×

Announcing: Slashdot Deals - Explore geek apps, games, gadgets and more. (what is this?)

Thank you!

We are sorry to see you leave - Beta is different and we value the time you took to try it out. Before you decide to go, please take a look at some value-adds for Beta and learn more about it. Thank you for reading Slashdot, and for making the site better!

Every Day Is Goof-Off-At-Work Day At the US Patent and Trademark Office

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the I'll-do-it-later dept.

United States 327

McGruber writes An internal investigation by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office found that some of its 8,300 patent examiners repeatedly lied about the hours they were putting in and many were receiving bonuses for work they did not do. While half of the USPTO's Patent Examiners work from home full time, oversight of the telework program — and of examiners based at the Alexandria headquarters — was "completely ineffective," investigators concluded. The internal investigation also unearthed another widespread problem. More than 70 percent of the 80 managers interviewed told investigators that a "significant" number of examiners did not work for long periods, then rushed to get their reviews done at the end of each quarter. Supervisors told the review team that the practice "negatively affects" the quality of the work. "Our quality standards are low," one supervisor told the investigators. "We are looking for work that meets minimal requirements." Patent examiners review applications and grant patents on inventions that are new and unique. They are experts in their fields, often with master's and doctoral degrees. They earn at the top of federal pay scale, with the highest taking home $148,000 a year.

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Public servants don't give an arm and a leg (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648431)

Film at 11.

Re:Public servants don't give an arm and a leg (2, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 4 months ago | (#47648857)

Oh random government-worker hater modded up. Must be a Monday on slashdot.

It's insightful because no private sector workers ever goofed off, or spent the "work from home" days, grazing from the fridge, playing halo. And no public sector worker ever ever rushed through a piece of late work and did a half assed job.

Ever.

Re:Public servants don't give an arm and a leg (5, Insightful)

phorm (591458) | about 4 months ago | (#47649051)

Oh, I'd imagine that private workers goof off too. The thing is, when they do it jeopardizes whatever project they're involved with, with monetary loss to the company.

In the case of the USPTO... well I'd imagine you've ready some of the stories of the horrific patents that keep getting passed (and how the USPTO claims they're sooooo overburdened). It's the whole country (and some would say other countries as well, see Apple V Samsung) that's suffering from *that* mess

Re:Public servants don't give an arm and a leg (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649203)

They are experts in their fields, often with master's and doctoral degrees. They earn at the top of federal pay scale, with the highest taking home $148,000 a year.

Only $148k at the top of the scale? They probably get some benefits like health care, but they must be the dregs of Masters and Doctorates. I can't imagine taking such a pay cut, and I get 7 weeks paid vacation as well as a pension and health plan.

Re:Public servants don't give an arm and a leg (4, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | about 4 months ago | (#47649133)

Ever seems to be missing the point. Sure, nearly everybody goofs off occasionally. Have I ever spent most of a work from home day goofing off? Sure. Have I ever dialed into a meeting and played video games because the meeting was totally useless for me? Yup. Ever encompasses many many things.

The thing is, the article isn't about how this one time a guy at the Patent office spent a day goofing off. Its about how goofing off, not doing the work, and then rushing the report is standard operating procedure.

You do get that there is a difference between something that someone did or something that happened and... how business is normally conducted. Like, its one thing to go out for lunch with your coworkers and all get drunk one day....its quite another to do it every day as a matter of course.

Re:Public servants don't give an arm and a leg (4, Insightful)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 4 months ago | (#47649137)

I do not have to pay for some tool at IBM. If they want to pay people for crap then that is their business.

But it is our business when public employees are being paid good money for bad work. I can understand how you believe differently. Wait. I can't. I can see no reason that your belief that the public has no interest in ho the people they are paying to do a job are performing that job.

The fact that you would state something so obviously wrong makes me think that either you have an agenda or are incredibly stupid.

Re:Public servants don't give an arm and a leg (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 4 months ago | (#47649263)

The fact that you would state something so obviously wrong makes me think that either you have an agenda or are incredibly stupid.

You might like to try actually reading my post rather than just making up the contents and then replying to that unless that is you have an agenda (etc).

So what -specifically- did I state that was so obviously wrong?

Re:Public servants don't give an arm and a leg (3, Informative)

edawstwin (242027) | about 4 months ago | (#47649259)

Oh random government-worker hater modded up. Must be a Monday on slashdot.

It's insightful because no private sector workers ever goofed off, or spent the "work from home" days, grazing from the fridge, playing halo. And no public sector worker ever ever rushed through a piece of late work and did a half assed job.

Ever.

