Federal Budget Cuts = USPTO Budget Cuts?

For the most part, government accountants do not care that the USPTO is fee-funded rather than taxpayer-funded. Thus, $100 million cut from the USPTO budget counts as $100 million cut from the federal budget. In the current budget climate, you can imagine where this is going.

It appears that the most recent federal budget compromise (H.R. 1473, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011) would strip approximately $100 million from USPTO collected fees and divert that money to other federal programs. The proposed budget provision is written as follows:

Notwithstanding section 1101, the level for ”Department of Commerce, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Salaries and Expenses” shall be $2,090,000,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That the sum herein appropriated from the general fund shall be reduced as offsetting collections assessed and collected pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 1113 and 35 U.S.C. 41 and 376 are received during fiscal year 2011, so as to result in a fiscal year 2011 appropriation from the general fund estimated at $0: Provided further, That during fiscal year 2011, should the total amount of offsetting fee collections be less than $2,090,000,000, this amount shall be reduced accordingly.

The USPTO currently expects to receive about $2.19 billion in fee collections for FY2011, but the bill would limit the Agency’s spending to $2.09 billion. That extra $100 million would then go to pay for other government expenditures. Although $100 million only about 5% of the USPTO’s annual budget, the cuts ask for $100 million from the next five months, which would represent a 10% cut in spending over that time period.

The AIPLA has continued to lobby congress to allow the USPTO to spend the fees that it collects. AIPLA executive director Todd Dickinson wrote “The ability of the Office to do an efficient and reliable job depends on these funds, none of which comes from Treasury or has any impact on reducing overall government spending.”

90 thoughts on “Federal Budget Cuts = USPTO Budget Cuts?

  1. 90

    Strangely enough, most of the Examiner’s tend to have degree’s from tier 1 schools. Though that may be in part because Virginia Tech is close by and does provide a signifigant number of new examiners.

    I’d agree with you if you want to go back into design, PTO experience is not particularly helpful.

    I’d disagree about examiner’s being risk adverse. Perhaps the older culture is like that, but with the mass number of new hires the culture has changed. A fair number hang around now because of pay and telecommuting options. Why not get a DC salary, but live somewhere cheap?

  2. 88

    It is very easy to fix the Federal budget. Here is the new “Green Budget”:
    Every person and company pays 15% income tax. There are no longer any deductions or itemizations. Money located anywhere in the world is taxed. Individuals can take 5% off of that if they vote in the Federal Election.
    No Federal subsidies are paid to any company that is profitable.
    No Federal agency can hire more than 800 people in Washington DC.
    The Pentagon gets $300B per year.
    Any other company that gets Federal military or social aid gets a bill for it and if they can’t pay it will turn into an interest bearing loan.
    Every resident of the US gets $300/mo. for medical help. It is no longer legal for a medical provider to operate if they do not provide at least three $300/mo. insurance programs. It is illegal for a medical provider to use exclusions. If you make over $300,000.00 per year you do not get this.
    Every agency must post its use-of-funds budget online for comments 6 months before they get to use their money. The Federal OMB office has police authority to prosecute abuse.
    Believe it or not, that would pretty much fix our budget problems!

  3. 87

    The PTO examiner should be compared to a CIA examiner because we are in a economics war with the world that the middle class are the loser well it started in the 1980 president Ronald Reagan help started manufacturing of the economy in favor of copy rights so you guys should be paid has deference contacted and your budget should be expanded for economic to help win the war for the middle class give it a good fight P.S. The house Republican might be sleeping with the enemy or just incompetent.

  4. 86

    If you were my client you’d be reading the crxppy OA’s that are being issued in your applications. We’d have a weekly conference call to laugh at the hilarious case lawl citations that examiners put in them.

  5. 85

    There are times when I entertain the possibility that maybe I’m being paid a lot for examining. The entertainment ends when I get yet another application with moronically broad one- or two-line independent claims, which are plainly anticipated by art in the IDS. Then I’m perfectly happy to receive partial compensation for such completely avoidable and unnecessary irritation. Remember folks, it’s the patent office, not the rejection office. Try drafting your claims and responses accordingly.

    So are we correct to understand that someone who does “FAR MORE examining activities … than any examiner” receives only first action allowances?

  6. 84

    If you were my attorney, would you advise me to take your anecdotal evidence as sufficient proof that no examiners actually analyze case law?

  7. 83

    “…and analyze case law as patent examiners do…”

    Inserting a boilerplate form paragraph that cites a case they’ve never read is hardly “analyzing” case law. I’ve never seen an examiner actually “analyze” case law.

  8. 82

    “I have no idea, nor do you, what the actual motivations of Kappos and Barner were within the contexts of their career path and aspirations.”

    You can read Ms. Barner’s motivations in the interview she gave to Gene Quinn.

    I’m sure Mr. Kappos has also given more than one interview where he’s discussed his motivations for taking the job.

    Terry Rea also just left private practice to take a job with the PTO. You can read her interview at Gene’s site too.

  9. 81

    Also, btw, why don’t these compliance specialists simply come and work for the PTO since it is so easy and so much better?

  10. 80

    6

    Nice to see that we can agree on some things.

    Although much of your post reflects basic misunderstandings and mischaracterizations, your suggestion of foreign examiner compensation as a basis for comparison is a good one–and one that I have considered at length, but about which I unfortunately have no time to expound.

  11. 79

    “”Searching the art”, “reading and understanding the invention”, “formulating rejections”, etc., all examiner-specific activities, all have their exact counterparts in private-sector compliance.”

    Mhmmm, I see. So tell us about them tardface. And tell us about how understanding the lawl, and arguing with attorneys also has an exact counterpart. Also, tell us about how having the expertise to FIND THE ART which is needed as opposed to just flipping through some random subclass that might be somewhat related to the subject matter at hand has an exact counterpart.

  12. 78

    Nice try, Hubris.

    First of all, we’re talking about the public sector, not the private sector.

    Second of all, nobody ever characterized the private sector as being free of bureaucracy–that is just you trying to pick a fight again. Of course there is bureaucracy.

    Third of all, ineptitude (incompetence) in the private sector was explicitly recognized.

