If You Thought The USPTO Was Incompetent You Were Half Right

Patents, and software patents have been big news for a few years now - and since the high level, high volume Samsung/Apple battles brought them into the public eye there has been a grudging admission that the US Patent and Trademark Office wasn't delivering anything like the sort of oversight that business and consumers have a right to expect.

Some of the patents granted to patent trolls, despite overwhelming evidence to deny them, has suggested that the USPTO is an incompetent organisation.

Now the Washington Post is reporting that an internal investigation into the Office has uncovered a far more insidious problem, one which appear to have been costing US businesses billions as a result of patent trolling.

Teleworking Patent Examiners - about 50% of the Offices very well renumerated staff - were guilty of falsifying time sheets, claiming bonuses for work not done and completing reports to a minimum standard without the required time and investigation due. The Teleworking program suffered from 'completely ineffective' oversight and when fraud was identified the Office was guilty of hiding the evidence and covering up the problem.

It also reports that teleworking paralegals spent up to four years working from home without doing any actual work.

The abuses and issues raise serious questions about how the USPTO is managed and urgent action needs to be taken to address the problems which not only impact the quality of patent registration in the US, but seriously damage the credibility of teleworkers across the country. Finding organisations that reject the benefits of home working because of a belief that this is what they will get, isn't hard.

For those workers at the USPTO who work diligently and provide value for money this must be a hugely demoralising report, however the investigation was prompted by whistleblowing from inside the organisation, so there are people in the USPTO with the desire and capability to deliver the service properly.

Hopefully they'll be given the opportunity to prove that.

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