USPTO: Hard at Hardly Working

Wow. The U.S. Office of Inspector General just released a report detailing extensive fraud among patent examiners who were allegedly working from home.

The report is detailed here:

The office discovered that for a 15-month period, there were 288,000 hours of time billed to the government that were not actually worked. Most of the offenders were pegged as high-performers who also took advantage of overtime regulations. They apparently bilked the American taxpayer for tens of millions of dollars.

While disheartening, this might explain some of the backlog in patent examinations. It is not uncommon in some art units for initial substantive office action responses to be delayed for 20+ months from date of filing.

This will go down as a black mark on the office, which should be at the forefront of academic integrity and innovation. It’s a shame for all the applicants who expect more of the U.S. Government, and for all the Patent Examiners who are honest and do good work. Hopefully, the office will summarily fire the identified offenders. Also, minimally, the telecommute policies should be revisited and only permitted for employees who can establish a track record of honesty and performance.

Article by John Buche, J.D.