5:00am

Thu July 5, 2012
Business

Patent Pending: Satellite Office Comes To Denver

We learned this week that Denver has been selected for a new satellite operation of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office along with Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas and San Jose, California.

KUNC’s Brian Larson spoke with Boulder County Business Report publisher Chris Wood about what the new office will mean for the state and the Boulder Valley.

Larson: We first spoke about Colorado applying for this office back in mid-February. The city of Boulder had also made a pitch at that time. We now know that Denver has been selected – and this has generated its fair share of excitement this week.

Wood: Excitement to the tune of $440 million in economic activity over the next five years alone to be precise. That’s the amount predicted to be generated by the new office, according to a study used in Denver’s bid for the office.

Larson: Six states had applied to host a total of three new offices. What do you think set apart Colorado’s bid from the other states?

Wood: It largely stems from the efforts of Colorado’s two senators, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, who co-sponsored an amendment to the America Invents Act, authorizing the Patent Office to open at least three additional satellite offices over the next three years, in addition to one already authorized for Detroit. Every member of Colorado’s congressional delegation, and a host of business, government and civic leaders, all joined in support of Denver’s bid.

Larson: So this $440 million dollars in economic activity that you mentioned – where would it come from?

Wood: First of all, proponents say that this office will generate new business activity, as Colorado will be an even more attractive location for high-tech companies seeking to protect their intellectual property. Patent applications should be processed much faster, with less travel and other expenses. Additionally, the Denver-Boulder area already boasts many law firms that specialize in intellectual property, and those firms are expected to expand as demand increases. And the patent office itself will eventually employ 1,000 people.

Larson: So, direct employment, high-tech growth and, of course, lawyers. Is a new patent office really that big a deal when companies seek to relocate?

Wood: It probably is. Just look at all of the intellectual-property lawsuits that have been ongoing on a global basis, as well as the patent portfolios that have swapped corporate hands in the past year or two. Protecting intellectual property is a top priority for companies of all types, and having a patent office in our backyard should be a boon for existing businesses and a lure for new companies.

Larson: While the patent office is certainly good news – I do want to touch on some bad news we recently learned. A company that we’ve spoke about frequently over the years – Loveland-based Abound Solar – has file for bankruptcy. What’s behind this move?

Wood: China is behind the move. Abound, like another solar manufacturer, Solyndra, fell victim to plummeting prices for solar cells, which fell 50 percent in price last year thanks in large part to China flooding the market with cheap solar cells. Whereas Solyndra had used most of a $535 million federal loan guarantee, Abound had used $68 million of a $400 million guarantee. Taxpayers are likely to be on the hook for up to $60 million of that. The Commerce Department is implementing tariffs on Chinese solar cells, after allegations of dumping, but that change came too late for Abound.

Larson: Chris Wood is the publisher of the Boulder County Business Report.

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