    The point, which you have ignored as you have absolutely no successful rebuttal thereto, is that individuals in the private sector bear responsibility for ineptitude in the form of assumption of liability for failure, that can manifest in insurance premiums, lost business, damages awards, etc..

    Not to mention the burden borne by the businesses themselves in the form of assumed and vicarious liability.

    When was the last time an examiner had to purchase professional liability insurance? Oh that’s right, never.

    Both your comprehension of the issue and your argumentation skills are unfortunately at the low level that I have come to expect of public-sector employees.

  13. 77

    I don’t think this blog post is researched particularly thoroughly.

    The PTO requested $2.33 billion from Congress on estimated fee revenues of 2.098 billion (not 2.19 billion) plus additional revenues of $224 million from a proposed interim fee increase. Congress simply appropriated $2.09 billion to the PTO, reflecting the PTO’s base fee revenues and neglecting the proposed fee increase.

    What is unfortunate is that Congress did not appropriate the PTO the full $2.33 billion it asked for, even after demonstrating bipartisan support for the efforts of the PTO following the passing of the non-controversial Patent Reform Act. This basically ensures that the PTO is likely to continue to stagnate on hiring and pretty crucial infrastructure upgrades.

  14. 76

    Hubristic Public Servant–

    Merely “filling out forms and sending out correspondence” is the reason we have secretaries.

    “Searching the art”, “reading and understanding the invention”, “formulating rejections”, etc., all examiner-specific activities, all have their exact counterparts in private-sector compliance.

    Their is nothing essentially distinct about the nature of the activities you mention, notwithstanding the agency-specific lexicon applied to those activities by the PTO.

    Your first point, about examiners getting hired as engineers in the private sector, is exactly contrary to my personal experience. However, your point is moot, as I explicitly stated that it is possible for a particular examiner to be qualified for a particular private-sector job as an engineer. You’re trying to argue a point about which there is no dispute.

    What I said was that PTO experience does not count as engineering experience in the private engineering sector, because PTO examiners are NOT performing engineering, or anything like engineering, and therefore the use of private-sector engineers as a basis of comparison to assess the reasonableness of PTO examiner compensation is inappropriate, especially in view of the fact that a much more suitable basis of comparison exists in the form of compliance specialists.

    Next, this poster and others will be trying to convince us that the best basis of comparison to examiners is actually attorneys. Even though as a basis it would be superior to engineers, it would be vastly inferior to compliance specialists.

  15. 75

    “As a matter of labor “economics”, a term of which you appear fond, people choose to work at the PTO because it is the economically rational choice–”

    I chose to work here because they misrepresented the job I was to perform. In fact, I would say that 80%+ of the examiners who work here probably did not understand what they were getting themselves into.

    The reasons we stay are many and varied. Most having little to do with economics.

    “Given the disparity between the PTO and the private sector, it is an easy decision. ”

    You mean that disparity which we just found doesn’t exist or that we have no real numbers for?

    “Your “underpaid and in high demand” conclusion rests upon the assumption that the PTO operates in a sphere that is subject to market forces. ”

    Oh, so it exists out in a magical fairy land made up in your head?

    “There is NO LEGITIMATE COMPARISON of the PTO to anything except a complete monopoly business.”

    So that magically makes examinations not represent the value to the purchaser? Son, you flunked the part on monopolies in Econ 201 didn’t you? Didn’t you? Be honest.

    You’re right that there are enough people that would do the job at the pay given though. Indeed, there might be enough even at lower levels. But you already btch and moan about low quality, really all lowering the pay is going to do is bring on board more of the ret ards like yourself to churn out lower quality than we already have.

    “The current system doesn’t ALLOW them to be worth anything near what they are paid, even if they do have the desire and capability to do as well as they can (which, due to the current selection effect resulting from the modern institutional paradigm, very few public sector employees actually have, especially beltway feds).”

    I will agree with you there. It is my opinion that tying pay more to the quality rather than just the quantity may very well be a good thing. But boy o boy that would be a hard thing to implement. Probably so hard that to do it correctly it would cost more than it is worth.

    “Bottom line is, what they do is potentially worth only as much as what a private-sector compliance officer does.”

    Because that’s what IBP says dam mit! Lulz lulz lulz.

    How’s about this ja ckoff, how about we compare us to examiners in the rest of the world? That’s a pretty close comparison. The diffference being of course that they often have doctorate degrees and speak more than one language. Still, as I understand it, they are paid more than us. Seems approximately a good fit.

  16. 74

    I would respectfully argue that the duties of a Legal Instruments Examiner more closely resemble those of a generic “compliance specialist.”

    Legal instruments examiners do not have the quasi-judicial power that patent examiners have, they do not formulate legal arguments and analyze case law as patent examiners do, and the supreme court does not defer to their judgment in the same way that it defers to the judgment of patent examiners. The MPEP affords considerable lee-way to patent examiners in formulating judgments on patentability, which also means that patent examiners bear significantly more responsibility for making a patentability determination.

    Legal instruments examiners are paid significantly less than patent examiners for these and other reasons.

    The PTO does insulate its employees, but most organizations and corporations do. A law firm does not regularly fire associates when they lose a billion-dollar infringement case, does it? To my knowledge, those attorneys keep getting paid even when the patent they vigorously defend ends up being invalidated by the court.

  17. 73

    “My idea of compensation equity is in no way related to how palatable I find the job–there is something for everyone. Although not my bag of tea, I know there are some who love examining.”

    Lulz lulz lulzl ulzl ulzl ulz. Yeah, I’m sure there are boat loads of people who L O O O O O O O OVE to look over every last bs variant of your inventionlol that your attorney can dream up and put in a dep. Be clear, there are aspects of this job you COULD like. And indeed, that I DO like. But the ones that literally nobody likes overwhelms those few things by a lot.

    Perhaps you ought to start customizing your idea of compensation equity so that it is related to how palatable most candidates find the job. Because that is what matters.

    “I do FAR MORE examining activities, including searching, during the process of claim drafting than any examiner, or team of examiners, will ever do on that same claim set.”

