By Dennis Crouch
In another seeming bombshell for the Patent Office, the Washington Post has published a 2012 internal USPTO memorandum on telework fraud. Lisa Rein from the post writes:
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.
Further, the report indicates that “USPTO management demonstrates reluctance to take decisive action when the misconduct is egregious and the evidence is compelling.” At the time, the USPTO was led by Director Kappos.
The original report was then substantially tamed-down (with the most damning elements removed) before it was provided to the DOC Office of the Inspector General. Based on the evidence found in the secret original document, the OIG has indicated that it will now launch a probe of the USPTO’s workforce quality control.
Production versus Hours: The facts here are disturbing. However, one underlying assumption of the report is that we should be looking to the hours-worked by examiners rather than focusing on whether the work is completed (i.e., production). Examiner production is closely monitored and measured on a bi-weekly basis and there is no sense in the industry that examiners can avoid those production quotas without major repercussions.