SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Silicon Valley officially got its first working branch of the patent office and it may get some help on immigration and environmental policy this year, too. But as with all political gifts, there will be trade-offs, many still being worked out.
A small team of U.S. patent office administrative law judges will be working from a temporary facility in Menlo Park, Calif. by May. It is one of three new regional patent office branches opening up outside Washington D.C.
The Menlo Park office will be part of a larger permanent Silicon Valley branch likely to be re-located within about a year, said Rebecca Blank, U.S Deputy Commerce Secretary at a open forum hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) here.
The judges mainly will be handling cases that challenge a patent’s validity, said Michelle K. Lee, director of the new branch. Lee, a former top patent attorney for Google and a long time Silicon Valley resident, declined to provide details about the office’s budget or other responsibilities.
(From left) Cromwell Schubarth, Silicon Valley Business Journal; U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Jennifer Blank and Aart de Geus, chief executive of Synopsys.
Indeed, details were scarce at the SVLG meeting that hosted local, state and national panels with participants including San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and Blank.
Blank, the acting Department of Commerce Secretary ,said she expects legislators to pass an immigration reform bill. But “there are a good number of arguments ahead to see how that bill gets shaped,” she added.
She told Silicon Valley executives in the audience what they wanted to hear about that bill. The administration wants to see it include provisions to grant a green card and a fast path to citizenship to both foreign-born entrepreneurs and those who graduate U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, math, engineering and technology.
But the administration believes those policies need to be coupled with other reforms including provisions about border security and a path to citizenship for those who have been working illegally in the U.S. for an unspecified time.
“The details are yet to be agreed upon in a way that everyone is ready to sign on but were working on it,” Blank said, noting multiple coalitions could block a bill if it does not address their concerns.
What is the real reason for a western patent office? In this day and age few inventors ever need to visit a patent office. All the patents are online and email / telephone communications allow for rapid back and forth discussions with examiners. Other than the political prestige of a western patent office, will it also enable the patent office to hire a number of examiners who would not be willing relocate to the east coast? Or do examiners already work remotely from their preferred location?