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USPTO Seeks Comments on Future Locations for Satellite Offices


Written by Gene Quinn
President & Founder of IPWatchdog, Inc.
Patent Attorney, Reg. No. 44,294
Zies, Widerman & Malek
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Posted: November 29, 2011 @ 3:10 pm
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The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is interested in gathering information from the public on potential locations for future USPTO satellite offices and earlier today published a Federal Register Notice announcing the comment period.  The USPTO is required to establish satellite offices, subject to available resources, under Section 23 of the America Invents Act (AIA). In fact, as long as funding exists, it is the plan of the Patent Office to establish at least two more satellite offices in addition to the one slated for Detroit over the next three years.

The USPTO sees the establishment of satellite offices as an important component of their continued efforts to recruit and retain a highly skilled workforce, reduce patent application pendency and improve quality, and enhance communication between the USPTO and the patent applicant community. It is easy to understand why satellite offices would enhance efforts to recruit and retain patent examiners, after all there is a limited pool of technically sophisticated applicants and employees willing to locate in Northern Virginia and endure the ridiculous traffic, among other things.  Thus, satellite offices should make a position as a patent examiner more attractive, at least if locations such as Denver or California are considered, as they should be.

It is also easy to see how having satellite offices will improve outreach, particularly if the USPTO locates examiners in clusters near to where much of a particularly technology is active, which is anticipated.  But will satellite offices reduce the pendency and improve quality?  That is more of a stretch, at least at first glance.  One of the problems the USPTO has is that its beautiful new campus in Alexandria, Virginia was inadequately small the day it opened just a few years ago.  Having more work space for examiners would allow for greater mentoring and monitoring.  I wouldn’t expect an overnight bump in quality or reduction in pendency due to satellite offices, but it certainly will let the agency scale its growth.  Patents are more popular now than ever and it is about time the USPTO has a plan to keep pace.  Now if Congress will only let them have the funds to operate properly.

Indeed, all of this may only be a pipe dream because while Section 23 of the America Invents Act requires the USPTO to establish satellite offices the mandate only kicks in if there are available resources.  Congress has not been known to give the USPTO enough resources to do what needs to be done at one location, let alone at up to 3 other locations.  Budgetary issues have already postponed the opening of the Detroit, Michigan satellite office one.

The opening of the USPTO satellite office planned for Detroit, Michigan was postponed when the USPTO announced severe austerity measures to keep the lights on and the agency functioning back in April of this year.  Current plans, which may be rather optimistic given the PTO budgetary issues have hardly resolved, have the USPTO scheduled to open its Detroit facility in the second half of 2012. If and when the Detroit satellite office becomes a reality it is expected to create more than 100 high-paying, high-skill jobs in its first year of operation.

In choosing Detroit, the USPTO considered multiple cities and sought a location where the agency could best recruit and retain patent examiners and increase applicant outreach. The criteria included, but was not limited to: occupational clusters; number of patent attorneys and agents currently in the region; number of patent applications by state; access to universities with strong engineering programs; public transportation infrastructure and proximate location to a major airport; the ability to share facilities with other established governmental operations; the ability to support departmental objectives, including CommerceConnect, and increase collaborations among Commerce bureaus; and various economic factors, including cost of living and unemployment rates of the city.

The Federal Register Notice explains that those submitting comments are encouraged to keep in mind the USPTO’s purposes of establishing satellite offices, which include:

  1. Increase outreach activities to better connect patent filers and innovators with the USPTO, including the number of patent filings and grants by the city/region as well as other information that provides insight into the region’s innovation activity;
  2. Enhance patent examiner retention, including quality of life indicators such as average household income, cost of living factors, and other factors related to employee retention;
  3. Improve recruitment of patent examiners, including data on employment rates and other economic factors in the area, science and technology professionals, as well as legal professionals in the workforce and other related information;
  4. Decrease the number of patent applications awaiting examination; and
  5. Improve the quality of patent examination.

Specific information the PTO identified as “useful in determining future locations” includes:

  1. Available office space;
  2. The presence of universities with strong engineering programs;
  3. The presence of research facilities;
  4. The economic impact to the region and any other economic factors.

Comments are also invited to include information on additional factors the USPTO should consider in comparing regions.

“Establishing satellite offices in geographically diverse areas of the country will allow the agency to better recruit and retain talented patent professionals and allow the agency to better interact with the applicant community,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “We are committed to conducting a transparent selection process based on objective criteria, and with input from stakeholders around the country.”

Written comments are requested to be submitted on or before January 30, 2012, and no public hearing will be held.

