USPTO Proposed Budget Just Shy of $3B

President Obama has released his proposed FY2013 budget that would begin October 1, 2012. The budget proposes to provide the USPTO with full access to its fee collections at an estimated $2.95 billion ($250 million over FY2012 and more than $1 billion over 2009.  The revenue gives Director Dave Kappos the funds he has needed to hire examiners and BPAI judges and to revamp the USPTO’s defunct IT system.  Lets see how it rolls.

54 thoughts on “USPTO Proposed Budget Just Shy of $3B

  1. IBP,

    Am I missing something?

    There are two parties to every union contract. If the contract makes it impossible to fire bad employees, whose fault is that? After all, the unions cannot impose the contract on the government by fiat, or can they?

  2. bad joke ahead,

    You keep saying that what I propose is counter-productive, but you have not addressed the points being made, nor have made any points to support your view.

    Two threads now. Hearing you say something really does not make it so, especially as you ignore the points made. Last I checked the score at halftime was 6-0. You haven’t made it into the endzone yet.

  3. Somebody already addressed this elsewhere on the thread, and it turns out that you are correct–it would currently apparently be between $40-$50k/yr, if the poster is to be believed.

    This figure does not take into account periodic increases in compensation, however.

    Nor does it take into account the value of the health-care package that they receive in retirement…I wonder if the poster has any figures for the value of that benefit, not just only during retirement but also during active service.

  4. Do patent examiners get a pension these days? I thought it was just something more akin to a 401k. If so, they wouldn’t be collecting another $100K for 20-30 years after retirement, but I might be wrong.

  5. Unions are monopolies. Government is a monopoly. A government with unionized employees is a monopolized monopoly.

    Monopolies are bad.

    So, patents are bad?

  6. How about studying for, and passing with a certain grade, the agents/attorneys exam, BEFORE being selected as a candidate? Not perfect, but easy and efficient.

    Two problems:

    (1) Passing the patent bar exam does not convey skill in examining patent applications. Just like any state bar exam, passing the patent bar only indicates that the candidate knows the rules, not that s/he is skilled at working within those rules. I’m sure you have met some patent attorneys who are dreadful at prosecuting patent applications despite having a registration number.

    (2) Requiring a registration no. from all patent examiner candidates creates an artificial barrier to entry. Suddenly the pool of potential candidates becomes much smaller, as persons who would otherwise be perfectly competent at patent examination are left out in the cold because they haven’t passed an artificial exam. Meanwhile, persons who have a registration no. suddenly have other career opportunities ahead of them (like working as a patent agent) that may dissuade them from further considering a job at the USPTO. Now the USPTO has to expend greater resources to maintain the size of its examiner corp, and its ability to deal with the patent backlog becomes exacerbated.

    For an institution with congressionally limited resources, I do not see how this is a workable solution to your perceived problem.

  7. While others think that actually achieving something (whether with oversight or not) makes for a more meaningful existence.

  8. ” I have yet to witness one who starts out as a patent attorney only to end up as an examiner.”

    I know quite a few attorneys who left private practice to work at the PTO. As examiners, APJ’s, OPLA, BPAI, PCTL, etc.

    You need to meet more people.

  9. “…getting to work from home with barely any oversight is some people’s idea of a dream job.”

    Where do I sign up?

  10. I believe it used to be that after the 4 years of part time law school being paid (the 4 years of which the examiner is obviously still working full time), it required another 6 years of commitment at the patent office. So, 10 years overall.

    The office also benefits by having more examiners move up to the BPAI as judges. We all know how big a backlog they have and some of the more recent hires can have very little actual experience in patent law (as an examiner or a practitioner)

  11. True, BJ, but that’s not all. Here’s more:

    1. EPO has 3 official languages. Everybody examines in a language that is not their first. So nobody has any truck with lawyerly nuancing of words. The only thing that counts is the technological substance.

    2. The search machine is tons better than anything else in the world.

    3. No “due process”. Exr is PHOSITA.

    4. No court standing over the EPO and handing down daft unworkable caselaw.

    5. A Brit wrote the EPO’s MPEP.

    6. The substantive law of eligibility and patentability was written, in 1973, on a single plain white sheet of paper, and had to survive scrutiny by all the Governments who would sign the Convention. So the EPC is the simple irreducible minimum of substantive law, expressed in terms that even a PTO Examiner from any one of 40 Member States can get his head round.