    Oh really, do you do the ones that su xor? Like, oh I don’t know, finding prior art for every last dep you can dream up? Searching, note, is not necessarily finding. I could search all day and never find ja ck. It is only when you actually get down to doing what needs to be done to find the right reference that you usually find it. Do you spend hours smacking down insolent attorneys such as yourself trotting out the same old b s arguments? Do you spend a lot of time doing these things? How many hours, do you reckon, do you spend doing an entirely new work without credit on a case you thought was finished because you made some technical error in how you read a reference? How about arguing with someone over whether or not they have WD support, laying out for them in explicit terms what in fact they disclosed at time of filing since they are too reta rded to even understand THEIR OWN INVENTION? Tell me, how many hours do you spend doing these things? Do you have, as many examiners roughly on your level of reta rded do, a boss that tells you to keep going back to the art until you do some finding as opposed to your bs searching that turned up stuff barely even related to the subject matter at hand? How much of that do you have and put up with?

    Please, let me hear the specifics of just how much stuff you do that is examiner-like that is the actual bad part of the job. And keep the parts of examining that are roughly the easy part of the job to yourself, if you don’t mind.

    “If that is the basis upon which you would determine compensation level, then I’m glad you’re not in a position to make such determinations.”

    But you are glad that someone who is in such a position shares my viewpoint on the matter? Just like all the rest of the people in that position do? You’re glad about that? Me too. So stop your btching.

  18. 72

    Those who examine in engineering fields are NOT working as engineers. Patent examining does not count as engineering experience.

    Never said they were; your reading comprehension sucks. Regardless, I personally know several people who left the PTO to take up engineering jobs. I can guarantee you that I could find a private-sector job with a comparable salary with zero sweat. This idea that former PTO employees are magically unemployable elsewhere is pure BS that you’re fabricated.

    2) Examiners ARE working as compliance specialists, NOT as engineers. Examiners are there to examine patent applications for COMPLIANCE with stated requirements for allowability. Period.

    Fail. Compliance specialists don’t search the art, don’t have to read and understand new inventions, don’t have to formulate rejections, don’t have to argue with lawyers, etc., etc.

    Your comparison is superficial and dishonest. Don’t clients hire you lawyers to fill out forms and send out correspondence? I guess that makes you all secretaries by your logic, right?

  19. 71

    Yet another clueless individual with an obvious lack of real world experience.

    5 years of real world experience, not that it matters much tbh. It always makes me lol the way you people talk about the private sector as though it were free of bureaucracy and ineptitude.

    “Degree” does not equal working as an engineer, just as “Law Degree” does not equal working as a lawyer.

    I never said it did.

  20. 70

    Speaking of which, I get the distinct sense that nobody else contributing to this thread

    Tell me your troubles and doubts
    Giving me everything inside and out and
    Love’s strange so real in the dark
    Think of the tender things that we were working on

  21. 69

    6–

    That is absolutely correct, notwithstanding your reflexive “tard” comment.

    I suppose when you run out of real things to say, you resort to invective.

    My idea of compensation equity is in no way related to how palatable I find the job–there is something for everyone. Although not my bag of tea, I know there are some who love examining.

    It’s not necessarily the acts involved in examining that I think suck, it’s the institutional framework in which it MUST be done. Believe me, when a client comes to me with a disclosure, I do FAR MORE examining activities, including searching, during the process of claim drafting than any examiner, or team of examiners, will ever do on that same claim set.

    The difference is that I have the opportunity to take what I learn from the process, combine it with what I already know about the law, and apply it to the process of claim drafting, and then to the preparation of the remainder of the disclosure, the back-and-forth. These additional activities–framing the limits of discourse and thereby designing the playing field upon which I will argue at a later date–add immense personal value to the exercise for me.

    It would be disheartening to have to stop at an earlier stage in the process–but nonetheless, I do examining activities all the time–and not just on applications, but also in opinion work. There, the difference is that I get to argue some law as well.

    Anyway, how palatable I personally find the job of a PTO examiner bears no relation whatsoever to how much I think they should be compensated.

    If that is the basis upon which you would determine compensation level, then I’m glad you’re not in a position to make such determinations.

    Speaking of which, I get the distinct sense that nobody else contributing to this thread has ever been involved with a startup, or any private business or public body for that matter, to the extent of selecting a management team and critical staff, and of determining compensation packages.

  22. 68

    “Servant”–

    Your post is total b.s.–I have no respect whatsoever for its content.

    Minor points:

    1) “most examiners could be working for slightly more $ as an engineer”

    No, they couldn’t. Those who examine in engineering fields are NOT working as engineers. Patent examining does not count as engineering experience. I know, I have done engineering hiring. Patent examining is seen as an entirely different career path from engineering, and those who have chosen it are seen to have made an active decision to NOT work as an engineer, and are not generally considered for engineering positions, unless they have some other experience that is relevant.

    They fall behind on technologies very quickly. They lose the ability to put together coherent engineering specifications. They lose product awareness. They have no integration with vendors and suppliers, and no idea what capabilities exist and where the commercial products are headed. They have no real-world experience with implementation strategies. Black belts? Forget about it. Project management expertise and experience? NO WAY! Knowledge of current software? !!

    Like I said, the PTO is an engineering black hole.

    And even if a particular examiner was qualified for a particular private-sector job as an engineer (it is possible), it is well-established that total public sector compensation is vastly greater than total private sector compensation for the same job. Even if they could get a job as an engineer, they wouldn’t realize any increase whatsoever in compensation.

    2) Examiners ARE working as compliance specialists, NOT as engineers. Examiners are there to examine patent applications for COMPLIANCE with stated requirements for allowability. Period. Examiners are NOT attorneys. Examiners do WHAT their higher-ups tell them to do, HOW their higher-ups tell them to do it, right down to using the form paragraphs and sentences from the MPEP.

    And that’s fine–after all, that is the whole point of examination. But it is most definitely NOT “engineering”, never mind research-driven fields like solid-state physics, etc..

    IF any comparative tool is used to assess the conformation of examiner compensation with a private sector equivalent, that equivalent should be a compliance specialist.

    IF. However, any such comparative tool comparing across the public and private sectors loses concordance in that transition–a public-sector compliance specialist is NOT equivalent to a private-sector compliance specialist–the public-sector compliance specialist bears essentially no personal liability for incompetence, and should therefore be compensated less.

