PTO is One of the Few Agencies to Expand

Yesterday (Monday, July 2, 2012), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) announced plans to open regional offices in or around Dallas, Denver, and Silicon Valley, Calif. These offices are in addition to the agency’s already announced first satellite office, scheduled to open in Detroit next week, on July 13. According to the USPTO press release, all four offices will “function as hubs of innovation and creativity, helping protect and foster American innovation in the global marketplace, helping businesses cut through red tape, and creating new economic opportunities in each of the local communities.” Next week, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and PTO Director David Kappos will travel to the newly selected cities to meet with local businesses, entrepreneurs and public officials to discuss the new office openings (and, we presume, potential locations for those offices, which have not yet been determined).

The regional offices are mandated by the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011 (H.R. 1249), a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. patent system that President Obama signed into law last September, which calls for three or more satellite offices to be opened by September 2014. The goal of the act is to help modernize the patent system, which now has a backlog of more than 600,000 applications.

The PTO chose the four sites based on an analysis of numerous criteria, including geographical diversity, regional economic impact, the ability to recruit and retain employees and the ability to engage the intellectual property (IP) community. The U.S. Department of Commerce, the PTO’s parent agency, received more than 600 public comments on the satellite offices.

PTO headquarters—which represent the largest GSA lease in the nation and the largest lease-construct project in GSA’s history—will remain in Alexandria, Va. Each of the satellite offices is expected to house about 100 patent examiners and a handful of administrative patent judges. The offices also will serve examiners taking part in the PTO’s popular telework program. In addition, the satellite offices are expected to feature state-of-the-art teleconferencing equipment that examiners can use to conduct interviews with patent applicants and that applicants can use to argue for appeals even when decision makers remain in PTO headquarters. The three new satellite offices are expected to open in early 2013.

“Intellectual property protection and innovation are engines of economic growth and the bedrock of America’s private sector,” said Blank. “These new offices are an historic step toward further advancing our world’s best IP system, and reinforcing the United States as the number one destination for innovation capital, and research and development around the world.”

The PTO is one of the few government agencies that is still expanding. It continues to hire new patent examiners, administrative patent judges, mechanical and electrical engineers, and chemists. “By expanding our operation outside of the Washington metropolitan area for the first time in our agency’s 200-plus year history, we are taking unprecedented steps to recruit a diverse range of talented technical experts, creating new opportunities across the American workforce,” noted Kappos.