The USPTO has announced that it will open a satellite office in Detroit in 2011, that will employ about 100 people. The PTO said that Detroit was chosen due to its high percentage of scientists and engineers “in the workforce” (ed.’s note: and drawing unemployment), its leading universities (ed.’s note: true, considering Wayne State, the University of Michigan and Case Western Reserve – not too far away) and the presence of a high volume of patenting activity in the area (ed.’s note: due mostly to the presence of Harness Dickey & Pierce, successful firm known best for prosecution for the auto industry). Certainly, the PTO is to be applauded for taking this innovative and challenging step, but I would like to know what group art units will be represented, and what kind of “bricks and mortar” facility is planned.
For about 15 years, Schwegman Lundberg & Woessner has worked successfully with satellite attorneys around the country, who are officed in their homes and who generate and link up to the firm’s “file room” via Citrix and Foundation IP. These are not “contract attorneys” but associates who can advance as steadily as associates in our San Jose or Minneapolis home offices. In fact, three of our satellite associates have become equity shareholders in the firm. Often they are lateral hires with significant experience, who require little training to get up to speed.
Thinking of satellite personnel makes me wonder if the PTO really plans on opening a facility or if it will simply aggregate a number of Examiners in the area who can work from home. But then, how will in-person interviews be handled? Or training? Some problems can be avoided by only placing senior examiners in Detroit to begin with; but is the PTO full of folks who want to relocate to Detroit? Are the 100 jobs all support staff positions? Time will tell.