USPTO Detroit office open for business
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USPTO Detroit office open for business

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USPTO officials confirmed Friday during the opening ceremony of the Elijah J McCoy patent office in Detroit that the facility’s first 50 examiners will be assigned applications in art units 2800, 3600 and 3700

Those sections cover various mechanical and electrical technologies.

Detroit USPTO office opening

USPTO commissioner for patents Peggy Focarino told Managing IP last month that only examiners with mechanical and electrical backgrounds have been hired for the Detroit office so far. But local practitioners have been uncertain which art units, which cover specific technologies, would be represented.

The technologies in the identified units are typical of the Detroit area: for example, automotives and auto parts and electrical motor control systems.

But many local practitioners are hopeful that the USPTO will expand that focus to include other art units eventually, such as medical devices and chemical inventions. Focarino has said that the chemical area has experienced the least growth, so the Office is not initially including examiners with chemical backgrounds.

Many practitioners would also like the option of having a Detroit examiner handle their applications. All applications originating from Michigan will still be filed through the Alexandria office for now, and assigned to the next available examiner – regardless of whether that examiner is based in Alexandria or Detroit.

USPTO Detroit office opening

But the Office has said that practitioners and inventors will still benefit from having hands-on access to high-tech videoconferencing equipment, which they can use to schedule virtual face-to-face interviews with examiners, as well as the USPTO’s search database. Some practitioners Managing IP spoke with seemed sceptical that such equipment would be used, however.

“Detroit had one of the USPTO’s few deposit library facilities downtown at one time,” said Matthew Schmidt of Reising Ethington. “That had a videoconferencing room and search facilities also, but it got very little use.”

The videoconferencing room in the Elijah J McCoy office includes a giant flat-screen television and state-of the art equipment. But the problem with the old facility was not the equipment, said attorneys, but getting examiners to agree to virtual interviews. Since many examiners work remotely, they usually have to travel for interviews.

At the very least, having the first USPTO satellite office has brought attention to Detroit-area firms. Some are confident that foreign and other clients who typically used Washington firms for patent filing due mostly to their proximity to the main office may now reach out to Detroit firms, where some of the largest patent filers reside.

The Office said it chose Detroit due in part to the number of patent applications by state, access to universities, the percentage of engineers in the workforce and the number of patent attorneys and agents, among other factors.

USPTO Detroit office opening

Friday’s opening ceremony included figures such as Congressman John Conyers, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, local congressional representatives, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, USPTO director David Kappos and deputy director Teresa Stanek Rea.

The first seven administrative law judges were also sworn in by Blank at the ceremony. Although the Office only officially opened today (Monday), they have been working there for more than a week.

The first 25 examiners will be trained via high-tech videoconferencing equipment by USPTO staff in Alexandria for 20 days.

Members of the press were given a tour following the ceremony. The building, located at 300 River Street in Detroit, is occupied by other businesses as well. The USPTO is leasing 31,000 square feet of office space.

It is unclear whether the Office will be able to fit many more than 125 employees in that space as the facility grows – Kappos told Managing IP they are also considering hiring trade mark examiners in Detroit, although no decision has been made.

According to the Department of Commerce and the USPTO the new office is expected to help reduce the backlog of patent applications and improve patent quality by hiring skilled local professionals. All of the examiners hired for the Detroit office have at least one year of patent prosecution experience.

Managing IP will examine the effects of the office on local firms and companies in more depth in its September issue.

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