Klobuchar Lobbies for Regional Patent Office in MN

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is looking into opening regional patent offices across the country, and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar wants the Twin Cities to be considered as a site for one of them.

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar is urging the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to establish a regional patent office in Minnesota.

There is now just one U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that's located in Alexandria, Virginia-but the agency is in the process of opening a regional office in Detroit and is considering other locations across the country. Klobuchar argued in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke that the Twin Cities would be a perfect area for such an office.

Klobuchar pointed out that the Twin Cities host several federal institutions like the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and the 8th Circuit Federal Court, have infrastructure to support the needs of federal agencies, and are home to a highly educated work force and innovative corporations.

“Minnesota companies have created some of our most important and iconic innovations, like the Post-it note, the wearable pacemaker, and the Cirrus SR22 airplane,” she said in the letter. “Furthermore, the Twin Cities has a high concentration of medical device manufacturers-like Medtronic and St. Jude Medical-that have seen patent applications double over the last decade.”

The United States currently faces a backlog of more than 700,000 patent applications. In addition to helping clear that backlog, regional patent offices could also spur economic development. USPTO Director David Kappos told Twin Cities Business several months ago that picking up the pace with patents is widely viewed as necessary to help companies leverage innovation to raise capital and to grow jobs, sales, and exports.

Another reason regional patent offices make sense: Due to space constraints at the USPTO's Virginia headquarters, more than half of the agency's 9,700 employees are working from home or off site at least one day each week. Opening regional offices could solve those space problems.

USPTO spokeswoman Jennifer Rankin-Byrne said in a Monday morning e-mail that the agency is now focused on opening the regional patent office in Detroit, adding, “We have not announced plans to open offices in other specific cities and have no other updates to share at this point.”

Locke's office previously said that site criteria for regional patent offices include “having a high percentage of scientists and engineers in the work force; providing access to major research institutions, particularly leading universities; and supporting a high volume of patenting activity and significant numbers of patent agents and attorneys in the area.” All are criteria that the Twin Cities metro area appears to fulfill.

According to a press release from Klobuchar's office, she learned about the need for a Minnesota satellite patent office at her January 18 “Innovation Summit”-which brought together business leaders and policy experts to discuss strategies to revitalize America's innovative edge and ability to compete globally.

Denver has been promoting itself as a USPTO site through lobbying by some of the city's attorneys and by Colorado's economic development officials. Ernest Grumbles, an intellectual property attorney with Merchant & Gould in Minneapolis, said several months ago that he wasn't aware of any lobbying efforts underway locally but added that, “I'd be very interested in being involved.”