USPTO Satellite Offices – Coming Soon to a Town Near You?

USPTO ImageOrange County – These three cities including Detroit, Austin, and San Francisco are some of the possible locations for future USPTO satellite offices.  Currently, state representatives are lobbying the PTO and the US Department of Commerce to choose their respective states to set up shop.

Under section 23(a) of the recently passed America Invents Act (AIA), the PTO Director, “Subject to available resources…shall, by not later than the date that is 3 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, establish 3 or more satellite offices in the United States to carry out the responsibilities of the Office.”

The AIA states that the purpose of satellite offices is to: (1) increase outreach activities to better connect patent filers and innovators with the Office; (2) enhance patent examiner retention; (3) improve recruitment of patent examiners; (4) decrease the number of patent applications waiting for examination; and (5) improve the quality of patent examination.

Last April, at the American Bar Association’s 26th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference, the commissioner of the USPTO, Bob Stoll, announced the PTO’s plan to open the first of at least three satellite offices in Detroit, Michigan.  At the time, the PTO had not yet determined the location of the two other satellite offices, but Mr. Stoll promised that they would be west of the Mississippi River.  Unfortunately due to budget cuts, the satellite office program was postponed indefinitely.  Now, thanks to the AIA, the PTO can proceed with the Detroit office and talks are resuming on other potential locations.

Detroit was selected first because of the area’s patent output and high percentage of scientists and engineers.  However, it is difficult to imagine that the office location would “enhance patent examiner retention or “improve recruitment of patent examiners” because of the city’s notorious reputation for crime and poverty.

On Wednesday, Rep. Lamar Smith, one of the cosponsors of the AIA, discussed the legislation at IBM in Austin, Texas.  Rep. Smith and three other Austin Congressmen have been lobbying the U.S. Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, and USPTO Director, David Kappos, to consider placing a satellite patent office in Austin.  At the IBM roundtable, Rep. Smith stated that he thinks a satellite office in Austin will be “inevitable.”  Rep. Smith also mentioned that Silicon Valley in California is also considered for one of the satellite offices.  Additionally, Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado has been lobbying for an office in Denver.  In his efforts, Senator Bennet sought President Obama’s support by sending him a letter insisting that a Denver office would encourage innovation.  Despite all the talk, nothing has been set in stone.

If the PTO can obtain sufficient funding for the proposed satellite offices, establishing the offices will be a historic move for the PTO and a truly significant step towards fulfilling the objectives of the AIA.




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