The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) dictates that at least three satellite offices be opened by the USPTO in three years. The Detroit satellite office was the first of four selected by the USPTO to increase outreach, improve retention and recruitment of patent examiners, decrease the patent application backlog and improve the quality of examination.

It is claimed to be the first stage of the USPTO’s Nationwide Workforce Program, which has been working to recruit more experienced patent professionals with the intention that these individuals will be more productive and have a higher retention rate.

The city of Detroit was selected as an important national innovation center with a high percentage of scientists and engineers in the workforce. In politico-speak, that means politicians are not going to get re-elected without throwing something towards the unemployment rate in Detroit (which spiked at 27.8% in 2009 and now runs 21.1% after dipping to 15.8% in May).

I guess technically they did help with employment.  Director Kappos anticipates the Detroit office having 100 patent examiners and 20 judges on site there by next summer.  But, with a population of 713,777 and a population of 4,296,250 for the six-county metro area, will 120 jobs amount to much?

The USPTO Satellite Office in Detroit will provide access to the Agency’s public electronic patent and trademark collections with a public search room. That means that the Detroit office has two public workstations available for conducting searches that have the same access requirements and print capabilities as identical public workstations in USPTO’s Public Search Facility.  Video conferencing equipment is also available for use for patent application interviews.

Are satellite offices the answer?  And what was the question?  I can’t help but feel like this is too little, too late.  It’s like proposing to open up US Postal Service branch offices now that that everything is moving to digital.  Seems like a lot more could have been accomplished by just giving every examiner a web cam and allowing video Skype calls.

 What do you think?

The USPTO also recently announced that it plans to establish three more satellite offices in (1) Silicon Valley, California, (2) Dallas, Texas, and (3) Denver, Colorado by September 2014.

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