Lee notified staff in a letter yesterday (6 June) that she would be standing down from her post as under secretary of commerce for intellectual property and director of the USPTO, but offered no reason for her sudden departure.
She is “tremendously proud of all that we have accomplished together, and appreciate all of your support and dedication during my tenure”, Lee said in her letter.
Lee was appointed to lead the USPTO in 2014, but her position was put under threat following the election of US President Donald Trump.
It had been unclear whether Lee would be replaced after Trump’s inauguration in January.
In March, Gary Shuster, senior counsel at Coleman & Horowitt, filed a freedom of information act request with the USPTO, which confirmed Lee’s position “as a matter of administrative discretion”.
The US Department of Commerce’s leadership page continued to show Lee’s position as vacant, alongside many other as-yet unchosen members of the Trump administration.
Despite this uncertainty, Lee received much support from the tech industry, including Google, Facebook and Amazon.
The Consumer Technology Association penned a letter to Trump, underlining the economic benefits that Lee’s continued leadership of the USPTO would bring for American inventors and businesses.
The association said that Lee “has been able to expertly balance the needs and interests of all the stakeholders within the very diverse community that the USPTO serves”.