    Larger point:

    It is ultimately a question of VALUE. Whatever examiners are paid, and whatever the quality of the examination they perform, are they worth it?

    A facile first answer to that is “yes”, because nobody is forced to apply for a patent, and therefore those who choose to pay the PTO, and therefore supply the examiner’s compensation, have presumably done their own calculus and determined that the cost is worth it in their particular case. This is the model that the PTO uses–they like to point to the rising number of applications and say: “See, applications are up! Obviously our pricing is OK, otherwise more and more people wouldn’t be buying our product!”

    This represents reasoning in a vacuum–the PTO only plays with its pricing structure in one direction–up–and has no idea where they fall on the spectrum. The PTO should be trying to MAXIMIZE value, not simply conclude that a particular level of value is sufficient, without understanding the level of that value relative to other levels of value that may be realized.

    THAT is the essential difference between the public and private sector mentality. What passes for PTO “reasoning” is very weak indeed, but they have no external directive, or internal motive, to do any differently. Put plainly, the PTO does not care one whit about value–it is focused on other, more minor issues such as employee welfare.

    The whole system is broken–but if we’re going to fixate on something relatively minor like examiner compensation, let’s at least use a better comparison than “engineers”, which “examiners” most certainly are not.

  23. 67

    that is the only fair basis for comparison

    Yet another clueless individual with an obvious lack of real world experience.

    “Degree” does not equal working as an engineer, just as “Law Degree” does not equal working as a lawyer.

    could be” is meaningless – worse than “only fair“.

    It be instant chuckles ta see those without real world experience making these mistakes in logic.

  24. 66

    Except we aren’t working as “compliance specialists” either –that’s a nonsense apples-to-oranges comparison that you’re only bringing out to trot out the old “examiners are overpaid!” saw.

    Most examiners could be working for slightly more $ as a engineer — that is the only fair basis for comparison.

  25. 64

    The PTO can’t run a deficit. If it isn’t fully fee-funded, it must be getting money from Congress. Or selling missiles to Iran.

  26. 63

    That would be a betrayal of trust, I’m currently holding it over his head so he doesn’t come here and make an arse of himself. But I can tell you that the videos on the top 5 patent blogs (as ranked by my own linking to them anyway) are very interesting. If someone else should cipher out his ID then that’s up to them.

  27. 62

    Probably not as great as being a wonderful entrepreneur would be. See JAOI’s irl persona.

    You have to know your own strengths and weaknesses. The entrepreneur’s life is not for me – I’m too risk-averse.

    Who is JAOI’s irl persona?

  28. 61

    “And I never said examining was great–in fact, I think it sucks.”

    So let me get this straight, you think it sucks, but that the people doing a job that you acknowledge “sucks” should be paid less than they are?

    Ok tard.

  29. 60

    It IS what you do, like it or not.

    It is EXACTLY what you do, in fact.

    And I never said examining was great–in fact, I think it sucks.

    And I, personally, have better things that I can be doing, and I have earned the benefit of choosing to do them instead of examining.

    And I’ve got to go do them now, enjoy the remainder of the thread!

  30. 59

    Rubbish on so many levels, IANAE.

    The argument and evidence that you have totally misunderstood are totally contrary to your mis-interpretation.

    The “market” to which you refer when you talk about people choosing to work at the PTO is the labor market.

    As a matter of labor “economics”, a term of which you appear fond, people choose to work at the PTO because it is the economically rational choice–far greater compensation per unit time, far greater total lifetime compensation, excellent job security, unmatched and essentially guaranteed benefits.

    Given the disparity between the PTO and the private sector, it is an easy decision.

    Your “underpaid and in high demand” conclusion rests upon the assumption that the PTO operates in a sphere that is subject to market forces. It does not, and your conclusion is absurd. You make the error of assuming that the cost of an examination represents the the value thereof to its purchaser.

    That relationship does is not true in a monopolistic situation. Enter the monopoly that is the PTO.

    There is NO LEGITIMATE COMPARISON of the PTO to anything except a complete monopoly business.

    And “not enough people want to do it at the current rates”?

    Really? What is your evidence for this? Furthermore, you assume that the baseline to which the increase was added was achieved via a rational and unfettered “supply and demand” system; it was not.

    Look IANAE, I’m not “against” examiners, or public-sector employees in general. I am “against” the institutional structures in which they have to work–that is well-documented on this blog.

    Like I’ve said before, I’d have no problem paying an examiner $1 million a year, if that’s what they were worth. The current system doesn’t ALLOW them to be worth anything near what they are paid, even if they do have the desire and capability to do as well as they can (which, due to the current selection effect resulting from the modern institutional paradigm, very few public sector employees actually have, especially beltway feds).

    Bottom line is, what they do is potentially worth only as much as what a private-sector compliance officer does.

    The best available comparisons lead to the conclusion that they are vastly over-compensated.

    Darn it, I’ve got too much work to do and this will be my last post–I chafe at the thought of more of this going unaddressed.

  31. 58

    “But you have NO idea just how great it is for those of us who are really good at this.”

    Probably not as great as being a wonderful entrepreneur would be. See JAOI’s irl persona. The man made nearly unbelievable money straight out of school and still rolls in the dough. It is nearly unbelievable that you could be as incompetent as he acts (and seems irl when I saw a vid of him) and yet do so well in the market.

    If you want to go where the money is, go to the market imo.

  32. 56

    Lulz that would be the job if we didn’t have to search and didn’t have to formulate rejections in a legal manner. That is, as a matter of fact, more like the job I thought I’d be doing when I was hired and before I got started working here. Actually examining is nothing like that.

    Like I said, if it’s so great, why don’t you come and do it? There are like hella open offices right beside me. Just tell them you’d be happy to work for free since all the rest of the examiners are overpaid.

  33. 54

    So, shall I take it that you’re making 150k down from 160k last year? And you’re whining about your 150k in lawlschool debt that will be paid off in like 5 years? Yeah, see, I just don’t know about how great it is.

    You probably got that about right, 6. But you have NO idea just how great it is for those of us who are really good at this. Keep up the wage slaving; we’re counting on those rejections …

  34. 53

    Is there anything resembling a free market that results in market forces suggesting greater compensation?

