Patent Office Shows How Private-Public Partnerships Can Work

A U.S. patent office will open in San Jose. This is the result of diverse political interests uniting in a shared goal. It is a victory for San Jose and the region, and it will help Silicon Valley businesses, which are the heart of our nation’s economic engine.

Given the number of patents that emanate from our valley, the government decision to locate an office in San Jose or somewhere in Silicon Valley could be considered a no-brainer. But that is not how government works and the competition between 600 cities desperate for job creation was fierce

Congress members Zoe Lofgren, Mike Honda and Anna Eshoo led the charge. Carl Guardino and The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, an increasingly powerful force for our region, led the business community effort. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and a united City Council provided necessary resources for the bid.

San Jose also benefitted from its support for transportation systems and improvements—policies that were generated long ago by Norm Mineta, Rod Diridon Sr. and city and county governments from 1980 to the present. Taxpayers who supported increased taxes for BART to San Jose were a major factor in the award.

But considering California accounts for 25 percent of all new patents—with half of those coming from Silicon Valley—and we have the area’s aforementioned advantages, why wouldn’t San Jose be chosen? Let’s do the political math.

California is not a swing state. Silicon Valley employment, compared to the rest of the nation, is very good. The cost of living is higher than other areas. There is a huge bias against anything “California” in Washington D.C., especially by the Republican house majority.

Moreover, intense political lobbying went on from every local area to get the offices located in places other than California. Our representatives had to be on task at every point in the process to ensure San Jose would be included.

The personal relationships of our congress members to key decision makers in the patent office and commerce department were critical to landing the deal. That is how Washington works, and we are fortunate our delegation is well regarded in a town that rewards only the influential.

Sometimes good politics and good public policy go hand in hand. In the case of our new patent office, we would be sending our ideas to Ohio or Florida for approval if less gifted public officials and business representatives had represented our region.

So, congratulations to all who pulled this off for Silicon Valley. Your positive public service contribution is much appreciated.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

One Comment

  1. Like they say, “ff you’re a hammer, everything can look like a nail.”  I think you have too much of a tendency to think of everything as being political, even when when it isn’t.

    The USPTO has a hard time recruiting patent examiners.  It simply makes sense to go where the talent is.

    Rather than thanking every politician that ever got elected here, you should be thanking Bill Hewlett, David Packard, Bob Noyce, Gordon Moore, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, the Google Guys, Mark Zuckerberg and all the other folks that really made Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley.