Patent Examiners Regularly Engaged In Fraud And Abuse Via Telework Program

from the and-lied-about-it dept

For quite some time now, we've discussed how the USPTO had a massive backlog, and that former boss David Kappos solved this "problem" by getting examiners to approve more patents faster, mainly by lowering their standards and granting more patents. Whenever we write about this, we hear about overworked patent examiners who are really trying their best. Except, it appears that the system is actually rife with abuse and fraud by patent examiners:
Some of the 8,300 patent examiners, about half of whom work from home full time, repeatedly lied about the hours they were putting in, and many were receiving bonuses for work they didn’t do. And when supervisors had evidence of fraud and asked to have the employee’s computer records pulled, they were rebuffed by top agency officials, ensuring that few cheaters were disciplined, investigators found.

Oversight of the telework program — and of examiners based at the Alexandria headquarters — was “completely ineffective,” investigators concluded.
This comes on the heels of a similar report about the paralegals who work at the USPTO. We had skipped that story, because it wasn't the actual examiners, but it appears that the story with examiners is basically the same. Generally, the ability to telework is a good thing, offering lots of flexibility for those who can handle it, but it's certainly also open to abuse by those who can't (or by those who wish to abuse the system). It appears that the USPTO set up the worst of all worlds in creating a telework system with no way of either truly monitoring how it was being used or any way to stop any abuses.

Oh, and worse, the USPTO then tried to hide all of this... but I'll leave that for my next post...

Filed Under: abuse, patent examiners, telework, uspto


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2014 @ 7:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    This is what I don't understand.

    I've been told that patent examiners get paid just like farm workers: basically, you get paid for the number of cases you examine, not for the number of hours you work.

    However, some genius also put them on one of these timesheet systems where they are required to 'swear and affirm' that they worked X hours in order to put out the cases they put out.

    I understand that productivity is highly variable from examiner to examiner. So some examiners will work 30 hours to make their nut, while others will work 60. In a week.

    But.

    You only get paid according to the hours you put in. Which leaves the productive ones getting punished for their productivity.

    Oops.

    So instead, the time sheet system is turned on its head and is used to make official the productivity of the examiner.

    Seems like Washington Post has about the same journalistic standards as CNN or Fox News. If the 'story' is that examiners are falsifying their timesheets, well, welcome to their world. They typically are 'given' about 30 hours at entry level to examine a case (that means searching, checking for formal issues, writing up a preliminary decision, decoding the response from the attorney, writing up the final decision). This is of course a baseline, an average. Some cases go faster, some go slower.

    If it takes longer than 30 hours to dispose of a case, the examiner just sucks it up and puts in the extra time.

    Without reporting it.

    Let me guess if the reporters at the Washington Post said anything about that kind of timesheet falsification.

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