    Yes, there is. People choose between working as PTO examiners or taking some other job. You and others have repeatedly pointed out that the private sector is seeing pay cuts and layoffs while the PTO can’t get nearly enough examination done at a fixed payscale. From a purely economic standpoint, private sector workers are clearly overpaid and in oversupply, while PTO workers are clearly underpaid and in high demand – regardless of which one takes home more money or how challenging their jobs are.

    Not to mention that the PTO is clearly running a successful “business” with customers lined up out the door, so why should they lay people off or cut salaries just because someone else’s business is struggling? Henry Ford wasn’t cutting salaries and laying people off when his competitors couldn’t keep pace – he was doing just the opposite.

    I have no idea where your tirade about whether they’re “worth” the extra money came from. If you need the job done and not enough people want to do it at the current rates, they are worth the extra money. That’s supply and demand.

  35. 51

    See my reply to IANAE below:

    Examiners are NOT working as engineers.

    They are performing in the role of “compliance specialists”.

    THAT job should be the basis of comparison, if any.

  36. 49

    IANAE,

    “They” “can’t” get nearly enough people to do it all because, apart from the standard federal employee ineffectiveness from which examiners are not immune:

    The total compensation levels of individual examiners are far too high.

    If they all made less–say, equivalent to comparable employment in the private sector–then there would be funds available with which to hire more examiners to, presumably, perform more work.

    “Insulated from huge raises”?

    Exactly WHY should they receive raises at all? Are they now performing extra work, for which they are not compensated? Are their current compensation levels somehow inadequate? Is there anything resembling a free market that results in market forces suggesting greater compensation?

    This is an excellent example of the public-sector entitlement mentality. Not only are examiners getting pay raises while the private sector takes pay cuts, there have been no examiner layoffs, unlike the deep private sector layoffs (don’t believe me? try google).

    Not only are examiners NOT entitled to more, they are deserving of less.

    The median expected salary of a “compliance specialist” in the US is $57,925, which requires a bachelor’s degree in a related field and 2-4 years of some experience to start (link to www1.salary.com) $61,754 including “bonuses”.

    And we all know that pensions and benefits in the public sector are well above and beyond what they are in the private sector (the public-sector benefits premium is estimated to be 32% versus private sector)

    By some numbers I found, the average pay of examiners, including salary and bonuses, is $77,795, (link to glassdoor.com) or 26% higher than the median compliance specialist pay including salary and bonuses.

    So, 26% higher salary, and 32% higher benefits than a comparable private-sector position.

    Combined with, to this point, complete and total insulation from layoffs and personal liability, all sorts of days off and free training, and a guaranteed pension plan.

    Give me a break! You’re so totally full of yourself. By any market-tested measure, USPTO examiners are grossly over-compensated. And underworked. And insulated from liability, and the other costs of actually doing business.

    The private sector not “doing as well” as the PTO?

    I’ll let the absurdity of that speak for itself.

  37. 48

    “If those numbers are accurate, that is EXCEEDINGLY ridiculous pay for examiners.”

    Nah, not really. The numbers for the private sector were down too. Salary.com is simply bs, probably in no small part because we’re looking at the MEDIAN and that includes things like mech e’s and civil e’s. Who’d have guessed?

    Be clear, a man like myself would be putting away around the same amount while living the same or better lifestyle if I was in the private engineering sector or here at the PTO, but not by a huge amount. If that wasn’t true I’d probably walk out the door. Also to be clear, I’d own a house if I didn’t live in this neighborhood. Heck, in another 5 years I could probably buy a house OUTRIGHT if I didn’t live around here. And that goes for either private or pto.

    On the other hand, I have other things I can advise a company in now. There are small corps all over the country that pay big dollars to patent attorneys for less good advice than I can give and knowledge that I can bring.

    “That’s astronomical once accounting for pensions and benefits. ASTRONOMICAL.”

    I don’t know about that but if you say so.

    BTW, if it is SO GREAT HERE then why don’t you come on over? Oh, what’s that? Don’t want to argue with attorneys every week? Don’t want to have to do something other than simplistic engineering day in and day out? Oh, my bad, you’re an attorney right now. So, shall I take it that you’re making 150k down from 160k last year? And you’re whining about your 150k in lawlschool debt that will be paid off in like 5 years? Yeah, see, I just don’t know about how great it is.

    “I should have skipped law school and its debt; PTO would have been MUCH more lucrative.”

    I can’t say that you might not be right there. The decision to bankroll your own turn in lawlschool (or medschool) is a tough one. But it depends entirely on how much you’re making at your firm when you get out. Go ahead and tell, I told you mine.

  38. 46

    It must be nice to be insulated from all that nastiness called “the economy.”

    It’s not nice at all. PTO examinations are in higher demand than ever, there’s a huge backlog of work, and they can’t get nearly enough people to do it all. Economically speaking, those examiners are being “insulated” from huge raises.

    It’s not the examiners’ fault if the private sector isn’t doing as well, so why should your pay cut justify theirs?

  39. 45

    Except that in the private sector, we’ve been getting pay cuts, not raises.

    It must be nice to be insulated from all that nastiness called “the economy.”

  40. 44

    If those numbers are accurate, that is EXCEEDINGLY ridiculous pay for examiners.

    That’s astronomical once accounting for pensions and benefits. ASTRONOMICAL.

    I should have skipped law school and its debt; PTO would have been MUCH more lucrative.

  41. 42

    :D

    I love that one. Give me 5 bucks. I promise I’ll spend it on beer, not whiskey during tonight’s bender.

  42. 41

    “RepuKKKes”

    Are you trying to say Republican or Democrat? Why mesh the two names?

  43. 40

    Hmm, yeah idk about those numbers. You appear to have presumed that they start us out at GS 5. Most people come in as a 7, at least in my field. And the GS 11’s will, so far as I’m aware, usually be above step 1. I’m a GS 9 and I make like 70 to 80 iirc because of my step and a bonus (that runs out this year actually :( ). On the other hand, they’re getting a deal with me anyway. And, note that in the private sector someone who can really perform can get extra dollas. This is known as getting a raise. They don’t really happen around here, but we do have OT for those who can perform in terms of production.