    7. The EPO has a huge training budget and a conscientious and intelligent Quality Control function.

    But shush, the EPO is already getting to cocky. We must stop broadcasting how consistently good it is, otherwise it will get more and more impossible for it to admit where it has gone wrong.

  12. All rejections are peer reviewed. The main Ex has to show it to two other ex’s and get them to sign off on it before sending. So there’s some discussion and accountability. That peer pressure and discussion likely fixes a lot of the problems we routinely see.

  13. I get it now. You’re a litigator without a PTO registration.

    NOW it makes sense why you’d propose such a counter-productive system.

  14. Here’s a question– how does the EPO get and train Examiners? Max, Paul can you help here? By and large my EPO cases are handled a lot more reasonably– less totally off the wall rejections, and better consideration of arguments presented.

  15. All the more reason to simply junk the examination system.

    It’s just not working.

    It’s just not going to work.

  16. “This is because learning how to lawl is easier than learning how to engineer.”

    No, it’s not. And a legal specialty like patent law is the equivalent of having a graduate degree–it takes particular qualification, demonstration of competence, and time, the same as an advanced degree.

    Not all art units are the same–not all require the same technical background–for instance, examining vehicle brush guards is not the same as examining molecular beam epitaxy–however, the technical element of examining is vastly overrated IMHO. Anybody who is technically-oriented and competent in one area can be brought up to speed sufficiently to draft a good patent application in many art units in not too great a time.

    Take that great clot of applications clogging up the system right now–”software patent” applications. Why does one need a “computer science” or “electrical engineering” degree to examine (or for that matter, draft) such an application? The answer is that they don’t–the key to these, and many other patent applications, lies not in the technical aspect, but in the legal aspect.

    The engineer with no knowledge of the law produces just as abysmal an examination as would a lawyer with no knowledge of the technology, IMHO. Maybe it doesn’t apply to you, 6, but the quality of examination I have seen is unbelievable. In your case, because you post so much, I have a feeling that your posting is actually sanctioned by the PTO, perhaps in part because your legal perspicacity is unique among examiners.

    I have never encountered an examiner who could recognize and discuss legal concepts to the extent that you do, 6.

    Engineering and law are equally easy or difficult, as long as you have a predilection for both of them–and if one does not have such a predilection for both, one has NO BUSINESS examining or prosecuting patent applications, or supervising examiners in the PTO.

  17. Apparently in Musacha’s privileged public-sector world, seeking accountability and competence, and willing to provide the money to get there = self-righteous goon.

    Get a life, Musacha.

  18. Great! As long as they have to make a commitment to serve with the PTO for a certain period of years thereafter, so that the PTO gets some benefit from their investment.

  19. “eventually purge the SPE ranks of the typical burned-out-primary-turned-SPE”

    That’ll be the day. You have to be a primary before you become an SPE, sillyhead. Any primary is likely to have been burned out from dealing with self-righteous goons like you and IBP. You guys are unreal.

  20. “If the PTO can send engineers to law school, then they can send lawyers to engineering school, plain and simple”

    LOL Wut? You can work as an examiner as an engineer in lawlschool but you can’t work as an examiner while you’re an attorney in engineering school. This is because learning how to lawl is easier than learning how to engineer. I think, or something like that. Lawl. See? I’m lawling and I haven’t even been to lawlschool!

  21. “lso, correct me if I’m wrong, but once someone is an examiner, I believe the PTO will pay for them to go to law school anyway, so you can take your argument about law school debt and shove it.”

    Not atm, but some people have been whispering they might bring that program back now that we have a BILLION DOLLARS more. Or whatev.

  22. Idk about that, I know a lot of people that have passed it and “want” to work for the PTO. Indeed, there are attorneys who are working for the PTO as examiners by choice. Apparently it is a lot less stressful than being an attorneytard and getting to work from home with barely any oversight is some people’s idea of a dream job.