As phorm pointed out, when a worker in the private sector goofs off, that can have detrimental effects on a company's bottom line, and the company can take appropriate action. If a public sector worker goofs off, time is lost, but there is no bottom line for a government agency to be affected. Sure, they all have budgets, but there are not many negative consequences for having bad employees. They'll usually get a few more bucks in next year's budget regardless of performance. And the travesty here is that we're paying them to do a bad job. Public sector employees should take their jobs even more seriously than private sector employees because every tax-payer is ultimately affected by their performance.

I have no personal experience working for any government agency, but I did have a friend who got a job with the federal government after having worked in the private sector for many years. After about a month, his direct superior told him to take it easier because he was too efficient. If he stayed at the current level, many other workers would look bad in comparison, and the manager didn't want to have to explain that to his bosses. The manager absolutely could not get away with something like that at a competent profitable private company.

Re:Public servants don't give an arm and a leg (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47649301)

That's a cute view of companies. I have worked at several large corporation, an frankly they have little clue as to who is really productive.
I currently work cor a city government. There is so little waste here compared to any public government.

What I want to know is why government workers get bonuses.

Re:Public servants don't give an arm and a leg (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649295)

Oh random government-worker being defensive. Did someone hit a nerve?

Patent US 99063520 A (5, Funny)

AlecDalek (3781731) | about 4 months ago | (#47648441)

Patent US 9063520 A: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
A method and system for under-performing approval of patents.

Re:Patent US 99063520 A (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648795)

Patent US 9063520 B: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
A method and system for under-performing approval of patents on the internet.

Re:Patent US 99063520 A (0)

alphatel (1450715) | about 4 months ago | (#47649361)

Patent US 9063520 B: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
A method and system for under-performing approval of patents on the interwebs.

Where do I sign up? (5, Funny)

aitikin (909209) | about 4 months ago | (#47648455)

Seriously? You're posting this here without telling me how I can get this job? From the sounds of it, I could do it in the background while at my real job.

Re:Where do I sign up? (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 4 months ago | (#47648463)

You need to pay some one off to get that job

Re:Where do I sign up? (5, Interesting)

pla (258480) | about 4 months ago | (#47648605)

You need to pay some one off to get that job

Nah, I foresee a large number of vacant positions in the very near future - Particularly as we get closer to November 4th.

Of course, any applicants will probably need to actually work for a month or two until everyone forgets about this and moves on to the next government outrage...

Re:Where do I sign up? (5, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 months ago | (#47648647)

Keep watching, you will learn a lot.

I foresee nobody losing their job, except the snitches. Government work.

Re:Where do I sign up? (0, Flamebait)

mi (197448) | about 4 months ago | (#47648743)

Nah, I foresee a large number of vacant positions in the very near future - Particularly as we get closer to November 4th.

Wishful thinking. Federal employees are practically unfirable [usatoday.com] . For one, they are — bizarrely — unionized (to protect them from their employer — us), but that's only part of the reason, for corporations with unionized workforce still do fire bad workers, even if it is harder for them to do so than it ought to be.

The real problem is that firing an underling reflects poorly on his manager(s). This is also the truth everywhere, of course, but in normal enterprises there is this dirty and otherwise reprehensible "profit" to think about, so a bad employee can still be fired even if the manager's record gets hurt in the process. But the glorious government enterprises do not defile their mission with concerns for profit — their revenue is collected for them at gun point by the IRS.

Hence, practically nobody ever gets fired from government — "counseling" and "discipline" [businessinsider.com] is the worst, that usually happens to our civil servants. Is it not time, we put our health care into their capable hands? Oh, wait...

Re:Where do I sign up? (5, Insightful)

grepninja7 (966645) | about 4 months ago | (#47648953)

The reason is that it is hard to fire a federal employee is so that the positions are not used to reward political allies and contributors every time someone new is elected.

Re:Where do I sign up? (-1, Troll)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 4 months ago | (#47648977)

their revenue is collected for them at gun point by the IRS.

Really? I'm sorry, but when was the last time any IRS official pulled a gun on someone and told them to hand over their money.

Oh, I see. You mean like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, AIG and a whole host of other private companies who told the American taxpayers they will hand over their money so the people who nearly brought down the country's financial institution can still get their bonuses.

Maybe the Federal government is different, but I know for a fact people in state government fired all the time for not doing their job. The only thing it takes is for their non-work to be documented. Once that happens, there is nothing any Union can say about their firing.

But please, continue your rant of how evil government is. After all, the benevolence of the private sector is so well known we sing their praises every day because they never, EVER take advantage of people or stick it to us in their quest for profits [latimes.com] .

