Technology  November 30, 2012

Anticipation builds over patent office

It took hours of meetings, thousands of airline miles and a persistence one federal official joked was akin to stalking for Denver to land one of the first U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices outside the Washington, D.C., area.

But if the office, scheduled to open in downtown Denver by September 2014, has anything close to the projected $440 million overall economic impact its boosters expect, it will have been more than worth it.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced in July that it would open three satellite offices around the United States, and that one would be in Denver. An additional office already has opened in Detroit.

The announcement came after an intense lobbying effort from local elected officials, business leaders and lawyers.

Michael Drapkin, a lawyer at the Boulder office of Holland & Hart, helped lead the effort. Drapkin said he made 15 trips to Washington over four years to promote the idea, and other lawyers and officials did the same.

In the big picture, the office will help the USPTO’s efforts to modernize, add staff and attract better talent to its ranks, Drapkin said. Through September, the office had a backlog of more than 608,000 patents to review.

The long waiting period to know whether a patent is approved or to appeal a rejection is a drain on inventors trying to build a company around their ideas.

“Having a more efficient patent office really does benefit the small inventor,” Drapkin said.

Since its founding, the USPTO has been based in the Washington, D.C., area, where it employs about 7,800 examiners.

“That’s great for people who live in the Beltway,” Drapkin said. “But not having satellite offices distributed throughout the U.S. is not fair.”

Inventors who needed to meet with a patent examiner or judge have had to make the long trip, as have their lawyers. The Denver office will save inventors throughout the West a lot of travel and money, Drapkin said.

While shorter trips could benefit some inventors right away, it might take years to understand the true impact of the office, said Curtis Vock, a partner at Lathrop & Gage. It is expected the office will employ about 130 workers when it opens, but the staff could grow to almost 600.

Some applications might end up going to the D.C. area, but the odds of staying close to home will grow increasingly favorable to local inventors.

“It will be more and more likely you’ll be able to see the examiner in Denver,” Vock said.

The future office also will have intangible benefits for local inventors and intellectual property lawyers.

“I think it’s going to be great because it will add a buzz we’ve never had here before,” Vock said.

It took hours of meetings, thousands of airline miles and a persistence one federal official joked was akin to stalking for Denver to land one of the first U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices outside the Washington, D.C., area.

But if the office, scheduled to open in downtown Denver by September 2014, has anything close to the projected $440 million overall economic impact its boosters expect, it will have been more than worth it.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced in July that it would open three satellite offices around the United States, and that one would be in Denver. An additional…

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