  23. First of all, thanks for the clarification on the pension. I take your word that it is correct…of course, that is at current wage levels. And your calculation doesn’t take into account overtime, or the stacking of accumulated sick days and the disproportionate contribution they make to annual salary at the end of employment, jacking up the figure substantially.

    Further, if you add those up during the period during which the person is actually working, that will average out to something like $130-$140k/yr for each year worked. Not bad.

    And that doesn’t include the health package, whatever it is.

    Your argument about patent attorneys not wanting to work for the PTO because of financial reasons is not persuasive in view of the fact that patent attorneys work as academics, and receive compensation similar to that offered by the PTO.

    Finally, I am not “complaining about costs”–again, I don’t much care what it “costs”, what I care about is VALUE.

    Put the budget to $3B? Fine, if we get $3B of VALUE from the PTO. The valuation of any such enterprise is so difficult to determine, that it makes much more sense to determine the relative aggregate value by considering the nature and quality of the work performed by individuals, or groups of individuals, within the office.

    How hard does an examiner work, relative to a similar compliance position in the private sector? What sort of expertise do they bring to the position, relative to that in the private sector–i.e. how much punch is packed into an hour of their time? etc.

    From what I know of the public sector–and I know a bit–the value is unacceptable relative to the value deliverable in a private-sector environment. There is no good reason to believe that the PTO is any more effective, efficient, or delivers any greater value than any other public-sector enterprise.

    Finally, I also assume that you are correct about the PTO no longer paying for law school tuition.

    If true, that is fantastic–however, that does nothing to obviate the need for such an education, all that does is to make examiners pay for it themselves, the same as anybody in the private sector has to do. That’s why it should be a PRE-requisite for eligibility for consideration as an SPE.

  24. - The USPTO hasn’t paid for law school tuitions in years.
    - A new examiner who’s graduated from law school would start at GS9S7 – at a salary ~70k.
    - A SPE doesn’t actually examine anything; they’re management. But yes, they do make 130-155k in salary.
    - A primary examiner’s salary starts at 112k and (at current wages) would increase to 146k in … 18 years worth of step increases.
    - FERS retirement is 1% times the # of years worked times the avg of highest three annual salary. So even if they were making the maximum 155k a year as a SPE (which would likely take them 25-30 years to achieve), after at retirement after 30 years, it would be paid out at ~46k per year.

    You’re complaining about increased costs but give no plausible solution. Would a patent attorney realistically be willing to start at around 70k salary, then take the next 5-6 years to become primary and earn 110k (at which point as an attorney would look towards making partner), and then spent the next 18 years to top out at 150k? Let’s not forget that primary examiners are given (depending on art) around 13~15 hrs to examine a case from beginning to end. There are many examiners who leave the office to become patent attorneys. I have yet to witness one who starts out as a patent attorney only to end up as an examiner. Oh, and examiners have their own version of the patent bar, which they need to pass to become a primary examiner, prior to becoming a spe.

  25. You haven’t driven into Bethesda and/or ridden the red line in a while, have you?

    And you have to transfer at Gallery Place.

    No thanks.

  26. Just saw this, feel the need to respond quickly:

    OK then, it’s settled–they take those 30 credits at their own expense and on their own time, and receive a minimum acceptable grade, from select reputable colleges, at which point they have satisfied the new legal competence pre-requisite for consideration as an SPE.

    I like it.

    Combined with having passed the agent/attorney exam on your own time and at your own expense before being eligible to become an examiner, I think I could live with those two things as a very good start.

    The commute from Cabin John isn’t bad–you drive into Bethesda and take the red line into town.

  27. “would it be any less efficient to receive a technically deficient rejection from an attorney examiner than it would be to receive a legally deficient rejection from an engineer examiner?”

    No.

    “the reality that many of us currently receive rejections that are both legally AND technically deficient, from engineer examiners.”

    The technical deficiencies are driven by the requirement that all of the claims be rejected so the useless SPE can safely sign his/her name without any consequences. As the current corps of SPE’s are legally and technically ignorant, I agree that making them legally competent would go along way towards improving examination.

    I just don’t think requiring SPE’s to have law degrees is a workable solution.

    But if you want to start a petition requiring all current SPE’s to get themselves into night law school within the next year or two, or go back to examining, I’ll be your first signature.

