Top Inventor Silicon Valley to Get Own U.S. Patent Office

Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Intel Corp. soon won’t have to travel across the U.S. to get patent protection on their latest inventions.

Silicon Valley, Dallas and Denver have been selected as the new homes for regional patent offices as part of an effort to cut down on a backlog of applications awaiting review, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said today.

The agency, which is opening a satellite office in Detroit on July 13 and has declared a “critical need for electrical engineers,” is trying to hire more examiners to cut into the 640,000 applications awaiting a first review. By expanding beyond its Alexandria, Virginia, campus, the patent office is seeking to take advantage of a pool of engineers who understand technology and can work closer to where inventors are located.

“Silicon Valley was a logical location to us, but it was by no means a foregone conclusion it would be in California or in Silicon Valley,” said Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which has lobbied for more than three years to get a patent office in Northern California. “We’ve ordered the red carpet and will do everything we can to go from red tape to red carpet.”

The additional offices were authorized under an overhaul of the patent system signed into law last year. About 600 applications were submitted, and the selections were based on geographic diversity, economic impact, the local workforce and proximity to companies that are submitting applications.

Innovation Hubs

“The single most important step we can take to support an economy built to last is to bring new inventions to market as quickly as possible,” said David Kappos, director of the Patent and Trademark Office.

The regional offices -- one for each time zone -- would become hubs with “a tangible impact on each city’s innovation economy,” he said. Kappos said the office could bring in law firms, entrepreneurs and investors as a sort of ecosystem to interact with the agency.

The four offices also could develop their own expertise to reflect local communities -- Detroit for automotive, metallurgy and paints; Dallas for energy; Denver for aerospace; and Silicon Valley for electronics and biotechnology. Denver also was selected in part because it has a large number of veterans with advanced degrees, and President Barack Obama’s administration has a policy to hire more veterans, Kappos said.

Denver, Dallas

Denver said it beat out competition from Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Salt Lake City; and Albuquerque, New Mexico, because of its educated workforce, relatively low cost of living and research in the fields of bioscience, aerospace and renewable energy. It has projected the new examiners and related jobs could have a $440 million economic impact in the first five years of operation.

“As the world flattens, intellectual property rights are at the core of almost every business,” Steve Katsaros, founder of Denver-based solar light-bulb company Nokero International Ltd., said in a statement. “This satellite office will bring a community of patent and technology experts to Colorado. With hundreds of intellectual property rights experts sprinkled among us, the entire business community will benefit.”

‘Big Win’

Extensive lobbying by the cities preceded the selections. Silicon Valley’s 58-page application was signed by the chief executives of 125 companies and suggested space in San Jose’s city hall, Guardino said.

“This is a big win for San Jose and California that will directly benefit the U.S. economy,” Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, said in a statement.

The Silicon Valley area, which also includes Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, is the top recipient of patents, with more than 10,000 issued in 2010, agency figures show. The region comprising San Francisco, Oakland, and Fremont adds another 6,290 patents, the third-most behind the New York and northern New Jersey region.

California inventors were named in 28,148 patents, more than a quarter of the 108,626 issued to U.S. inventors in 2011. Texas was the second-highest recipient, at 7,584, and Colorado was 14th with 2,102, according to patent office statistics.

Dallas’s submission included corporate executives, university researchers and legal professionals promoting the region’s role as a center for southwest U.S. innovation in energy, smart grids, telecommunications, life sciences and software.

Detroit Jobs

“We told the story of the region,” said Jeremy Vickers, director of innovation for the Dallas Regional Chamber. “We wanted them to see how invested the region was. It was a good-sized document, outlining the strengths of the region and how we were a good fit.”

The Detroit office will add about 120 jobs to the region, and the plan is for at least one of the other offices to be online within two years, said Vikrum Aiyer, a spokesman for the patent office. Michigan residents received 3,964 patents in 2011, the sixth-highest.

The agency is hiring 1,500 examiners this fiscal year, to bring the total to 7,800 from 6,800 plus filling in for turnover. It said it expects to hire a comparable number next year, depending on a budget getting approved by Congress.

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