Re:Where do I sign up? (4, Insightful)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 4 months ago | (#47649185)

Really? I'm sorry, but when was the last time any IRS official pulled a gun on someone and told them to hand over their money.

Try not giving them the money. Then you will see.

Re:Where do I sign up? (5, Insightful)

mi (197448) | about 4 months ago | (#47649209)

Really? I'm sorry, but when was the last time any IRS official pulled a gun on someone and told them to hand over their money.

If you don't pay, IRS will put a lien on your house. If you still don't pay, the house will be sold — and police (with guns) will arrive to kick you out from it.

Don't be stupid disputing the obvious — all governments world-wide collect revenues at gun-point. It is normal and the only way possible. It just means, the monies thus collected should only be used in situations, where weapons would take place: enforcing laws and fighting foreign enemies.

You mean like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, AIG [....]

Corporations don't have the means of coercing people to buy their services, don't even bring them up here.

After all, the benevolence of the private sector is so well known we sing their praises every day because they never, EVER take advantage of people or stick it to us in their quest for profits

Again, corporations are not (normally) in a position to coerce anybody to buy their services — only the government is in such a position and its role in our lives must be minimized, not perpetually expanded.

Your link is to a description of some outrage committed by Comcast — which is funny, because the company is a book-case example of crony capitalism: it (and other cable giants) grew out of government's idiocy of giving them monopoly [cato.org] , and their CEO today plays golf with the President [politico.com] .

Corporations are not any nicer, than they have to be — in order to compete. But monopolies — like Comcast — don't have anyone to compete with. And the government is the biggest and harshest monopoly of all. One can cancel their Comcast bill — even if it can be infuriatingly ridiculous. Now try opting out of Social Security...

Re:Where do I sign up? (1, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | about 4 months ago | (#47649311)

Ha ha ha :)

I am not laughing at your post, it's 100% correct. I just find it funny, if I left that comment it would have been moderated -23, Troll for stating the obvious truth that all government is funded through violence and armed coercion.

Re:Where do I sign up? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47649353)

"Corporations don't have the means of coercing people to buy their services, don't even bring them up here."
BWAHAHAHAHAHHAhahhaa.

Re:Where do I sign up? (4, Insightful)

TheCarp (96830) | about 4 months ago | (#47649223)

> The real problem is that firing an underling reflects poorly on his manager(s). This is also the truth everywhere, of
> course, but in normal enterprises there is this dirty and otherwise reprehensible "profit" to think about, so a bad
> employee can still be fired even if the manager's record gets hurt in the process.

I think you are looking at the wrong problem. Yes, this exists but, I look at it this way:

If there is an underperforming employee who just isn't doing the work, there is, most likely, a problem with THAT employee. It may be one you can work with or fix, but, very likely it is localized; and there is a chance, either way, that replacing him fixes it.

If many employees are not doing the work however, the problem is likely not the employees but a more general systemic issue relating to management or work structure; and replacing the employees will likely be about as effective as rotating your tires because the battery stopped charging.

Re:Where do I sign up? (1)

mi (197448) | about 4 months ago | (#47649285)

If many employees are not doing the work however, the problem is likely not the employees but a more general systemic issue relating to management or work structure

Oh, I didn't mean, it is only the low-level employees themselves, who must all be fired (though some of the ought to be). What I said applies equally to managers — whom their managers are reluctant to fire because it is both difficult to do and hurts the person's own record.

Re:Where do I sign up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649231)

No, you're missing the most important point. You transfer under-performing employees to departments/managers that are known for firing people. There will be that one manager that is simply "known" as a total asshat, but that's because all the weak employees get transferred to them.

As for the entire telework problem. How's that working for Yahoo! ?

Telework is the easiest, best solution to not expanding office space/hardware/transportation, it's literately cost savings that look good, that even if you lost 20% efficiency, it would still be cost neutral. That inefficiency comes from not having someone walk by and shoulder surf/intimidate. You can get the same effect from requiring a constant "livestream" of their desktop+webcam to see if they are in front of their machine. That would of course increase data costs. So now instead of using Jo's 10Mbit connection capped at 50GB, Jo now needs a 100Mbit connection with a 500GB cap.

Re:Where do I sign up? (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47649321)

I've seen federal employees get fired. Several time.
They are not unfirable. They are difficult to fire to protect them against political whims, and crazy panic public irrationality.

Re:Where do I sign up? (3, Informative)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about 4 months ago | (#47649325)

Wishful thinking. Federal employees are practically unfirable [usatoday.com] . For one, they are — bizarrely — unionized (to protect them from their employer — us), but that's only part of the reason, for corporations with unionized workforce still do fire bad workers, even if it is harder for them to do so than it ought to be.