  28. “Yes, but SPE’s do really need to study evidence, constitutional law, administrative law, appellate procedure, maybe labor and employment, and intellectual property, to do what they should be doing, properly.”

    Agreed. That’s about 25-30 credits. I’m all for making them do it.

    “‘Supervising junior examiners’ is a big job, considering what it is those junior examiners are involved in doing.”

    I agree. If done properly, it is a big job. As it’s done now, it’s a cake walk. That’s why SPE’s should only be doing that big job, not planning TC holiday parties and mowing the Director’s lawn.

    “I actually have a history of public service”

    Same here.

    “…and I would have free housing in Cabin John”

    The commute from Cabin John blows. Not even a free house is going to make up for that.

    “…and would be near family”

    Being near family is nice. Can’t underestimate the value of free baby sitting.

    “…even though I don’t like DC.”

    I like DC. Not enough to raise my kids here though.

    “…they should be licensed in at least one state as an attorney.”

    They’re not practicing, so I don’t see the need for a license. I’m all for giving them a CLE requirement though.

  29. Well, this private-sector hack has to get back to some serious work.

    I wonder where 6 is today?

    He must be partying with Michel.

  30. Something’s gotten lost in this thread, which is the fact that I provisionally ACCEPT the existing paradigm.

    Heck, it was me who on another thread suggested that there is a validity to the logic in the initial expansion of an inefficient process!

    I am merely trying to illustrate the TYPES of things that cannot realistically be considered in the current environment–I’m not making any representations to the effect that they would actually be effective if implemented, or if so, that they would be the best route to take to improving the PTO.

  31. “I don’t think there’s any need to send patent attorneys back to engineering school.”

    In this admittedly simplistic analysis, I wasn’t referring to patent attorneys–I was referring to ANY attorneys.

    The job of an examiner is not a primarily technical one–it is an administrative one. It is much more legal than technical, since the technical is circumscribed by the legal.

    Let me ask you this: would it be any less efficient to receive a technically deficient rejection from an attorney examiner than it would be to receive a legally deficient rejection from an engineer examiner?

    Added to that basic calculus is the reality that many of us currently receive rejections that are both legally AND technically deficient, from engineer examiners.

    I accept your point about the PTO lifers.

  32. Yes, but SPE’s do really need to study evidence, constitutional law, administrative law, appellate procedure, maybe labor and employment, and intellectual property, to do what they should be doing, properly.

    “Supervising junior examiners” is a big job, considering what it is those junior examiners are involved in doing.

    Have I ever thought of applying? Yes, I have. I actually have a history of public service, and I would have free housing in Cabin John, and would be near family–even though I don’t like DC.

    But I’ve had my fill of the public service. I was there, I know what it’s like, and it’s not for me anymore.

    But for some people it is a good fit–and they should be required to pass the exam before they are even considered for an examiner job, and SPE’s should have a law degree before they are even considered for THAT job.

    I’ll go even farther to suggest that not only should SPE’s have a law degree, that they should be licensed in at least one state as an attorney.

  33. Alun–

    That could be a type of selection effect–that is, the type of person who wants to mark time in the public sector is not the kind of person who would choose, of their own volition, to study for and take the exam.

    That is not to say that if someone who wanted to be a lifer was required to take it, that they would then choose to not be a lifer in order to avoid taking the exam.

    Attorneys and agents take it because it is required to be passed before they can practice before the PTO. SPE’s do not take it because it is not similarly required.

    Do you not believe that there would be a great many more (unqualified) attorneys practicing before the PTO if the requirement was removed? Not to mention the eligibility criteria to even sit for the exam.

    The current situation is that we have a great many unqualified examiners paid by the PTO.

    They get whomever they get according to their hiring criteria, then hope that they can train them effectively using their Patent Training Academy and their Legal, Practice, and Procedure training. For an overview, I would direct you here:

    link to uspto.gov

    Claim interpretation? Appeal procedure and practice? Evidence? Authoritative court decisions?

    I’m sorry, but a legal education is required to begin to approach and apprehend these topics in any meaningful way–which is why examiners, regardless of this type of “training” they receive from the PTO, frequently demonstrate complete incompetence in applying the rules of 37 CFR, and total lack of understanding of the substantive law in 35 USC.

