Patent office could generate new jobs, $400 million for Colorado

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DENVER -- Colorado is believed to be a finalist -- if not a front-runner -- to be awarded the next U.S. satellite patent office in the next couple of weeks in the biggest economic development sweepstakes you've probably never heard of.

For months, the state's politicians, business leaders and research institutions have been working together to make the case that Colorado, for a number of reasons, is uniquely qualified to host the next satellite patent office.

Now, with the decision nearly at hand, those people are crossing their fingers and hoping for an announcement that would mean an estimated 1,000 new jobs for the state -- starting with about 200 patent examiners who would work at the office itself -- and, according to a study by the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, exceeding $400 million over the first five years.

"I'm very hopeful that we're going to get it done," Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, told FOX31 Denver Friday.

"Obviously, there's a huge economic impact. But maybe more importantly, I think it will brand Colorado for what we already know it is, which is a hub of innovation in this country -- in our aerospace, our bioscience and what we're doing in energy."

Colorado's geographic location in the center of the country makes it an ideal location for a patent office, within a few hours by airplane of most cities; and the state's abundance of research laboratories -- 25 federal labs and several more on the campuses of CU and CSU -- is another plus.

Additionally, the recent announcement of a new non-stop flight between Denver and Tokyo opens a gateway to Asia, where so many companies seeking patents are located.

"When you're in Asia, why fly to Virginia for your patent interview when you can fly to Denver for that instead -- and then go skiing the next day?" said John Posthumus, a patent attorney at Sheridan Ross and a leader of The Coalition For a Colorado Satellite Patent Office.

"We feel really good about our chances. This effort has received the support of the entire community.

"Having close access to a patent office locally would serve as an anchor in attracting businesses to Colorado in all sorts of industries -- aerospace, bioscience, telecommunications and energy," Posthumus told FOX31 Denver.

Looking to address an ongoing backlog at the U.S. Patent Office outside Washington, D.C., Congress last year passed the America Invents Act, approving the opening of three satellite offices outside of Washington, D.C., by 2014.

Colorado lost its bid for the first office, which was awarded to Detroit over a year ago, but appears to be on the short-list for the second, which is likely to be located in the western United States.

"We don't need any more patent examiners in Washington, D.C.," said Bennet, himself a driving force behind the America Invests Act. "They should be out in communities where the innovation is actually being done, so they can expedite the work and people can get on with their business plans."

At Geotech Environmental, a Denver manufacturing company located along Interstate 70 and just minutes from DIA, managers are optimistic about what a new, nearby patent office might mean to their business.

"There are all kinds of inventors and entreprenuers who come to us seeking assistance with their manufacturing and production assemblies," said Mickele Bragg, the company's production manager.

"Speeding up the patent process and having it happen so close to us would be great. We believe we'll have more customers, those inventors, and they'll have a greater opportunity for getting their products made."