This is just simply not correct. I know. I worked for Uncle Sam for a while. While it is difficult to fire federal workers, it's not impossible. Firing for cause can happen, although the more time a person has working there, the harder it becomes. And spare me the "they're in unions" argument. Unions do exist for federal employees, but at least where I worked in the Department of Defense, unions are a waste of money for most people. By federal law federal employees cannot strike (see Ronald Reagan vs. the air traffic controllers) so the union can't really do a lot in terms of collective bargaining. The only benefit I knew of that the union offered where I worked was that they had a supplemental insurance plan you could get through them that would pick up the consumer responsible charges of medical insurance and if you had a very expensive need, like major surgery, with such insurance you could get out of it paying nothing. I know of a case where a unionized worker was going to be fired for just cause. I don't remember what the guy did, but it was really bad and there was no doubt that he was guilty. The union called for hearings and drug their feet where it took a year to fire him but in the end the guy was fired. So other than giving you supplemental insurance or delaying a firing, that's about all a union could do where I worked. The majority of our workforce was not part of any union.

Re:Where do I sign up? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47649339)

I like how you went from some people abusing telework(the article) to health care.

Agenda much, asshole?

Re:Where do I sign up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649345)

The American Empire Party will take care of that! Once we assume power, we'll put the "execute" back into "executive branch".

Re:Where do I sign up? (2)

TonTonKill (907928) | about 4 months ago | (#47648473)

From the sounds of it, that's what they are all doing and are now getting in trouble for. Good luck with that.

Re:Where do I sign up? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648545)

If you have to ask, you can't get the job.

Re:Where do I sign up? (1, Interesting)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 months ago | (#47648625)

I guarantee you they are using a performance metric of some sort.

When work stops being about work, it starts being about something else. I'm going to guess that there is a government union involved that is indirectly in charge of performance reviews. So you get rated by how many dollars you gave to 'preferred political party' (D), how much time you waste on government union activities and how well you parrot the talking points.

Like the sib post said, you need to pay someone off to get the job, then continue paying to keep it. Like being a cop in Mexico.

Re:Where do I sign up? (1)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about 4 months ago | (#47648955)

I think you should try to apply for the job before pulling political assumption into the topic. Yes, they may be very inefficient, but I at least know some people who tried to get the job and got it plus those who have already been in the job. Not that I say they are very efficient, but the issue is not this simple with emphasis on government...

Re:Where do I sign up? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648627)

https://www.usajobs.gov/Search?keyword=uspto&Location=&AutoCompleteSelected=&search=Search [usajobs.gov]

Nine openings, seven list at over 100K/year. Good luck!

Re:Where do I sign up? (1)

cruff (171569) | about 4 months ago | (#47648791)

Nine openings, seven list at over 100K/year. Good luck!

And nary a one is for the job category in question: Patent Examiner.

Re:Where do I sign up? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47649363)

Not just patent examiners: Patent Examiners the telework.
So a small group of a small group.

Re:Where do I sign up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648633)

Patent examiners review applications and grant patents on inventions that are new and unique. They are experts in their fields, often with master's and doctoral degrees.

If thats true then anyone should be able to get a job there, seeing all of the idiotic patents they allow. Thus the funny parts were "masters" and "doctoral degrees"

Re:Where do I sign up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648861)

Patent examiners review applications and grant patents on inventions that are new and unique. They are experts in their fields, often with master's and doctoral degrees.

If thats true then anyone should be able to get a job there, seeing all of the idiotic patents they allow. Thus the funny parts were "masters" and "doctoral degrees"

Examiners are not experts in their field. You could be approving Apple's patents based on the mere fact that you own an iPhone. Examiners do not judge the technical merits of a patent, nor are they expected to.

Not experts but not laypeople (2)

Etherwalk (681268) | about 4 months ago | (#47648947)

Patent examiners review applications and grant patents on inventions that are new and unique. They are experts in their fields, often with master's and doctoral degrees.

If thats true then anyone should be able to get a job there, seeing all of the idiotic patents they allow. Thus the funny parts were "masters" and "doctoral degrees"

Examiners are not experts in their field. You could be approving Apple's patents based on the mere fact that you own an iPhone. Examiners do not judge the technical merits of a patent, nor are they expected to.

Patent examiners are not experts in the sense that we think of experts--they are not, for example, in the top 100 people in the world working in a given space, nor do they even have lots of professional experience in the space.

They are also not laypeople. They need to have a technical degree, and the degree they have is generally but not always relevant to the patents the office has them review.

