In the near future, when a Connecticut intellectual property lawyer has a client with an exciting new invention and needs to register a trademark or patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, who knows, maybe that process can take place in Hartford.
At least that’s what Connecticut IP lawyers hope, as bar members are lobbying federal officials who intend to open several USPTO satellite offices around the country over the next few years. A satellite office is already scheduled to open later this year in Detroit; the federal agency is in the early consideration stages for "at least two more satellite offices" in the next three years, according to an agency official.
The USPTO announced in November it was seeking public input as to where it should open satellite offices. The competition is fierce.
In New England, there’s been support for Hartford, Rhode Island and Boston. Additional suggested locales include various cities in California, Florida, Colorado, New York, Missouri and Texas.
Despite the competition, Connecticut IP lawyers are keeping their fingers crossed.
"Why wouldn’t we put one in Hartford? This is a very innovative part of the world," said IP lawyer Richard Twilley, of McCormick, Paulding & Huber in Hartford. "Massachusetts and Connecticut have led the nation for decades for patents filed and granted per capita. When considering that Hartford’s roughly equidistant to Boston and New York, I think there’s no better place to put a satellite office."
The Hartford effort picked up momentum after Twilley suggested to an aide to U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman that Hartford would be a perfect location. Lieberman got on board and the aide contacted Gov. Dannel Malloy’s office, which also was immediately supportive. From there, letters of support have poured in from state politicians, IP lawyers, in-house counsel for Connecticut firms and college officials.
"Establishing a Connecticut satellite office would be an excellent way for the USPTO to meet its objectives of reducing the patent application backlog and improving patent examination quality, while also better serving the Northeast region’s high concentration of insurance and financial services companies, and the universities and entrepreneurs that support them," wrote Kenneth F. Spence III, general counsel for The Travelers Companies Inc. in Hartford,
In a lengthy letter filled with statistical support for why Hartford deserves a satellite office, Twilley notes that 23 million people live within 150 miles of Hartford and that Connecticut is home to "technological titans" such as General Electric, Stanley Black & Decker, pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer Inc., and media companies like ESPN, World Wrestling Entertainment and, soon, NBC Sports.
Twilley also points out that seven of the eight Ivy League schools and 17 of the nation’s top 50 research universities are within easy reach of Hartford. Twilley and Malloy also pointed to the state’s $100 million investment in stem cell research, a $2 billion investment in the Jackson Laborary medical research center and the University of Connecticut’s new bioscience research and clinical facilities.
Twilley further said that Connecticut residents and companies file the sixth most patent applications per capita and have the ninth most applications approved per capita.
"In terms of economic development, this would bring in 100 to 200 qualified advanced degree owning governmental employees," Twilley told the Law Tribune. "If Hartford did end up [with a USPTO office], it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the largest IP firms in the world opened satellite offices here."
Because the USPTO is in the early stages of fielding suggestions for satellite offices, there are no formal suggestions yet concerning where in the city a potential office would be located. But Malloy noted in his letter that Hartford office space can be leased more cheaply than that in New York City or Boston.
Short List In June
The USPTO decline a request to interview an official involved in the decision-making process. The agency did issue written statements to the Law Tribune via e-mail.
"USPTO has received more than 600 comments since we requested public input and the agency is doing its due diligence to analyze all submissions and independent data," wrote a USPTO official, who asked not to be identified. "The agency is running an objective process to best serve USPTO… We won’t have a short list until at least June. The preliminary openings for the second and third offices are summer 2013 and summer 2014."
According to the official, the Detroit satellite office is expected to create more than "100 high-paying, high-skill jobs in its first year of operation." Factors that the agency will consider in choosing other office sites include: the number of patent attorneys in the region; the number of patent applications by state; access to universities with strong engineering programs; public transportation infrastructure and proximate location to a major airport; the ability to share facilities with other established governmental operations; and the cost of living and unemployment rates of the city.
Michael A. Cantor, co-managing partner at the IP firm Cantor Colburn LLP, said a satellite office in Hartford would be convenient. The firm already has an office in Alexandria, Va., where the USPTO’s headquarters are.
"Our lawyers walk over there all the time," said Cantor, noting that his firm has 110 attorneys spread out over five locations nationwide, but that two-thirds of them are in Hartford. "[Being close to the Virginia office] helps us get better patents for our clients. Having a local office would help us to do the same thing for our clients here."
A satellite office in Hartford, Cantor opined, would be a boon to the local work force and universities. Cantor said that for many patent examiners, "it’s a stepping stone" to law school and, later an IP law practice.
"I think that would be a great idea," Matthew Wagner, chair of the IP department at Stamford’s Diserio Martin O’Connor & Castiglioni, said of the possibility of a satellite office in Hartford. "Not only would it provide additional jobs in the area but I think it would heighten awareness in the commercial and legal community around intellectual property."
Wagner said most of his contact with the USPTO on a day-to-day basis is through electronic filings. He said it would be especially convenient if the satellite office were to conduct Trademark Trial and Appeal Board hearings there. The administrative board hears and decides disputes between parties opposing a trademark or someone appealing a denial to a trademark application.
"There is a convenience factor of having the (satellite) office available for phone calls and to visit physically if you ever needed to do that," said Wagner. "If they do have arguments there, that would be terrific instead of going down to D.C."