney.

In short, the leadership at the USPTO is fully staffed, including a confirmed Director, for the first time in two years.

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