Dallas, Denver and the Silicon Valley are getting branches of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the federal agency announced yesterday (July 2). Meanwhile, Detroit is set to open a branch July 13. The expansion is meant to speed the process of getting a patent, reduce backlog and sharpen U.S. competitiveness. This is the first time the U.S. Patent Office has left Washington, D.C. in its 222-year history.
"Intellectual property protection and innovation are engines of economic growth and the bedrock of America's private sector," acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank told the Los Angeles Times. "These new offices are an historic step toward further advancing our world's best IP system."
As of May, the U.S. Patent Office had a backlog of 641,142 applications, the Los Angeles Times reported. Approval for an application takes almost three years, whereas in the 19th century, Thomas Edison's patent for the phonograph took less than two months to process, the newspaper reported in September. The new offices will hire patent examiners and judges to deal with the backlog, according to a U.S. Patent Office announcement. "Ultimately, this ensures that American innovation gets to the marketplace faster," the announcement says.
Opening these branches may also bring new jobs to their host cities, but it's unclear how much of an impact the branches will have. "We are taking unprecedented steps to recruit a diverse range of talented technical experts, creating new opportunities across the American workforce," David Kappos, the director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, told the Los Angeles Times. Yet in September, the Times reported that experts think the branches will have little effect on employment in the short term, with payouts only in the next few decades.
The patent office chose cities with many patent filers, where the office thinks it can recruit examiners and judges, and where a new office may help the local economy. The agency also purposefully chose one city in each of the U.S. time zones.
The branch offices are a part of the Obama Administration's America Invents Act, which the president signed into law in September.