The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) has undergone a variety of procedural and structural changes in recent years aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of prosecution, among other laudable goals. One of these changes, ushered in by provisions contained within the recently enacted America Invents Act, is the establishment of regional satellite offices.
The America Invents Act was signed into law by President Obama on September 16th, 2011 and brought with it the most sweeping changes to patent law that this country has seen since the Patent Act of 1952. Under the requirements of this act, the USPTO is required to establish at least three satellite offices by September 16th, 2014. It is expected that this will allow the USPTO to increase its outreach activities, enhance employee retention, improve recruiting, decrease the application backlog, and improve the quality of examination. These satellite offices will also be used as test beds, allowing the USPTO to administer new pilot programs while alleviating concerns of disrupting the operations of its primary office. These offices are expected to work closely with intellectual property services, start-ups, and job-growth accelerators as well as local science, technology, engineering and mathematics oriented organizations within their regional locations. In addition to the above noted benefits, this transition to a multi-location arrangement will give inventors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses the benefit of a USPTO presence in every time zone in the U.S.
When selecting the location for a satellite office, the USPTO must, by statute, consider creating geographic diversity, recruiting a technically skilled workforce at low cost, and the economic impact on the region. In considering these factors, the USPTO opened the first of these planned satellite offices in Detroit, Michigan, in 2012. The USPTO has also established temporary presences in Dallas, Denver and Silicon Valley, where it currently houses patent board of appeals (PTAB) judges.
Although the USPTO has, as early as 1871, designated selected libraries as patent & trademark resource centers (PTRC's) and provided them with training and resources (see A History of Patent & Trademark Resource Centers), incorporating satellite offices into our patent system is a fairly radical departure from the organization's history of maintaining a single, central, office. The USPTO has operated from one central headquarters, located first in Washington D.C, and now in Alexandria, Virginia since the early 19th century.
It may be months or years before we fully appreciate whether and how these new satellite offices will affect our practice here, and more importantly, how it will affect our clients' IP strategies and patent portfolios. Rest assured, however, that we will keep you informed.
And as always please SPREAD THE WORD!
This is one small example of how, here at MCR, we try to keep the community informed of the changing legal landscape. Please contact me or anyone here for more information and pass this along to anyone you know who may be interested, or in need of intellectual property legal services.
Matthew J. Curran
Registered Patent Attorney