So while they are not experts and not supposed to be experts, they are also not the clerk from your supermarket--unless the clerk happens to have studied engineering.

Re:Not experts but not laypeople (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 4 months ago | (#47649201)

I think the clerk from the Supermarket could do a better job though.

Re:Not experts but not laypeople (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 4 months ago | (#47649367)

I cant dispute the whole "large work spurt prior to end of period", but I do know a number of PTO people and they tend to be very sharp and well educated.

I would dispute that the supermarket clerk COULD do a better job-- theres a lot of research that has to go into patent reviews.

Re:Where do I sign up? (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 4 months ago | (#47648681)

Seriously? You're posting this here without telling me how I can get this job? From the sounds of it, I could do it in the background while at my real job.

But it might seriously cut into your /. reading!

Re:Where do I sign up? (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 4 months ago | (#47648727)

From the sounds of it, I could do it in the background while at my real job.

It has happened before. Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity while goofing off at the Swiss Patent Office.

http://xkcd.com/1067/ [xkcd.com]

Where do I sign up? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648819)

Seriously? You're posting this here without telling me how I can get this job?

So what you are saying is the astroturfing to get more people to apply for positions at the USPTO is working?

Re:Where do I sign up? (2)

synapse7 (1075571) | about 4 months ago | (#47649097)

Yeah, I was thinking I could probably find enough time to fill out an additional timesheet at my current job.

Re:Where do I sign up? (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | about 4 months ago | (#47649105)

You can't qualify as a work from home examiner until you've put in 3 years in DC.

Re:Where do I sign up? (1)

McGruber (1417641) | about 4 months ago | (#47649109)

Seriously? You're posting this here without telling me how I can get this job?

Sorry about that - you apply for federal jobs at USA Jobs Website [usajobs.gov]

There are not any patent examiner openings posted right now, but here are some current IT openings at the Patent Office:

IT Acquisitions Specialist - DE [usajobs.gov]

IT Specialist (APPSW) - Software Developer - DE [usajobs.gov]

Systems Development Lead - IT Specialist (SYSANALYSIS/APPSW) - DE [usajobs.gov]

There's hope... (4, Funny)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 4 months ago | (#47648457)

... that one of them will find the successor of General Relativity in his goof-off time :-)

Re:There's hope... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648677)

Brilliant. I wonder if that's a joke at the office, "I'm only working here until I complete my GUToE."

I am shocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648495)

That people at work would have time to goof off like this.
(I would have had first post, but my boss walked by and I had to alt-tab to my spreadsheet).

Re: I am shocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648547)

Goofing off is one thing, but when you half ass your work the half of the time you do work it gets ridiculous.

Cue the 'We can't find the emails tape' (3, Interesting)

Greg Heller (3031971) | about 4 months ago | (#47648523)

Congress will investigate this of course and I wonder if thePTO will have the balls to say they can't find their emails.

Re:Cue the 'We can't find the emails tape' (5, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | about 4 months ago | (#47648589)

Congress will goof off for 3 months, then rush to pretend like they were investigating it.

Interesting (3)

emagery (914122) | about 4 months ago | (#47648529)

I know someone who works there, and they complain quite a bit not just about some of the other workers but also a lot of the folk semi-external to the office on whom they have to rely. Not exactly useful information, I know, but it makes me wonder.

Re:Interesting (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648811)

It's no different than in any huge company where 20% of the workers do 80% of the work. There is a reason Boeing is referred to as "The Lazy B".

Hopefully they can be replaced by pattern matching (3, Interesting)

spacepimp (664856) | about 4 months ago | (#47648533)

I can only hope that these experts rushing to get their reviews done quickly at the end of the quarter can be replaced by pattern matching AI. Their results if rushed have huge implication in the million s and billions for certain industries. Also, is there any tracking of who has which patents to review? Is the person filing the patent ever allowed to have communication with the reviewer? I would imagine there is plenty of room for bribery or pay off to let a certain patent review through.

Re:Hopefully they can be replaced by pattern match (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648595)

Im sure they have access to each other. In fact this may be why they only really work PT. The other time they are busy meeting with these people taking bribes.
So far it doesn't sound like people are really surprised here.

Hopefully they can be replaced by pattern matching (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649175)

I work at the PTO, and we do have pattern matching programs to help find prior art, they are mostly worthless because interpreting claims to match prior art is an abstract process. If you don't believe me read some patent claims and try to figure out what the 'broadest reasonable interpretation' of those claims would cover, its a nightmare. Applicants are certainly 'allowed to have communication' with us as the examination process involves a lot of back and forth with examiners trying to convince applicants to narrow their claims and applicants asking us to explain our interpretation of their claims and the prior art. As far as bribery goes I have never heard of or experienced any kind of bribery, what we typically experience is more of a brow beating from applicants who disagree with us.

