Dear <<First Name>>:

Over the past decade, Silicon Valley has dominated the U.S. high tech environment. With its multitude of companies (in all lifecycle phases), internationally recognized universities, a highly sophisticated venture capital community, and an enormous track record of success and value creation, it is no wonder that so many entrepreneurs, start-ups, and dominant market leaders insist on being headquartered in the Bay Area.

Will San Francisco continue to be the preeminent U.S. high tech locale in 2029 – a mere ten years from now? Many believe it will because of its enormous resources, beautiful weather, and current momentum. However, others are spotting storm clouds of uncertainty on the horizon. Specifically, the locale is literally running out of space to accommodate additional infrastructure and a growing population. Relatedly, the cost of living and traffic is becoming prohibitive for entry level people and service providers, such as police, fire, medical, and educational workers – many of whom now have to commute 2-3 hours each way each day to work. The contrast between the ultra-rich and the poor is dramatic, with addicts passed out on sidewalks in front of iconic buildings in San Francisco’s financial district. As the local government spends more and more to try to alleviate these social problems, the crisis persists. Finally, the recent massive forest fires to the north and east spooked local residents and global investors.

Let’s not forget that San Francisco did not always enjoy this high tech radiance. Not too long ago, in the 1930s, the famous novelist and Hollywood writer Raymond Chandler portrayed the city as a grimy, tough seaport. As the adage goes – what goes up must come down – the only question is when.

There are other high tech centers in the U.S. that could take the mantle from San Francisco. It is interesting to speculate which cities will be the dominant players in 2029. Notable contenders include Boston, Austin, Denver, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, DC, and Minneapolis, along with some smaller cities.

Boston is a significant contender and arguably was the dominant tech city before San Francisco took the lead. Boston’s university infrastructure is second-to-none in the U.S. It is an attractive city with an existing stronghold in the medical technology field due to its world-class hospitals and research institutions. On the flip side, its weather can be harsh and its cost of living is already high.

Austin and Denver have come on strong in the past decade, especially in electronics and internet technology. With lower costs of living and lots of outdoor recreational options, these cities have become magnets for younger techies.

Seattle and New York also are strong contenders, with Seattle being the home of Boeing, Microsoft, and Amazon, and New York City being the U.S. financial and corporate headquarters leader. In particular, the Big Apple seems to be attracting many of the most accomplished millennials because of its hip, Internet driven, advertising and finance culture. Again, the high cost of living is a factor in each city.

Los Angeles and San Diego each have lots to offer as leading high tech centers. In many ways they are the bookends of a technology corridor that excels both in health sciences and electronic and communications technology, not to mention global media dominance. But recent fires and other environmental crises, along with the high population density and high cost of living, have put a pale on the outstanding weather and outdoor lifestyle this area offers.

Chicago is the dominant city in the Midwest, and is a strong contender because of its superior infrastructure and transportation importance. However, its harsh winter weather, fiscal issues, and relatively high cost of living are holding it back.

Atlanta is the high tech center of the Southeast, and has outstanding transportation advantages with its very busy airport and geographical proximity to Central and South America. Washington, DC, has a strong presence in Internet and defense technology. Minneapolis is strong in medical technology and other high tech areas, but its northern weather is a barrier for some.

One can see that there is no clear picture as to which city or geographic area will dominate in 2029.  Perhaps it will be several cities and not just one, a matrix of locales operating on a U.S. or global scale. However, Michael Porter, Paul Krugman and other academic researchers have highlighted the growing competitive advantage of business or industry clusters.

Two other timely topics to address. On October 30th, the Federal Circuit called into question the Constitutionality of the USPTO’s Patent Trial & Appeal Board. It is more than likely this case will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court and may require corrective legislation by the U.S. Congress. J.C. Rozendaal and I will be part of a high level briefing on this topic hosted by the Practising Law Institute on December 11th. More information about this audio briefing can be found here.

On December 3rd, Gene Quinn and I hosted a webinar with LexisNexis IP titled “How China is Changing the Global Patent System.” In this webinar, we covered how China is fundamentally transforming the global IP landscape and what practitioners need to do to prepare for these changes. A link to the webinar will be made available shortly. This topic has been discussed in many of my prior FOCUS2019 newsletters, including FOCUS #29 and FOCUS #47. As promised, a picture of my personal copy of Mao’s Little Red Book is included with this newsletter.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on November 28th here in the United States. We want to thank each of you for your attention to this newsletter, your feedback and ideas, and your continued attention to the optimization of the global IP system to benefit all of mankind.

Best wishes,
Rob Sterne     

This e-newsletter is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox PLLC or any other organization.

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