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Patents climb in Rochester

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The total number of patents issued to Rochester-area businesses increased again in the final quarter of 2010, according to figures released by the Albany intellectual property law firm of Hoffman Warnick LLC.

The increase was modest but has been climbing steadily since Hoffman Warnick began compiling the patent figures for Rochester in 2009.

The “Rochester Patent Index” includes data for Monroe and Ontario counties, and reveals that a total of 542 patents were issued to Rochester businesses in the fourth quarter of 2010. There were 310 patents issued to companies other than Xerox and Kodak, consistent with the third quarter of last year. National figures declined for the second straight quarter.

“The fact that Rochester’s patent growth has outpaced the national numbers is a very positive signal for the region,” according to Michael Hoffman, co-founder and managing partner with Hoffman Warnick.

“We think what you’re seeing in Rochester is it has a lot of technology-based companies that have a lot of possibility for growth,” said Spencer Warnick, also a co-founder and managing partner with the firm. “With the way things have been going for Xerox and Kodak, you have a lot of inventors — guys who have been laid off — who need something to do.”

It’s a trend Warnick said happened in Albany years ago when companies such as General Electric laid off workers, and now it is happening in Rochester.

Another reason for the growth is the relative ease of setting up business here, thanks to low-cost office space and guidance from sources such as Rochester Institute of Technology and High Tech Rochester.

The firm itself is looking to expand to Rochester. It has several attorneys working here already and is looking for office space. 

Warnick mentioned Carestream, focusing on medical imaging technology and headquartered in Rochester, as an example of an innovative company active in obtaining new patents. Henrietta-based Lumetrics Inc. also recently received patent approval for evaluating the internal structure of the human eye to assist surgeons and increase the effectiveness and safety of surgery.

Steve Heveron-Smith, Lumetrics’ vice president for marketing and business development,  said it is Lumetrics’ second patent and the company has a number of others in the works. Heveron-Smith said he foresees adding additional employees and increasing long term growth because of it.

The company started in 2002, and its primary business is selling high precision thickness measurement and gauging systems for industrial application. Lumetrics received a Small Business Innovative Research grant along with the patent approval and could receive additional federal SBIR funds for its human eye work.

“This allows us to look at new technology and increase our exposure in human eye measurement,” Heveron-Smith said.

Despite a drop of approximately 2,800 patents issued nationwide from the third to fourth quarter of 2010, Warnick said he believes the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is clearing up a backlog of cases and heading in the right direction under the leadership of Director David Kappos.

“It was a bad scene there for many years,” Warnick said. “They had an unacceptable backlog of cases. He’s really been a breath of fresh air in that office. He changed the attitude of the office and clarified the standards. He knows what inventors need.”

The complete patent index may be found at www.hoffmanwarnick.com/index.

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