    Just ask Boundy, if you don’t believe me. The PTO is an administrative agency, that should operate in adherence to administrative law…and this applies to actions taken pursuant to the authority delegated to the individual examiner. Do you think that ANY examiner has even the most remote understanding or even awareness of administrative law? How about constitutional law as applied to the patent regime? Absolutely not.

    At the very least, they should have an immediate supervisor from whom to seek guidance on these matters, and who will perform a genuine supervision of the work performed, to ensure compliance and legality–not just some vague, remote, and overburdened solicitor’s office.

  34. “If the PTO can send engineers to law school, then they can send lawyers to engineering school, plain and simple–in the meantime, an attorney who knows little about engineering will probably perform examiner supervision duties better than an engineer who knows little about law, which is the current situation.”

    I don’t think there’s any need to send patent attorneys back to engineering school.

    Just about every 2nd or 3rd year associate toiling away in the patent prep and pros shops surrounding DC is more qualified than about 99% of the current crop of SPE’s. These are the people the PTO needs to be recruiting. Certainly every 5th+ year associate who’s not making partner should be considered.

    But the PTO doesn’t want the outside influence coming in. The people doing the hiring are, for the most part, career PTO employees. You have to break their grip first. Send all of the TC Directors back to examining, or the mail room where they’ll be more useful, and replace them with folks from outside. Then let them eventually purge the SPE ranks of the typical burned-out-primary-turned-SPE. It would take a while, but it would be worth it.

  35. I agree that SPE is an easy gig. Probably the easiest gig in the entire federal government. But making a law degree the initial hurdle to getting it is too much. Don’t really need to study negotiable instruments, secured transactions, and trusts and estates to sign your name to whatever is put in front of you as long as every claim is rejected.

    “…but that is hardly the extent of what SPE’s should be doing.”

    SPE’s should be supervising junior examiners. And that’s all they should be doing. Not picking up the TC Director’s dry cleaning or whatever other nonsense they have them doing now.

    As you consider it such a good life, have you ever thought of applying?

  36. Alun,

    That shift has been explored, and at a far cry less then 2%, the math works out just fine thank you. – Plus it would be the parties with a bone in the contention picking up the costs, and you can rest assuered that it would be far less than 3 BILLION dollars.

  37. That would just shift it to the courts. Do you really think anyone’s going to settle if the asserted patent has never been examined?

  38. I will agree with you, though that there needs to be something…the suggestion of the agent/attorney exam was only that, a suggestion, the quickest and easiest one that came to my mind when I was first asked.

  39. Greetings, troll–

    Because you seem to be making a good faith attempt at productive discourse, I will engage this discussion.

    You may be overqualified to say “”Hmm, looks like every claim is rejected, where’s my pen?!”, but that is hardly the extent of what SPE’s should be doing.

    “Wouldn’t they have to increase the PTO’s budget to pay all of this law school tuition for everybody who wants to become an SPE?”

    I don’t know–how many examiners currently avail themselves of this program? And in any event, the budget IS being increased, so the only question that remains is how best to spend the money. The increase is a fait accompli, even though the budget is only a proposal at this point.

    Finally, do you know what the lifetime total compensation is for someone who goes through the examiner system to become an SPE?

    Does anybody know?

    They’re going to be making $100-$155k in salary alone, not including other benefits like health care. Then they retire and collect $100k+ for another 20-30 years. They effectively “make” $200-$250k/yr. There are a great many lawyers in private practice who would do well to make that much…and those lawyers have worries like LIABILITY, and business expenses like MARKETING AND ADVERTISING that take time, but do not appear on the books, CLE, pro bono, and commitments to professional associations, community associations, and often an adjunct position at some educational institution.

    Give me a break. SPE’s have a good life. It would be a good life even if they had to have a law degree for it.

  40. “Support for that statement?”

    I don’t have to give support, for it was YOU who made the initial positive assertion to the contrary, and cited no support.

    “Nice thought … but what has that to do with the budget?”

    With the actual proposed budget, nothing, because any such suggestion is off-limits in the current environment. It was merely an illustration of a type of response that cannot practically be implemented, but which on its face would seem desirable.