But they have a patent on that process... (1)

jkrise (535370) | about 4 months ago | (#47648575)

And like most notoriously poor patents granted; they will not reveal details of their goof-up; or how it works. Nobody else can copy their style of work since they have design patents on those things as well.

This is a shining example (3, Insightful)

halivar (535827) | about 4 months ago | (#47648613)

of why small-government types are not completely out of their fucking gourd.

Re:This is a shining example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648781)

Small-government types should want patents eliminated 100%.

Re:This is a shining example (5, Insightful)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 4 months ago | (#47648821)

of why small-government types are not completely out of their fucking gourd.

Size and quality are not, necessarily, related. They assume that small government would be staffed with highly qualified and highly motivated people, yet forget there only about 550 people in the US Congress (Senate+House) and they haven't gotten anything done in years.

Re:This is a shining example (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 4 months ago | (#47648837)

Oh they are. They very much are completely out of their gourd.

Much like hte existence of winter does not disprove global warming, the existence of lazy people does not disprove government.

8300? Let that sink in a moment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648649)

I thought, maybe a few hundred work as patent examiners, tops. 8300? REALLY?

You're telling me 8300 people can't properly examine the existing patent landscape, and diligently determine if something is prior art, just math, not a unique process, or not patentable? 8300 People? Wow! Now THAT is a sobering thought!

On a second note, have the IRS due a 10 year audit on ever single examiner! Hell, a 20 year audit! This entire environment sounds unclean!

Re:8300? Let that sink in a moment (5, Informative)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 4 months ago | (#47648895)

There aren't 8300 people working on each patent application. The USPTO received 609,052 patent applications last year. There are (roughly) 200 working days in a calendar year (accounting for sick leave, vacation, an minimal training/in-service time). Each patent receives (on average) less than 3 man-days total for your diligence in determining the patent background, current state of the art, etc.

Not quite accurate (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648675)

I used to work at the patent office, and I can tell you the article doesn't quite understand the way the office works. Examiners are required to get a very specific amount of cases done for the hours they work or they are fired. They seriously total up the hours worked and require X number of cases done based on it. At worst what is happening is that people are slacking off at the beginning of a quarter and then working extra at the end to make up for it. But it's not like they never do any work. If someone doesn't make their counts, as they call it, they are pretty quickly in trouble.

So the worst here is that some examiners might be doing a bad job at the end of a quarter because they slacked off at the beginning of it. Even still, there's a lot of other reasons why someone might get less counts at the beginning of a quarter. They might be working on their harder cases early, for example, because they're not up against a deadline. Or they might be hanging on to cases they've worked on just to think them over -- since they aren't really due yet. So it's hard to say what's really going on here. There are definitely some bad examiners but there's no way people are never working or they wouldn't get their counts and they'd be fired.

Re:Not quite accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648711)

I think I could get my "counts" by just waiting until the end of the quarter and marking "patent approved" on everything I was assigned. Maybe randomly throwing in one "denied for prior art".

Re:Not quite accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648921)

Supposedly then you'd get caught in a quality check. I think they are supposed to review every allowed patent. Once you have so many errors marked against you for quality, you're fired. But I honestly could not tell you how good a job the quality people do. Obviously some bad ones get by -- but remember this is out of literally millions of applications. On that scale even 0.1% getting by still means quite a few bad patents. Maybe the quality people don't do anything and the real slackers know it and get by that way. But if so that's not anything to do with the telework program. They could do that just as easily in the office.

Re:Not quite accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648899)

Or they might be hanging on to cases they've worked on just to think them over -- since they aren't really due yet.

That's the excuse everyone I know used. The reality is we'd do absolutely nothing until the deadline, then we'd shit through everything in our queue.

Re:Not quite accurate (1)

phorm (591458) | about 4 months ago | (#47649081)

As demonstrated by many places I've worked and also university exam time... slacking off in the beginning and then trying to "grind" through to meet a thin deadline at the end usually comes at the expense of quality. The work may be done, but how many B.S. patent applications is it enabling to pass through.

Re:Not quite accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649127)

Can you also speak to the pay? I've got a Ph.D. and several years ago was looking to move to the D.C. area from the midwest with a girlfriend who got a job there. The work-from-home ability would have been good for us starting a family. The job pay was lower than I was getting as a post-doc in the midwest, with very limited raises once a year. The salary mentioned in the article is about 3x what I was seeing, so I'm guessing that very very few make that much.

