by Manny Schecter, IBM Chief Patent Counsel
Am I the only person who noticed that the USPTO opened its first ever satellite office in Detroit on Friday, July 13? Friday the 13th! I am not superstitious. Apparently, neither is USPTO Director David Kappos.
More seriously, much has been written about the Detroit satellite office and the subsequently announced offices to be located in Dallas, Denver, and Silicon Valley. How will the satellite offices improve our patent system?
It will be impossible for the satellite offices to allow for local examination of all patent applications filed by all local inventors. Consider that many inventors collaborate with other inventors located around the world. In addition, as the size of the patent application pipeline varies over time, it may be asking too much of the USPTO to employ precisely the number of patent examiners in precisely the appropriate mix of technologies at a satellite office servicing the local community.
The satellite offices will enable the USPTO to provide community education and outreach. The public may gain access to USPTO resources such as search tools and facilities for communicating with the remainder of the USPTO and patent examiners may gain access to local industry information. And, naturally, the satellite offices will provide local jobs.
The most important benefit of the satellite offices is access to talent. IBM has research labs around the globe for the same reason – to attract and employ world-class scientists. The USPTO has a deep bench in Virginia, but certainly there are a wealth of talented people unwilling to live in the Washington, DC metro area. Improving the patent examiner talent pool will surely improve the quality and efficiency of patent examination. For this reason, the successful implementation of USPTO satellite offices is both a USPTO and US patent system imperative.