The US Patent and Trademark Office has historically had only a single office in the Washington, D.C. area.   The new Smith-Leahy America Invents Act, however, calls for the establishment of three branch offices of the USPTO.  The first one of the branch offices just opened its doors in Detroit, Michigan, and has been named the Elijah J. McCoy United States Patent and Trademark Office. 

What better place could there be for the first branch office of the US Patent and Trademark Office than Detroit?  I know it is the first place I thought of -- after Boston, Palo Alto, Chicago, Austin, Ann Arbor, Raleigh and about twelve other places.  But the logic of this choice is abundantly clear now!  Detroit -- “motor city” -- has long been the automotive capital of the US.  Why not make this branch a “drive-in” Patent Office.  Likewise, a branch office in Houston could be a “satellite” office.   And no need for an actual office in Silicon Valley – the one “there” would be a “virtual” office.   And why not one in Williamsburg, Virginia, where the examiners would dress as they did in the early days of the Patent Office to the delight of busloads of school children who want to know how to make potash and gin cotton?  Of course, there should be a branch office on Wall Street for business method patents, like “Method and System for Making a Banking Institution Failure Proof.” 

Three branches are clearly not going to be enough.  Everyone will want one.  Why not put one next to every Starbucks?  Why stop with domestic branches? Let’s have branches in other countries so our friends there can file patent applications in the US Patent and Trademark Office.  We can start with at least one Patent Office branch in each NAFTA country.  Why not put one in Tehran next to where our embassy used to be as a goodwill gesture?   

I know what you’re thinking.  “What about the expense!”  These offices don’t have to be expensive.  A branch office could simply be a walk-up kiosk with a monitor and some buttons and a couple of slots to receive documents and issue receipts, and maybe a USB port.  One button, the big one, would be the HELP button.  When you press it, a friendly, deep male voice says, “Welcome to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.  For English, press 1; to repeat this message, press 1.”  Visitors to these kiosks can watch helpful videos of the commissioner’s recent press releases, documentaries on the early days of the Patent Office, and maybe funny YouTube-type videos of examiner interviews during which the inventor’s demonstration of an invention goes horribly wrong.  

To make sure everyone knows where the nearest US Patent Office branch is, the Patent Office needs to advertise on the internet.  The Patent and Trademark Office could purchase the use of key search terms like “idea,” “royalty,” “gadget,” and “ex parte Quayle” from Google and then, any time one of these terms is used in a search, the top entry in the search results string would be the US Patent and Trademark Branch Office near you.