    “1) their TOTAL COMPENSATION is much higher than their simple salary”

    IDK about that but I do have an ok dental/health plan (even though the dam thing doesn’t seem to pay for much unless I get like cancer or something) for pretty cheap. And I also make a killing on TSP contributions that are matched. Other than that, meh. And our TSP program is not nearly as nice as the old retirement packages they used to be handing out around here.

  44. 39

    Max–

    In my european experience, public-sector employees in western europe, in particular, have indeed evidenced the concept of “service”, to the extent that I would say that it is an institutional value that is instilled in them by the educational systems from a very early age.

    In my experience, the quality of service that I have received from western European civil servants has been vastly superior to that I have received in North America, and I believe that is due in part to the understanding of “service” on their part.

    I do note, however, that the various “european” public sectors have historically held a somewhat privileged position in the various societies, English and French in particular, but also German.

    Not without their share of derision, of course!

    In 2 days I’ll be leaving the US for europe for a month again, and I’ve got to tell you, it will be a breath of fresh air.

    Maybe I’ll pursue citizenship in an EU member state, I am eligible.

    Just in case there’s no USA to return to, or in case the US dollar goes to zero while I’m gone.

  45. 38

    Jules–

    Yes, I get particularly turgid over this issue.

    “Rude” is a question of style and perspective thereupon–one’s “rude” is another’s “zealous”.

    And bitter? I don’t know…I suppose I have been “embittered” by what is going on–more disappointed and angry, though. We have so much yet to achieve, so far to go, and so many structural impediments stand in our way in the US.

    My view is only my own, that I know–but it is a view born of years of observation and experience.

    That experience is admittedly restricted, on the individual level, to maybe a few hundred individuals with whom I have had personal interaction. To the extent that they represent “the few”, you are correct.

    But you make the unwarranted assumption that the qualities I describe are in fact restricted to “the few”, which is every bit as egregious as my own assumption of the opposite.

    I am ex-military, and although I was not in the enlisted ranks, I can verify your understanding thereof…and that is why I am EX-military.

    “However, to the extent that you generalize a few to apply to everyone, you are wrong.”

    Really? Prove it. You cannot–instead, you make the very same “error” of which you accuse me–of generalizing the qualities of the few to the many:

    “Simply take the examples of David Kappos and Sharon Barner, who left the private sector to “serve”.

    Take a look at 6’s comments on “the safety net” on this thread, and you will have a good idea of the types of things examiners think about: link to patentlyo.com

    It’s all about personal pecuniary gain, and not at all about “service”.

    Even if your argument were to be considered on its merits (which, by your logic, it should not be), I have no idea, nor do you, what the actual motivations of Kappos and Barner were within the contexts of their career path and aspirations. What I DO know is that the rewards they personally realized during their tenure were vastly disproportionate to the personal risk they assumed, when compared to those whose desire to serve is evidenced by the infinitely higher risk:reward ratios found in the military, police, and emergency services.

    Further, I wasn’t talking about upper management at all.

    And I stated my position unequivocally in another thread: “I’m not saying examiners don’t work hard and well–like anything else, there will be some who are good and some who are not, following some sort of distribution.”

    And I’ll remind you of the discussion on this board about “examiner attrition” on that same thread: link to patentlyo.com

    That thread demonstrates that there are many myths propagated about, within, and from the PTO and the public sector in general, many of which are conceived and used to further the aims of what is possibly the strongest lobby group before the federal government: the federal workforce. When you get down to real evidence, though, to the extent that is ever possible, a different “truth”, as you describe it, is often revealed.

    The “strong desire” is not for “truth”, but for honesty and candor, if not valor. We need more of these qualities if anything worthwhile is to happen.

  46. 37

    What’s wrong with the solution at the 40 Member State EPO?

    Aint US law. Aint the gold standard. Why would we want to cheapen something (warts and all) that be better than the EP system?

  47. 36

    Jules,

    I, who love to pick on Shot Ta the Head, will be the first to say that he is right and you are wrong.

    However, to the extent that you generalize a few to apply to everyone, you are wrong. Simply take the examples of David Kappos and Sharon Barner, who left the private sector to “serve”. – (SB aint a good choice – she left tht service right quick).

    nonetheless – IBP was not talkin abouts people at that level – he be talking about the grunt level – the level that produces the likes of 6. Realign your thoughts with his target.

    Perhaps with your honesty and desire to see things done right, you would be a good fit to work at the PTO. You have such a strong desire for truth, I bet you would serve well.

    He be failed out right quick. Square peg in a round hole and all. Ya need to actually read what he says and not be so quick to dismiss as an unfair characterization. And while it not be universally true, it be true enough and often enough to carry the sting of bitterness, not as a personal attribute of IPB (yeah, tough sometimes a separate), but as a sting of actuality in the Office and somethin that all too often aint the focus of “reform.” One glaring example of an exception was one of Lord Kappos first edicts: Quality dont equal rejection. Four simple and stinging words.

    PS – IPB, ya would never, and I mean never get away with such an attack if my main man IANAE were still with us. Ya not only stepped on holy ground here, ya stomped on it and defacated on it.

  48. 34

    IBP, the way you generalize your small view to an entire group of people comes off as bitter and rude. Such behavior is akin to the behavior of racists, generalizing the qualities of a few to the many.

    I do appreciate your views. The honesty is refreshing. However, sometimes your assumptions get the better of you. If you take that attitude with everybody, you are not likely to obtain what you desire.

    From what I understand, you’re an ex-military man. And from what I understand about the military, the enlisted guys look at the officers and general beauracracy the same way. There’s good reason, and I don’t fault you for that.

    However, to the extent that you generalize a few to apply to everyone, you are wrong. Simply take the examples of David Kappos and Sharon Barner, who left the private sector to “serve”.

    Perhaps with your honesty and desire to see things done right, you would be a good fit to work at the PTO. You have such a strong desire for truth, I bet you would serve well.

  49. 33

    What’s wrong with the solution at the 40 Member State EPO? The Examiners who have got there from their home Member State are intelligent, competent and customer-friendly (in all three Office languages).