Those interested in submitting comments are encourage to do so by e-mail, sending comments to the USPTO at satelliteoffices@uspto.gov. Notwithstanding the preference for electronic comment, old-fashion written comments may also be submitted by postal mail addressed to: Azam Khan, Deputy Chief of Staff, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Mail Stop Office of Under Secretary and Director, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, VA, 22313–1450.

 

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Posted in: Gene Quinn, IP News, IPWatchdog.com Articles, Patent Trial and Appeal Board, Patents, USPTO

About the Author

is a Patent Attorney and the founder of the popular blog IPWatchdog.com, which has for three of the last four years (i.e., 2010, 2012 and 2103) been recognized as the top intellectual property blog by the American Bar Association. He is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course. As an electrical engineer with a computer engineering focus his specialty is electronic and computer devices, Internet applications, software and business methods.

 

10 comments
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  1. I would guess MA, CA, TX and FL; probably CA first.

  2. From what I have heard, think of the compass points: DC, Detroit, Texas and California

  3. Both Congressman Issa and Congresswoman Lofgren have been lobbying for a satellite office in their respective districts in CA. Lofgren represents Silicon Valley, which seems logical for one. I personally prefer Southern CA so I’m rooting for Issa! But it seems a virtual lock to me that CA will be the location for one.

    Denver was reportedly in the running for the Detroit location. In fact, reports I was hearing were that the folks in Denver thought they were going to win out. So don’t overlook a Denver possibility.

    I know there is at least one community in Florida making a behind the scenes pitch. With this being an election year and FL likely to be on the short list of swing states, you can’t rule out a FL location.

    I’m thinking of doing an article on the top 10 destinations for a USPTO satellite office. So feel free to keep coming up with suggestions and reasons why a particular location might be a good one. Expect to see Orange County California on the list. Why? I love Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach. Having a satellite office there would be marvelous!

    -Gene

  4. Search “yahoo most dangerous cities 2011″. Detroit has already been assigned to the PTO (sure seems like a political gift, anyway). From the -next- four most dangerous cities, I think it is safe to eliminate Flint, MI (too many in one state). I’d imagine Anchorage is out because hotellers have to be in the 48 contiguous states. That leaves Springfield, IL and Memphis, TN. I’ll guess Springfield wins that one.

    There is no need for satellite offices, nor telework for that matter. What is with these ingrates who aren’t willing to make a bit of personal sacrifice to have a job, and why is the PTO bending over backwards to hire people who are clearly not dedicated?

  5. Spike-

    You say: “There is no need for satellite offices, nor telework for that matter.”

    Where exactly would you put patent examiners on campus in Alexandria? Would you create a tent city with cubicles up and down Delaney Street? Just curious really.

    Everyone familiar with the math of USPTO employment knows that the Alexandria campus is too small and was too small the day it opened. Telework is the only way there are enough offices.

    -Gene

  6. Spike must be trolling, joking, or severely misinformed. “no need for satellite offices, nor telework for that matter.” Haha

  7. Move the whole kit and kaboodle to Abilene.

  8. I really like Anon’s compass points idea, as it would minimize travel and/or moving expenses for prospective new examiners. Seattle could be a good substitute for Silicone Valley, as there are tons of IT professionals here (ala Microsoft and who knows how many thousands of IT subcontractors), and lots of office space available. Also lots of mechanical technoids here,(Boeing and subcontractors and etcetera) and there aren’t too many places where you are only an hour away from sailing, fishing, skiing and the mountains, good airport, and the weather is mild.

    SoCal like Gene is suggesting,Seattle,Detroit, WaDC, and Florida, in no particular order? I sure wish Congress would stop raiding the PTO cookie jar though, for all of our sakes!

    Stan~

  9. My first thoughts about the satellite offices were not about examiners but about applicants wanting to have an in person interview with the examiner. I also thought that the best use of the satellite offices would be if applications were assigned to offices based on the physical proximity of the applicant.

    Over my 29 years of practice, I have found that in person chats with examiners can sometimes go a long way toward getting a patent application allowed. When I started out, that meant a $50 ride on the NY Air Shuttle from NY to the PTO. Scheduling 5 or 6 interviews for a day trip made it very economical for a client. However, given today’s air fares and that many important inventions come from California and places far away from the PTO, satellite offices make sense to me.

  10. tom g-
    The travel expenses I mentioned were for the applicants’ benefit, and the nice place to move your family for the potential new examiners that might consider moving to a different location like Seattle or San Diego. I seem to be hearing that the current administration at the USPTO is encouraging the use of interviews to prosecute applications, which makes a lot of practical sense to me. Way more efficient than trading snail or e-mails, or even phone calls, and you can show up with all of the relevant documents so that They don’t have to go find them somewhere. More co-operative, and perhaps less adversarial.