Re:Not quite accurate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649279)

"So the worst here is that some examiners might be doing a bad job at the end of a quarter"

Yes. That is pretty much the worst possible outcome. That's how bad patents make it through: "method of dispatching taxis? that's not unique or novel. Oh, method of dispatching taxis USING A WEB BROWSER. That IS unique and novel! APPROVED!!!"

Wow - good thing (3, Funny)

kilodelta (843627) | about 4 months ago | (#47648697)

I was recruited by a friend for a patent examiner position. Glad I declined because instead I get to spend my time surfing slashdot instead.

Total shock. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648731)

Government inefficiency? Who could have possibly seen this coming?

How is that different in private sector? (2)

sinij (911942) | about 4 months ago | (#47648739)

How is that different in private sector? Article implies that this problem is only widespread in the government sector, when in my experiences this is global problem rooted in 'human condition'.

Re:How is that different in private sector? (1)

camg188 (932324) | about 4 months ago | (#47648865)

Usually in the private sector, such widespread unprofessionalism would put a company out of business or at least affect the bottom line.

Re:How is that different in private sector? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649079)

you are quite naive for a 6digiter. I mean slack is the base anything works. Too much slack leaves things undone that much is true too little slack and they cannot handle difficult cases at all as these take more time than allocated by powers that be. The rest is normal human attitude to boring tasks.

I suppose they can be automated out of existence pretty fast and approvals given automatically or by drop of a coin letting courts resolve issues that are important as they anyway would be involved in such case. The freed resources can be sent to fight Putin or IS or what else US Depatrment of State managed to fuck up lately.

Re:How is that different in private sector? (1)

dave562 (969951) | about 4 months ago | (#47648939)

The difference is that the private sector has competition. If Company A is billing a certain amount of hours to get a job done, and Company B is billing less to get the same job done, then Company A will eventually start losing work to Company B. Similarly if Company A is turning out half assed work, or doing the professional equivalent of finishing their homework right before class, they will lose business to other organizations who deliver better results.

The company I work for is facing the first challenge of spending too much time on projects. A good portion of our engagements are spent re-inventing the wheel on basic project setup and management activities. It looks good for the Directors in charge of the projects because their people are 100%+ utilized. It kills us in the marketplace because our competitors have good processes in place that allow them to execute projects in less time and for less cost. The company has no choice but to become more efficient.

The patent office has no such competition. Nobody else can grant patents. Therefore they can half ass their way through it and there will not be any consequences for them.

Re:How is that different in private sector? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649225)

Yeah, that's nice in theory.

The hospital I'm at had insanely lazy/greedy processes everywhere. Their only saving grace is the same thing happens at all the other local hospital systems.

Believe me, government doesn't have anything on lazy/waste going on here. And the free market hasn't fixed it.

"Close enough for government work" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648797)

A pal of mine went from "Korporate Amerika" into a local county gov't. civil service job & told me: "It's the most money for the least amount of work I've ever done as a job"... that tell ANYONE, anything, per my subject-line above? Does me! Personally, I would love to see (and I'd vote for him) a presidential candidate that would run on THIS single political promise for a platform - "You, the individual U.S. Citizen, at the county, state, and federal levels, will be granted options as to WHERE every single tax dollar you pay in income taxes will go" (allowing sales tax to be apportioned by gov't. however, as it is now, MINUS raising those taxes without approval of their constituencies in citizenry @ those levels). It would change, everything (for the better).

APK

P.S.=> Think about that.... apk

Obvious (3, Funny)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47648801)

I would have thought this Obvious given that Einstein developed the theory of Relativity, revolutionizing nearly every field of science, all while working there.

Let's see... light is always propagated in empty space with a definite velocity...
er...
Icons with round corners? Approved... ...which is independent of the state of motion of the emitting body...
One click purchase? Whatever... approved...
That is, light in vacuum propagates with the speed c...

Small government libtertarian types shocked! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648803)

Patent examiners not working more than 24 hours a day?

One person should be able to manage the entire government in thier spare time!

You Don't Know The Half Of It (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648813)

As a reviewer for USPTO, I can tell you that it's far worse than this article portrays.
Typically, I don't do an ounce of work until my deadline is coming up. Then I just diarrhea though my queue, spending less than 10 seconds on a typical application. If you want an analogy, think of it as filing 90% of your work email based on subject alone. I do give more attention to certain applications (the 10% of email you actually read, using the same analogy). These typically fall into one of three categories:

1: Applications that look interesting/entertaining to me.
2: Applications that are a refile of a previously rejected one.
3: Applications that hit the top of my queue when I'm bored of rubber stamping a bunch. Reading the damned things and doing my job actually becomes a break from the monotony of approve approve approve reject approve approve reject.