    Article 4(3) of the EPC provides that “The task of the Organisation shall be to grant European patents”. Ordinary EPO Examiners routinely serve as members of 3-member international Opposition Divisions, revoking patents issued already by their brother and sister Examiners as often as the maintain them unamended. They judge between two opposing stories. It makes them wiser.

    I grant you though, they do receive fair financial “compensation” for their “service”.

  50. 32

    Max, let’s get one thing straight:

    There are exceedingly few people in the U.S. who “apply to serve”.

    “Service” is not a concept. Compensation for time and qualifications is the operative concept.

    There are exceptions, of course–and to the extent that there ARE exceptions, they are found in the military, police, and emergency services, NOT in the PTO. (!)

    It’s just a job, in an office, same as any other job in any other office, except the pay and working conditions are better.

    Whether or not the reasoning is “depressing” depends on your own internal environment. I don’t find it “depressing”, I find it disappointing and maddening.

    I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last. It is an old story, for which nobody has yet found a good solution.

  51. 31

    Punches, may I ask, as you see it, how much of your depressing reasoning applies also the the mindset of those who apply to serve in other ways, say as members of a police force? Or is it that they too just happen to like hitting people?

    Out of the EPO and the German Patent Office there is career progression, to become patent judges. Is the mindset of judges in the USA any better than that of PTO Examiners?

  52. 30

    Why do they stay?

    1) their TOTAL COMPENSATION is much higher than their simple salary

    2) job security is infinitely better

    3) there are effectively no substantive performance expectations other than assembly-line-type quotas to meet

    etc.

    Those who “choose” to stay, assuming they actually have other opportunities (a large and unwarranted assumption) are those who are risk-averse, intellectually sedentary, and who rely upon institutional frameworks to invest their bureaucratic-type of character development with internalized legitimacy.

    The PTO is a black hole for engineers. A couple of years spent at the PTO, out of the private engineering loop, is effectively an engineering death sentence, unless someone wants to go back to school to do a master’s. I know, I’ve done hiring–PTO “experience” is a detriment, not an asset.

    That’s OK, since the private sector takes the best and the brightest, and the “remainder” goes to the PTO. Private-sector businesses wouldn’t survive very long if they were populated with the personality types that are qualified for, and therefore attracted to, public-sector employment with the PTO.

    At the PTO, the results of their incompetence can quickly be perceived by attorneys and agents, and their “decisions” can be reviewed and appealed; but who would want these people working in the private sector, where the results of incompetence are often injury, damage, trauma, and waste? It’s bad enough that we have to waste time with them in the public sector, but failure in real-world engineering leads to untenable insurance situations (which of course the PTO doesn’t have to deal with at all, since it and its employees are not liable for any compensatory or other damages resulting from incompetence).

    I’m not saying the PTO makes people that way. I think there is a strong selection effect.

    Nobody, NOBODY, I’ve ever known in my decades of experience with engineers, who ever had any real ability or showed any real promise, even CONSIDERED working for the PTO.

    Let’s face it, there are lots of pathetic so-called “engineering” programs at U.S. colleges, which cannot hold a candle to the real programs that exist. Those are the people who can’t even pass the heavily-curved EIT exam.

    Speaking of which, it’s not even necessary to have passed that preliminary exam to work at the PTO, is it?

    So you get into some second-rate engineering program somewhere, you float through (I have seen “good” schools doing in 4th year–FOURTH YEAR–what I was doing in second year), you come out knowing jack, all the private sector employers know it and you don’t have a chance of landing a real job with any of them, and you turn to the public sector.

    Same as it ever was, except for maybe the earliest days of the Roman Empire, and a select few other periods in the history of bureaucratic government.

    We’ve been through the examiner “attrition” myth before, when it was debunked on another thread as not being supported by any actual evidence.

    “They” stay because “they” have no other option except for retirement or re-assignment within the federal workforce.

    “They” are NOT “engineers”. “They” are public-sector employees, who achieve expertise at nothing other than navigating and surviving the public-sector bureaucratic workplace, and that is ultimately they only thing they end up qualified to do.

    THAT is why they stay.

    Oh, and because they’re making a ton of money, and don’t have to do any real work to get it, and they assume no liability whatsoever for their incompetence.

  53. 28

    for example, place their highly educated signatures on the work of others

    Wasn’t that one O the planks of the illegal Claims and Continuations Rules Gambit – have the applicant examine his own application and have the examiner cut n paste his sig?

  54. 25

    According to Salary.com for Alexandria, VA (for Ping)

    Median Salary – Engineer I – 60,666 – 0 years
    Engineer III- 86,696 – 4-6 years
    Engineer V -117,223 – 8 years

    Compare to USPTO
    New Examiner (GS 5, step 1) – 41,969 – 0 years
    Examiner (GS 11, step 1)- 69,899 – 4 years
    Primary (GS 14, step 1)- 112,647- 8 years

    So at pretty much every level, USPTO employee is receiving less compensation than an engineer at the equivalent level of experience in Alexandria, VA. Why do they stay? Well, many don’t. For those who do, the USPTO does offer a lifestyle of telework that is hard to match.

  55. 24

    major firms, firms who do nothing but delay and spend money as if it were growing on trees and who do everything in their power to stay out of rocket dockets so that they can increase delay and expense and avoid, at all costs, a decision until they can recommend to their clients that they settle for just about the same amount they could have settled for had they not litigated

    And then there are those “major firms” that save their clients from hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages for infringement AND are reimbursed for nearly all the attorney fees spent on defending the frivolous case.

    Choose your counsel carefully.

  56. 22

    The problem they identify is true of tort suits as well. See the overleaf on Bradley’s complaint.

    If we have a problem today it is a problem that is exclusively related to litigation: its cost is a major problem when claims are “frivolous.”

    But, consider this: those who most complain about cost and frivolity also hire major firms, firms who do nothing but delay and spend money as if it were growing on trees and who do everything in their power to stay out of rocket dockets so that they can increase delay and expense and avoid, at all costs, a decision until they can recommend to their clients that they settle for just about the same amount they could have settled for had they not litigated.

    So, where is the problem? Is it in the patent system?

    Or is it in the choice of counsel?

