Patent Office plans first-ever satellite office – in Detroit

I think that this news has flown too far under the radar: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is planning to open its first satellite office in Detroit this July. According to, the agency expects employ 100 people in its first year; they will operate out of a 31,000 sq-ft building east of downtown.

It’s hard to underscore how awesome this is (and not just because it brings jobs). As the University of Michigan VP for research puts it: “This is great news for the Great Lakes region, the state of Michigan and the University of Michigan.”

Why Detroit? As acting chief communications officer of the USPTO, Richard Maulsby, told’s Eric Markowitz, Detroit “fulfilled a number of critical criteria, including a high percentage of scientists and engineers in the workforce; access to major research institutions; a high volume of patenting activity; and a significant number of patent agents and attorneys in the area.”

According to Markowitz, “Detroit also has the highest concentration of industrial and mechanical engineers in the United States—about three times the U.S. average—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2009, Michigan ranked 7th in the nation for the total number of patents with 3,516. And The Dice Report, a monthly look at the technology job market, reported last year that Detroit is now the fastest-growing region for technology jobs in America.”

Wow! Gene Quinn, President of IPWatchdog, thinks it also has to do with Michigan being a swing state in the upcoming election.

The Patent Office is opening two more satellite offices this year, and they are seeking input on locations. Quinn outlines the factors identified in the Federal Register as the following:

  1. Will the location increase outreach activities to better connect patent filers and innovators with the USPTO?
  2. Will the location enhance patent examiner retention and provide a strong quality of life;
  3. Will the location improve recruitment of patent examiners;
  4. Will the location decrease the number of patent applications;
  5. Will the location improve quality of patent examination;
  6. Does the location have available office space;
  7. Are there universities with strong engineering programs nearby?
  8. Are there research facilities nearby?
  9. Will there be a positive economic impact to the region?

Quinn doesn’t think that Detroit fares well under this rubric, but I disagree. I guess it depends on how you weight these factors. Number 9 and 6 are obvious wins. Cheap office space abounds (certainly more so than one of Quinn’s suggested Midwestern locations—Chicago). 1, 4, 5 are pretty amorphous. 7 and 8 are met. Detroit is filled with universities, and then Ann Arbor, just a short jaunt away, has University of Michigan, one of the nation’s premier engineering program, and Flint has Kettering University, also a great engineering school.

Quinn suggests the following 10 cities as possible locations: Orange County California; Houston, Texas (or somewhere in Texas); Melbourne, Florida; Syracuse, New York; Denver Colorado; Madison, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Albuquerque, New Mexico; San Diego, California; Northern California.

It seems obvious that somewhere in California needs to be on the list. What are your thoughts?

2012 TED Prize Winner “City 2.0” announces its “wish”

Janet Echelman at the 2011 TED conference
Artist Janet Echelman at 2011 TED conference
TED awarded its annual prize this year to an idea rather than a person, and that idea is “City 2.0.” Now, they’ve announced the winner’s “wish.” Here it is, in all its lofty-worded glory:

I am the crucible of the future.
I am where humanity will either flourish or fade.
I am being built and rebuilt every day.
I am inevitable. But I am not yet determined.
I wish to be inclusive, innovative, healthy, soulful, thriving. But my potential can only be reached through you.

You can forge a new urban outlook. Begin by connecting. Imagine a platform that brings you together, locally and globally. Combine the reach of the cloud with the power of the crowd. Connect leaders, experts, companies, organizations and citizens. Share your tools, data, designs, successes, and ideas. Turn them into action.

Together you can:

  • Bridge the gap between poor and rich communities.
  • Spectacularly reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Make nature part of daily life.
  • Empower entrepreneurship.
  • Re-imagine education.
  • Nurture health.

I am the City 2.0. Dream me. Build me. Make me real.

Whew! What a lot of indistinct goals. But it does provide some roadmap for areas that city innovation can help improve society. I’m very glad education made the bullet list: It’s an area where there is so much discussion about state v. federal control, but it’s cities that make real on-the-ground breakthroughs. TED has put together a new website——where people can share ideas and tag their location, to encourage collaboration. Pretty neat. I tried to register for the site, but got this message: “Due to a high volume of submissions, we are experiencing technical difficulties.” So, that’s good news: Lots of people want to help our cities create future.  I encourage you to check out the project.