    “Nice thought, but you would have to triple the salaries.”

    No, you wouldn’t. How much do you think patent prosecutors make? How much do you think an SPE makes? (TOTAL LIFETIME COMPENSATION). Do you have any idea how many law school grads are out of work? If the PTO can send engineers to law school, then they can send lawyers to engineering school, plain and simple–in the meantime, an attorney who knows little about engineering will probably perform examiner supervision duties better than an engineer who knows little about law, which is the current situation.

  41. “Really? What exactly did they give? Nothing.”
    Support for that statement?

    “Every potential future examiner should be required to already have taken, and passed, at least the agent/attorney exam before they are eligible for consideration.”
    Nice thought … but what has that to do with the budget?

    “all SPE’s and above would have to be patent attorneys, BEFORE they were considered eligible to assume their posts.”
    Nice thought, but you would have to triple the salaries.

    “This is a group of people bargaining with people they elect to bargain with. Yeah, totally arm’s length transaction, right? LOL.”
    Because the unions only bargain with the people they elected …. yeah, right? LOL.

  42. “…in terms of lifetime total compensation, SPE’s are every bit the equivalent of a great many ‘law firm attorneys’”

    Hardly.

    “–and have to work a heck of a lot less to get it.”

    I’ll agree with that. What SPE’s actually do can hardly be considered work. Certainly not hard work. Any competent 2nd year associate could do the job in their sleep.

    “but remember that in the US one can get a valid law degree from many institutions, taking night courses WHILE HOLDING DOWN A FULL-TIME JOB (something that is still inconceivable to me).”

    If a law degree would be required for the SPE position, you’d have precious few SPE’s. Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing though.

    Going to law school at night while working a full time job is very difficult. I know from personal experience. I would not have done it simply to become an SPE. I mean, spending 4 years of going to class 2-3 hours a night, 4-5 nights a week, for what? So I’d be qualified to say, “Hmm, looks like every claim is rejected, where’s my pen?!” I was overqualified for that position long before I ever set foot in a law school class.

    “Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but once someone is an examiner, I believe the PTO will pay for them to go to law school anyway, so you can take your argument about law school debt and shove it.”

    Wouldn’t they have to increase the PTO’s budget to pay all of this law school tuition for everybody who wants to become an SPE? Aren’t you against increasing the PTO’s budget?

    I do agree with you though. There should be something more required to become an SPE than simply being an examiner burned out on churning out 110+% production. Certainly not 80+ credits of law school, but something.

  43. “The patent bar does nothing to teach Examination skills, it is just a bottleneck to make sure that the test-takers can understand patent law’s particular civil procedure. There is no technical advatage to this requirement.”

    Accepting this statement arguendo, is a demonstrated “understanding of patent law’s particular civil procedure” not a critical requirement of “Examination skills”? Of course it is.

    And let me tell you something–in terms of lifetime total compensation, SPE’s are every bit the equivalent of a great many “law firm attorneys”–and have to work a heck of a lot less to get it.

    And becoming an SPE IS worth going to law school and accumulating the debt, if that is the route one wishes to take–but remember that in the US one can get a valid law degree from many institutions, taking night courses WHILE HOLDING DOWN A FULL-TIME JOB (something that is still inconceivable to me).

    Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but once someone is an examiner, I believe the PTO will pay for them to go to law school anyway, so you can take your argument about law school debt and shove it.

    Your comment evidences a typical public-sector mentality, wanting all of the benefits without having to do any of the work–or at the very least, if you are willing to do the work, having somebody else pay your costs for you.

  44. Let’s not forget that this $3BILLION is entirely users fees that could be better spent actually hiring people and building stuff.

    Registration System now and end this obscene boondoggle.

  45. Every potential future examiner should be required to already have taken, and passed, at least the agent/attorney exam before they are eligible for consideration.

    The patent bar does nothing to teach Examination skills, it is just a bottleneck to make sure that the test-takers can understand patent law’s particular civil procedure. There is no technical advatage to this requirement.

    If I had it my way, all SPE’s and above would have to be patent attorneys, BEFORE they were considered eligible to assume their posts.

