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Opinion Editorial-Denver Post-"New Patent Office in Denver will Spur Innovation, Jobs"

Monday, July 9, 2012

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Opinion Editorial, Denver Post
"New Patent Office in Denver will Spur Innovation, Jobs"

Thomas Edison received more than 1,000 U.S. patents as the inventor of the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the first practical light bulb, to name a few. And, as a true entrepreneur, Edison worked to put his inventions on productions lines of American factories so that people everywhere could buy them.

Today, as we emerge from a deep recession, thousands of entrepreneurs are gearing up to follow in Edison’s footsteps. They live all across America, including in Denver. They are ready to put their creative ideas to work in the global marketplace and create good jobs here at home.

The Obama administration is working alongside state, local and private sector partners to foster an environment in which these innovators can start thriving new businesses.

One critical pillar of their success is a strong and efficient patent system that protects their intellectual property and empowers them to compete.

That’s why, last week, I was pleased to announce the first-ever satellite offices of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The Denver area will be home to one of them, along with Dallas, Silicon Valley, and Detroit.

These offices will help expand the capacity and productivity of our patent system. That’s important, because more people are filing patent applications than ever before. From 2009 to 2011, the number of patent applications jumped by about 10 percent.

To help meet this growing demand, we anticipate that each office will hire about 100 new patent examiners, intellectual property experts, administrative law judges, and others.

Working with the local community, they will help develop a powerful hub for innovation in Denver by building on this area’s strengths, including its large number of workers with science and engineering degrees as well as Denver’s thriving industries such as aerospace, aviation, and biosciences. In fact, I will be meeting with some of these folks when I visit Denver on Thursday.

By expanding USPTO to more regions and more time zones, we will be able to serve entrepreneurs better than ever before. These four offices will allow us to reach out and help them get the patents they need, so that they can attract capital and put their business plans into action.

Importantly, more patent holders mean more good-paying jobs.

A recent Commerce Department report showed that industries that rely heavily on intellectual property protection support at least 40 million jobs. And these jobs pay about 42 percent higher—on average—than others, helping strengthen economic security for middle class families.

But these efforts to modernize our patent system—flowing from the America Invents Act that President Obama signed last year—are only one piece of the puzzle. There is even more we need to do to support a 21st-century American economy built on innovation.

For example, President Obama is calling on Congress to provide more funding for research and development in his 2013 budget, including increased support for critical areas like high-tech and advanced manufacturing.

In addition, the Commerce Department is helping lead an effort with over 200 universities—including the University of Colorado and Colorado School of Mines—to push more of their technological discoveries into the marketplace, through commercialization.

And, of course, we need to ensure that even more bright young people have the opportunity to enter and succeed in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. That’s why the President’s new budget proposes increased support for STEM education.

For America to continue its global economic leadership, we need more Edisons—more Americans who have a passion for ushering in new ideas that improve our way of life, strengthen our prosperity, and create good jobs for the middle class.

So let’s continue to make smart and strategic investments to create an innovation economy, which is key to America’s overall strength in the 21st century.

Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

The people of Denver have worked hard to bolster America’s entrepreneurial spirit and to attract a new patent office. Let’s keep pushing forward to support our innovators here and across the nation as they create new products that will keep America competitive.