Regional Patent Office Coming to a City Near You?
JW Update 12/16/10: The first Regional Patent Office has been announced, and is coming to Detroit, Michigan! See our post reporting on the announcement here.
Per this recent article from Crain’s Detroit Business, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke is on record stating that the Department of Commerce is considering opening regional Patent Offices. Currently, there is a single Patent Office located just outside of Washington DC, in Alexandria, Virginia, which employs over 6000 Patent Examiners. Patent Examiners are civil servants with a requisite technical background, who are tasked with examining inventions claimed in patent applications to determine whether a patent should be granted.
Of particular interest to this patent practitioner (i.e., a Michigan attorney, with offices near Toledo, Ohio) is the fact that Secretary Locke mentioned Detroit, Michigan as being a candidate for a regional Patent Office. From our region’s economic perspective, this is an excellent opportunity.
The economic advantages to a regional Patent Office were clearly set forth in a letter from the Toledo Intellectual Property Law Association (TIPLA) to various members of Congress, mailed in February 2009. In particular, TIPLA espoused regional Patent Offices as one of many proposed patent law reforms, and stated the following:
3. Establish Regional Patent Offices to Improve Examination Quality.
The USPTO is currently located in Alexandria, Virginia. Although the USPTO rigorously recruits individuals to the Examining corps, the applicant pool is geographically limited to persons wishing to reside in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. Even with telecommuting and hoteling policies, U.S. Patent Examiners still have to travel to the USPTO in Alexandria on a frequent and regular basis.
TIPLA strongly recommends the creation of regional Patent Offices, strategically located in major cities throughout the nation. The availability of regional Patent Offices will improve patent quality and reduce patent pendency by increasing the number of well-qualified Examiners serving in the Examining corps. Importantly, the formation of regional Patent Offices will result in an immediate creation of well-paying and necessary jobs nationwide, and should be considered as a form of economic stimulus.
TIPLA further observes that Detroit, Michigan and Toledo, Ohio have a deep pool of qualified labor from which the USPTO could draw if there were a nearby regional Patent Office. Many local engineers and scientists, whom may soon be seeking alternative career opportunities due to the downturn in the automotive industry, meet the educational requirements for the Examining corps. These talented individuals could undoubtedly be trained to serve as capable U.S. Patent Examiners.
One assumes that Detroit is not the only city being considered for a regional Patent Office, and that other cities are likely lobbying hard for a regional office of their own. However, this is one opportunity that Detroit and Toledo should not let slip away. If you are a reader located in Southeast Michigan or Northwest Ohio, contact your local government officials today and voice your support for a regional Patent Office in Detroit!
JW Note: Hat tip to Peter Zura at the 271 Patent Blog for bringing this article to our attention.