    Yes, because scientists and engineers want to leave their industry, spend 3 years in law school, and accumulate six figures of debt to go and become a SPE. That is a totally realistic expectation. Maybe if being an Examiner paid commensurate with being a law firm attorney, but then the government would have to increase the PTO budget, and that obviously won’t help anything.

  46. “They can be dismissed, it just takes a lot of work.”

    It takes so much work, that it is not efficient to do, and therefore effectively not possible.

    The best that can happen is re-assignment.

    “Those unions that bargained for those rules must have given something up to get it”

    Really? What exactly did they give? Nothing.

    Skill at examination is predicated upon a basic understanding of not only the administrative and legal regime under which one works, but also on an understanding of the basic administrative mechanisms of examination.

    Every potential future examiner should be required to already have taken, and passed, at least the agent/attorney exam before they are eligible for consideration.

    If I had it my way, all SPE’s and above would have to be patent attorneys, BEFORE they were considered eligible to assume their posts.

  47. “Do tell, where does one gain skill at patent examination prior to becoming a patent examiner?”

    How about studying for, and passing with a certain grade, the agents/attorneys exam, BEFORE being selected as a candidate? Not perfect, but easy and efficient.

    And that would be only ONE possible demonstration of fitness.

  48. I’m just saying that you may be right…. for private companies.

    But this isn’t a private company. This is a group of people bargaining with people they elect to bargain with. Yeah, totally arm’s length transaction, right? LOL.

  49. policy mandates that require personnel to be selected and employed on the basis of criteria other than their skill at patent examination.

    Do tell, where does one gain skill at patent examination prior to becoming a patent examiner? I’m not aware of any place in the US where one can be trained in patent examination other than the USPTO.

    Unless you propose instituting a Patent Examination Academy or some such thing, you are going to have a hard time obtaining evidence from job applicants that exhibits their skill in patent examination.

  50. “the current union contract that effectively does not permit useless or sub-par examiners to be dismissed.”
    They can be dismissed, it just takes a lot of work. When I was an engineer, I worked at a union shop and it was nearly impossible to get rid of anybody – but you could, it just wasn’t easy. However, the reason the unions bargained for those rules was to keep workers from being fired for reasons other than performance (i.e., you were a member of the union, you didn’t give money to the company charity, you didn’t drink beers with the guys after work, or any of a number of reasons why people have been let go – ostensibly for “performance” reasons that weren’t related to performance).

    I’m sorry to say but until we start producing perfect people, there will be instances where either good people unjustifiably get fired or bad people unjustifiable keep their job. Regardless, I’m not going to spend a lot of my time worrying about which side that particular pendulum happens to fall. Those unions that bargained for those rules must have given something up to get it – that’s their choice.

    “policy mandates that require personnel to be selected and employed on the basis of criteria other than their skill at patent examination.”
    Well, since most examiners aren’t trained to do patent examination anyplace else, I’m pretty sure the criteria for hiring doesn’t involve “their skill at patent examination.”

  51. It looks as though the government has chosen the “expand the inefficient process” route.

    There IS a seemingly perverse logic to this approach–at the very least, there is an argument to be made in its favor, since none of the Presidents since Kennedy have rescinded his executive orders permitting collective bargaining among federal employees, which was one of the factors responsible for the current union contract that effectively does not permit useless or sub-par examiners to be dismissed…also, policy mandates that require personnel to be selected and employed on the basis of criteria other than their skill at patent examination.

    The roots of the problem are not being addressed.

    IMHO this “solution” will serve to vastly increase the inefficiency, at least in the short term–we will be paying much more, to ultimately have the patent office do less, as the “backlog” is decreased.

    Whether this will ultimately result in fewer examinations but of commensurately higher quality once the backlog is decreased, only time will tell.

    It’s a tough call.

    What I DO know is that important and potentially extremely valuable options are just not on the table, and that is a social decision that we apparently have to live with for the time being.

    Paul Michel must be out partying somewhere.

    This sucks–the entire situation, I mean. Anybody know of someone who needs a good US patent attorney in France? If I’m going to live in a society tending towards socialism, I may as well have good wine, steak tartare, and the Louvre to go with it.

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