John Posthumus has been instrumental making the Denver Office of the USPTO a reality – having spent more than 1,000 pro bono hours on this effort. I asked him to write a guest post to commemorate the June 30 opening. D.C.
By John Posthumus
The opening of the Rocky Mountain Regional Satellite office in Denver on June 30 marks an unprecedented and historic moment for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Never in its history has the USPTO had a base of operations that extended beyond the Eastern Time zone. The USPTO has operated exclusively for more than 200 years in the Washington, D.C. area until July 2012, when the USPTO opened its first satellite office in Detroit.
While the Detroit office was a small step geographically speaking (Detroit is 525 miles from Washington, D.C.), the Denver office is a huge step toward a national presence by the USPTO. Its central U.S. location will provide unprecedented access to inventors and entrepreneurs in the western part of the country, satisfying an important Section 23 objective of the America Invents Act (AIA) – better connecting patent filers and innovators with the patent office. The Denver office is expected to have state-of-the-art video conferencing facilities available to applicants. Thus, a significant part of the U.S., and the entire Rocky Mountain region, will be able to travel to Denver to complete examiner interviews and return home the same day.
The opening of the Denver office will also enable the USPTO to recruit examiners and board judges from pools of talented individuals they cannot access in Alexandria, VA. Colorado, for example, is the second-most highly educated state in the nation, is among the top 10 for adults with degrees in science and engineering, has four major research universities, and is home to 24 federally funded research laboratories. The opening of the Denver office provides a great opportunity to recruit candidates that have recent and relevant technical and industry experience that they will bring to the examining and board judging roles. As a result, the Denver office is expected to provide better quality examinations and decrease the number of patent applications waiting for examination, and satisfy another criteria in Section 23.
The new office is also expected to improve recruitment of patent examiners, another Section 23 factor, because of Colorado’s favorable cost of living and quality of life factors. As Acting Director Michelle Lee stated recently, “In addition to creating jobs for intellectual property professionals throughout the region, the permanent Denver satellite office will be an indispensable resource for regional inventors, entrepreneurs and businesses.” The benefits of the new USPTO satellite office will extend beyond creating jobs. The opening of the office will also have a positive economic impact in the region. According to a study by the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, the Denver-based office is expected to provide a $440 million economic impact to the region in the first five years of operation.
The Denver office also gives the USPTO an opportunity to think outside the box and presents an historic opportunity to set aside the baggage that comes from operating in one location for over 200 years. For example, the Denver satellite patent office could be used to run small-scale pilot projects in conjunction with local public/private partners, such as a one-month filing to issuance pilot or a collaborative examination by two examiners, that if successful could be scaled ultimately changing how the USPTO operates. In this regard, perhaps the most exciting prospects of the satellite offices are yet to come.