Not So Fast: Silicon Valley's Permanent Patent Office Put On Hold -- Again

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on July 10, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You can say a lot of things about Silicon Valley … people bring their dogs to work, they get free M&Ms and they play games to get their creative juices flowing. Think what you may, but you can’t argue with statistics.

Earlier this year, the Brookings Institute did a study on invention and economic prosperity in the United States and found that per capita, San Jose had the highest number of patents. For those of you not in the Bay Area, some say San Jose is in the heart of, you guessed it, Silicon Valley. In fact, Silicon Valley has been at the top of the charts since 1988.

So why, oh why, are plans for opening up the permanent Patent Office in Silicon Valley on hold yet again? The short answer: Your guess is as good as ours.

In 2011, Congress passed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act which enabled the USPTO to designate four satellite office locations. As part of the USPTO's Nationwide Workforce Program evaluations, Detroit, Michigan was designated as the first satellite office in 2010. Pursuant to the America Invents Act, Silicon Valley was designated for one of the three remaining regional office locations, along with Denver and Dallas.

The selection of Denver seems logical since once of the top five metro areas with most patents per capita is in Boulder, Colorado. However, the selection of Detroit and Dallas is less obvious considering the other three cities in the top 5 are: Burlington, Vermont; Rochester, Minnesota; and Corvallis, Oregon.

Since Silicon Valley was selected as a regional satellite office location, a temporary office is in operation in Menlo Park. A permanent office would measure at 30,000 to 40,000 square feet of space; here, the temporary office measures in at 4,700 square feet -- a fraction of the space a permanent office would provide.

The search for a permanent space has been repeatedly put on hold because of budget challenges, namely, the Sequester, which cut $150 million from the USPTO budget. However, the patent office is not funded by the federal government's tax revenue, but rather from fees collected on patent and trademark applications. So, again, the question remains, why are plans for opening up the permanent Patent Office in Silicon Valley on hold yet again?

This spring, the White House Office of Management and Budget determined that is could not exempt the USPTO from the budget cuts, even though it was self-funded. In response, Representatives Mike Honda (D-San Jose), Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) introduced a cleverly named bill -- the Patents and Trademarks Encourage New Technology (PATENT) Jobs Act -- to "end the application of sequestration to the United States Patent and Trademark Office."

It seems like the PATENT Jobs Act could be the answer to everything, but with hearings scheduled for the coming weeks, we're still going to see delays. Refusing to speak on the legislation a USPTO spokesperson reiterated that the America Invents Act requires three more permanent regional offices shall open by 2014. So it may be less a question of "if", and more a question of "when". Until then, the temporary offices shall continue to operate.

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