  57. 20

    Considering most examiners are in fact engineers from what I hear then I would think yes it would seem to be. Although it is perfectly fine to compare them with an agent as well. Very little separates the two. If my boneheaded friend can pass the patent bar with a few weekends of studying it is safe to say that becoming an agent is pretty easy.

  58. 19

    6, if we wanted to reduce PTO expenses, why not hire out to low cost providers in other countries the job of searching and writing office actions? We do that now by selecting which ISA conducts searches and given preliminary examination reports for PCTs. Works well, is fast, efficient and low cost. Let’s learn from experience.

    Keep the US examiner for the higher level functions that only us examiner can do: for example, place their highly educated signatures on the work of others.

  59. 18

    Fyi, did you see Senator Kyl’s ridiculous and pathetic response when he was busted telling blatant lies about Planned Parenthood on the Senate floor?

    Stephen Colbert saw it. And the rest is history.

    RepuKKKes will never learn.

  60. 16

    Considering the actual responsibilities of the job is it appropriate to compare the pay and benefits of a patent examiner to an engineer?

    It would appear, at least superficially, that the appropriate comparison would be to a patent agent.

  61. 15

    So let me get this straight: you think congress is giving the PTO money under the table, then taking back 100 million just to make it look legit? Seriously? I mean, it’s the PTO, not a CIA covert operation.

  62. 14

    What is more, engineers spent 4 years being taught how to be an engineer.

    Prima facie evidence of ZERO real world experience.

  63. 11

    “Imagine if all those Examiners had their pay and benefits cut by say, 20%, so that they were comparable to, oh, 95% of the other engineers in the country. Yeah, that would be quite a shame.”

    Wait wut? Engineers in the alexandria area make 20% less than I do?

    “$1/hour more leaving the PTO for the headache that is the law firm”

    Sounds about right, but he had the opportunity to make much more eventually.

    “Something is inherently ridiculous about the government paying more for an engineers time than Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Orbital, GD, etc.”

    There is? Such as? Let’s be clear, an engineering job is infintely less of a headache than this job is. What is more, engineers spent 4 years being taught how to be an engineer.

  64. 10

    Imagine if all those Examiners had their pay and benefits cut by say, 20%, so that they were comparable to, oh, 95% of the other engineers in the country. Yeah, that would be quite a shame.

    I remember when a friend, who was just previously a primary examiner, first started at the law firm where I worked. According to his calculations, taking into account salary, benefits, etc., he made $1/hour more leaving the PTO for the headache that is the law firm. This was after the dot com boom, so we’re not talking the days when a first year associate made 5 digits. Something is inherently ridiculous about the government paying more for an engineers time than Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Orbital, GD, etc. But, I’m sure, the problem is with how much the PTO collects, NOT how the PTO spends its money (I’ll hit post when my eyes roll forward enough that I can see again . . .)

  65. 8

    This, I think, is unassailable:

    Without meaningful reform of the PTO and federal employee paradigm, cutting $100 million from the PTO budget will be nothing but detrimental to the level of service experienced by applicants.

  66. 7

    1993-2005 pension obligations are a mess.

    “Prior to FY 2005, the USPTO did not fully fund the pension, post-retirement health, and life insurance benefits of all eligible USPTO employees. Instead, the USPTO recognized an imputed financing source and corresponding expense to represent its share of the cost to the federal government of providing pension and post-retirement health and life insurance benefits to all eligible USPTO employees.”

    The accrued costs were not, and are not, fee-funded. At a minimum, the PTO should internalize all costs it has incurred in the past, for which obligations remain on the books. Any remaining externalization thereof gives an inaccurate portrayal of the PTO’s actual financial situation with respect to fee-funding.

    Although I’m not entirely sure that this analysis is accurate, I am sure that if I or anybody else cared to dig deeply enough, that other such externalizations or rationalizations could be found.

    Not that they couldn’t be properly accounted for within the PTO budget, if that route was chosen–but to arrive at favorable figures by favorably windowing the data is an old trick.

    But it is still only a trick.

  67. 6

    Thanks, anonymous!

    Operations and maintenance?

    Is the multitude of acronym-programs listed exhaustive of federal employee compensation?

    Funding of liabilities incurred only post-2005? What about the billions in liabilities incurred pre-2005?

    Insurance? It is my understanding that the lease, at least, is self-insured:

    link to gao.gov

    Of course, the ultimate question is again, one of value, not of “fee funding”, which is at best a diversion…but given the proliferation of federal programs and budget line items, the overall budget picture becomes obscured.

    I would like to see, not a spreadsheet naming broad categories and then detailing what IS included therein, but an explicit statement to the effect that all costs occasioned by the existence of the agency of the USPTO are paid for by fees collected by said agency.

    Thanks anon, that doesn’t provide definitive answers, but it is a decent start to the required brush-clearing.

  68. 4

    “That extra $100 million would then go to pay for other government expenditures.”

    AKA a few tanks.

  69. 3

    The PTO is fully fee funded. The buildings are leased and the rent is fully paid by the USPTO.

    In regards to future pension and benefits:
    “since FY 2005, required full funding of the present costs of post-retirement benefits such as the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHB) and the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program (FEGLI), and to fully fund the CSRS and FERS pension liabilities. While ultimate administration of any post-retirement benefits or retirement system payments will continue to be administered by various federal government agencies, the USPTO is responsible for the payment of the present value associated with these costs calculated using the OPM factors.”

    link to uspto.gov

  70. 2

    Dennis–

    Here’s the USPTO FY 2011 budget:

    link to uspto.gov

    Blah, blah, blah, blah…

    Nowhere is there given a breakdown of PTO operating expenses and capital expenditures.

    When it is claimed that the PTO is entirely “fee-funded”, does that include upkeep and maintenance of facilities? Security? Capital improvements and building costs? Present net cost of current and future pension and benefit obligations?

    Or are lots of expenditures conveniently off-loaded onto other federal sources to make it look like the PTO is entirely “fee-funded” in a public-sector-sense?

    Without actually knowing these things, any claim made regarding “fee-funding” of the PTO amounts to nothing more than boosterism of current and recent PTO administration.

    If you have links to the information, let’s see it.

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