USPTO will spark innovation in the West

by Tom Clark

When the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced Metro Denver’s selection as one of six satellite expansion offices, Senator Michael Bennet called me at home to offer his congratulations. I told the Senator that I feared that instead of touting our success, the local newspapers’ headline could have stated he’d been guilty of stalking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va. Such was the effort of the Senator to bring home a prize that is not only symbolic but will bring new tools to the job creation efforts of the Rocky Mountain West.

For the last 15 years, Colorado and Metro Denver have labored to build a brand of “innovation, creativity and invention.” When the USPTO announced it would expand to other areas of the United States, Colorado knew that its branding efforts would be significantly more effective if selected as one of the new sites.  

A USPTO office in Colorado was a decade-long dream. Other states had the same goal, knowing that such a prize would increase innovation and entrepreneurialism in their communities. But economic incentives are virtually useless when courting another governmental enterprise. Metro Denver was ultimately judged on what it had to offer now and in the near future.

There is an important lesson in all this. Metro Denver and Colorado have been on a growth trajectory for over two decades. During that period of time, citizens have approved large investments in infrastructure – convention centers, airports, arts and culture, stadiums, and transit. Our region made these investments because our residents want to live in a great place. But these investments turned out to be crucial elements in our successful application. The USPTO had certain site requirements that would make or break an application. One was an airport that had convenient flights to the rest of the region and nation. Another required public rail transit to the airport; its relocating employees from the Washington D.C. were accustomed to living and working on transit lines. The final issue was lifestyle, a community where its employees could find diverse housing, unique neighborhoods, and a quality lifestyle to make their own. 

Little did we know that Denver International Airport’s construction, the building of our arts and cultural facilities, and the creation of FasTracks, would combine to bring this iconic symbol of innovation to its new home…Metro Denver, Colorado.

We were blessed with a cohesive Congressional delegation. Legislation crafted by Senators Udall and Bennet created the USPTO expansion.  Representatives DeGette and Coffman steered the wording through the House. Senator Bennet, Governor Hickenlooper, and Representatives Perlmutter and DeGette lent their persuasive powers in every encounter with President Obama and his staff. In fact, President Obama received an intensive lobbying effort by Governor Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Hancock on a limo ride to DIA.

Why was this prize so important to Colorado? And why did the entire region pursue it? Quite simply the presence of USPTO in Metro Denver will improve the speed to market for the inventions of our local companies. The agency has aggressive plans to take its programs to local school children that will spark the imagination of another generation of American inventors. And its presence will reduce the cost of doing business for inventors seeking to protect the value of their efforts.

Recently two young IT entrepreneurs thanked us for our successful effort to bring the satellite patent office here. They disclosed that roughly 20 percent of their work time was devoted to protecting their intellectual property within their software. The cost of flying back and forth to Alexandria, Va. to secure patents was simply too costly for them as a startup company. With the ease of access to expert staff at the new USPTO satellite here in Colorado, these young business people will now be more productive with their work and have better protection for their inventions.

And finally, there are always those whose service is seen by few, but whose role in any project is pivotal to success. A special “thanks” to three volunteers who spent their 2011 Christmas vacation doing the hard work of drafting the successful application: John Posthumous, attorney with Sheridan Ross P.C., Pam Reichert, Vice President of the Metro Denver EDC, and Monisha Merchant of Senator Bennet’s staff. Well done.

Tom Clark

Former CEO of Metro Denver Economic Development Council

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