In Novel Move, City Campus Gets US Patent Officer

In a first-of-its-kind effort to help students and others capitalize on their ideas, a patent officer is setting up shop at a New York City technology graduate-school campus.

The U.S. Commerce Department and Cornell University announced the plan Tuesday. The patent worker is already working at the new CornellNYC Tech applied sciences school.

The patent office has recently unveiled plans for satellite offices in places ranging from Detroit to California's Silicon Valley. But the "innovation and outreach coordinator" at Cornell NYC Tech is a novel effort to help innovators on campus — and in the city at large — get advice on capitalizing on their ideas — hopefully with less red tape, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank and patent office Director David Kappos said.

The staffer may consult one-on-one and give classes on such topics as how to best to write a patent application, what financial help might be available and what commercial strategy to pursue, Blank said.

Beyond advice on navigating the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship, the plan aims to foster discussion on one of tech's touchy subjects: the balance between protecting intellectual property and fostering the public benefits of innovation, such as making computer code publicly available for others to adapt and build on.

"That dialogue is something that the United States has to have," Cornell President David J. Skorton said. "This is a conduit for the U.S. government to be working directly with the innovation community ... to figure out: What's the right place for intellectual property in one of the areas of our economy that's growing like crazy right now?"

Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are running the school. About 20 students will be admitted to a one-year master's program that starts in January.

At the moment, it's operating in Manhattan, in a space donated by Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc. The school's permanent home on Roosevelt Island is to open in 2017.