President Signs Patent Bill - Plans for Satellite Office in Detroit Revived

Posted on September 19, 2011

President Barack Obama on Fridaysigned into law a bill that could jump start efforts by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to open its first-ever satellite office in Detroit.

As we pointed out last week, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act included an amendment by Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow to name the potential Detroit office after famous African American invenor Elijah J. McCoy, whose quality products inspired the phrase “the real McCoy.”

Plans to open the satellite office hit a funding snag last year, but the new law instructs the USPTO director to establish at least three satellite offices in the United States within the next three years, provided it has “available resources” to do so.

One of those offices could be in Detroit, but the director is not required to use the same evaluations prepared ahead of its previous selection. And since the entire plan is “subject to available resources,” there’s still a possibility no satellite offices will open in the near future.

However, the legislation affords the Patent Office new power to set and collect its own fees for new patent filings. The base fees actually will be reduced for individual inventors with fewer than five patents, but the legislation removes legal hurdles — and provides a costly fast-track option — that should allow the USPTO to attack a growing backlog of filings and, in the process, collect more fees.

The most significant (and most controversial) change in the law requires the USPTO adopt a first-to-file rather than a first-to-invent system, awarding patents to those who file early rather than those who claim first conception of an invention. Critics say the policy may give an unfair advantage to large corporations.

The satellite offices are intended to offer inventors greater access, help clear the aforementioned filing backlogs and increase the quality of patent examinations. Michigan — home to the Big Three, related suppliers and numerous entrepreneurs — would benefit significantly.

“We need to make it easy for entrepreneurs to get a patent and start turning their innovative ideas into job-creating businesses,” Stabenow said in a released statement.

“A new Detroit patent office will do that. Our state is third in the nation in clean energy patents, and it is also home to groundbreaking research in agriculture, advanced batteries, and autos, so Detroit is a great choice for the nation’s first satellite patent office.”

By Jonathan Oosting, M Live