by Dennis Crouch
On November 18, the Congressional Judiciary an Oversight Committees will jointly hold hearings on the USPTO Telework Scandal. As with many beltway-scandals, this one is double-dip involving both the scandal and then the cover-up. Basically, USPTO managers allowed teleworkers to violate their time-reporting rules and then USPTO management attempted to hide at least some of those abuses from the Department of Commerce Inspector General after an anonymous whistleblower spilled the beans. [NOTE – The USPTO hotly contests the notion that it attempted any coverup]
The Obama Administration appears to be shielding its USPTO Director Nominee Michelle Lee and is instead sending Patent Commissioner Margaret Focarino to testify. The USPTO’s written testimony offers little information other than general statements of quality, performance, and seriousness. The report offers no indication of whether any employees were fired, sanctioned, or prosecuted for reporting time worked without actually working (or encouraging that approach). Further, even years after the PTO management became aware of the issues, the agency is still only in the process of “clarifying what steps supervisors should take if they suspect any misconduct.” [Focarino Testimony]. It will be interesting to see whether the committee members will allow the PTO to keep its comments at such a “high level of generality.”
Following Commissioner Focarino’s approach, Esther Kepplinger argues against transparancy — noting that many of the USPTO problems can an should be dealt with “outside the public eye.”
Bill Smith offers useful testimony on the count system and RCE-abuse. [Smith Testimony] Smith notes that the count system offers some incentives for examiners to engage in bad or abusive behavior to ensure that they remain highly paid. Smith proposes a change in the system with what he calls Compact Prosecution 2.0.