USPTO Tried To Hide Abuse And Fraud By Patent Examiners From Inspector General
from the part-II dept
So, we just wrote about the fact that there was apparently fairly widespread abuse and fraud by patent examiners, mostly those working from home, in lying about the hours they put in and getting paid for work they didn’t do. However, what may be much more concerning was the fact that the USPTO tried to hide this from the Inspector General who was investigating this. As the Washington Post notes, an initial internal report detailed many more examples of fraud and abuse, which disappeared from the final report that was handed over.
But when it came time last summer for the patent office to turn over the findings to its outside watchdog, the most damaging revelations had disappeared. The report sent to Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser concluded that it was impossible to know if the whistleblowers? allegations of systemic abuses were true.
?What we hoped to see was an unfiltered response,? Zinser said.?That?s not what this was. It?s a lot less sensational. The true extent of the problem was not being conveyed to us.?
The original findings, by contrast, raise ?fundamental issues? with the business model of the patent office, which oversees an essential function of U.S. commerce, said Zinser, who was provided a copy of the original by a patent official.
The white washing of the abuse seems particularly problematic, given that it paints a very different picture, where the problems aren’t so pervasive, and that the problems don’t go back to leadership (hmm…).
Both reports conclude that policies negotiated with the patent examiners? union have left managers with few tools to monitor their staffs. Both acknowledge that supervisors have limited access to records that could prove suspected time fraud, resulting in negligible disciplinary action.
But the original one describes a culture of fraud that is overlooked by senior leaders, lax enforcement of the rules and the resulting frustration of many front-line supervisors. The version provided to the watchdog was far less conclusive, saying that managers who were interviewed held ?inconsistent? views on whether examiners were gaming the system.
The USPTO is trying to frame this distinction as being that the first report was a “rough draft” and the latter was a more complete version, but it seems like the opposite. The first was pretty complete, and the second is… missing a bunch.
The fact that the USPTO tried to hide this abuse — and the fact that it appears to be systemic — also suggestions an operation that is not looking to fix the problems, but to brush them under the rug. It certainly does not inspire much confidence.