In a teleconference with reporters on Thursday, December 16, 2010, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke – whose department includes the Patent Office – announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will open its first-ever satellite office in Detroit in the summer of 2011. Also during this teleconference, it was stated that Detroit will be the first in what could be a few satellite offices scattered around the country (Denver is known to be making a strong push for a satellite office). The objective of the satellite offices is to increase retention of the examining corps, as well as to increase the number of examiners, as the Office attempts to decrease the ever-increasing backlog of pending patent applications. According to the Associated Press, officials said Detroit was chosen because of the area’s high percentage of scientists and engineers — many with auto industry background — and the region’s major research universities. Alternatively, PTO insiders indicate that Detroit already has a Department of Commerce facility that helps sidestep congressional red tape. (besides, no point having examiners distracted by competitive baseball and football teams, works in DC after all)
The initial reports call for 100 examiners hired mostly from the local Detroit region, but it is currently unclear what technology area(s) these examiners will be drawn from. Should the Detroit office specialize in automotive technology, it may be that foreign auto manufacturers will be wary of a hometown bias against their patent filings.