From what I've seen, this pattern of work is typical. A major compounding factor is the fact that if you reject an application, it's likely to come back and be noticed, but if you approve an application, no one notices. So when you're blitzing through shit you typically want to approve shit unless it's absurd. And if it's ridiculously absurd, you'll want to approve it - we used to hold a competition to see who could approve the most ridiculous patent each deadline. I've stopped doing it since 2 of the people I worked with left, but I know this practice goes on with other groups of reviewers.

Management knows this shit goes on but is powerless to stop it because it means someone would have to actually review the patents, and the managers sure as shit aren't going to even look at them unless it's from a high profile company. All they care about is the numbers. Total number reviewed is king, but they do look at the % approved, too. There are no targets or quotas for % approved, but if you're actually doing your job you'll get shit from your manager because your % approved is going to be significantly lower than average. So you learn to approve shit that's obviously retarded. The "reasoning" behind this is that we're reviewing the validity of the application itself first, the overlap with existing patents second, and novelty/originality last. Anything questionable with regards to novelty/originality is better left to the courts.

The last thing I'll mention is how badly patents are written. Go ahead and look some terrible patents up. Those vague descriptions and those wonky diagrams with little to no coherent explanation are intentional. They're not written that way to be broad, as most people say. If it ever comes to a point of contention, the lawyers will fight that part out anyway. They're written that way in order to be approved quickly. Reviewers do not have to understand a patent application to approve it. If you approve a patent for a triangle and somehow catch shit for it, you can just claim you misunderstood the diagrams. And I can guarantee you, in a patent for a triangle there will be a lot of ridiculous, incomprehensible diagrams.

Lewis Black (1)

anmre (2956771) | about 4 months ago | (#47648859)

"Anyone who works from home is masturbating all day. I know this because I work from home."

~ Lewis Black

Patent Examiner's Union??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47648885)

That explains a lot

Falsifying timecards (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 months ago | (#47648919)

examiners repeatedly lied about the hours they were putting in and many were receiving bonuses for work they did not do

If workers in private industry do that, we call that fraud. Hours of claimed work should be validated and approved by an uninterested third party such as a supervisor.

The supervisor should keep their own private notes and reject the submission of hours, if it is in disagreement with their notes.

What a load of Republican BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649017)

The title is a lie. Everry day is not a "goof-off-at-work" day, and the article doesn't say that. We know the racists in the Republican party hate government employees because the government hires fairly. That claim is proven a lie by the statement in the summary that they work very hard near the end of the quarter. As usual, the Republicans are so stupid they have nothing to stand on so they make-up grabage. Their lies have been exposed again.

Thanks for the job tip! (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 months ago | (#47649029)

They are experts in their fields, often with master's and doctoral degrees. They earn at the top of federal pay scale, with the highest taking home $148,000 a year.

I hadn't even considered applying for a patent office job before, but now they are definitely on my radar...

Deadlines. . . whoosh! (4, Interesting)

physicsphairy (720718) | about 4 months ago | (#47649045)

They are experts in their fields, often with master's and doctoral degrees

As a product of academia I am professionally trained to get things done on the cusp of deadlines. I'm not joking. Both on the student and instructor side there is simply a great deal of latitude. There's no time management enforced in any form except for "deadlines," so that's when you learn to get things done.

As lovely of a thought as it is that entering the workforce will automatically instill a newfound sense of responsiblity and dedication to all a graduates (and I'm sure it does for at least a few weeks or so), I for one am not surprised that working unsupervised at home at a government job with quarterly deadlines results in people observing the same habits they have for the past 6-10 years.

Admittedly, I wouldn't want to rush a result such that it is inadequately reviewed either, and I don't know if patent clerks have projects which would actually take an entire quarter to investigate, but the first thing I would do is have them sync all of their edits/notes/research in a way to make them reviewable. It's amazing how a little bit of transparency encourages people to make regular progress.

A question to resume experts (2)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 4 months ago | (#47649101)

If I've been goofing off at work for years, but do not work as a patent examiner, can I put down on my resume that I worked as a patent examiner if the work (or lack thereof) is virtually the same?

To All Patent Examiners Reading Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649121)

...Get back to work. You're not us.

No surprising (1)

stevez67 (2374822) | about 4 months ago | (#47649143)

Human nature being what it is.

Whoa, hold the phone (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 4 months ago | (#47649147)

"They are experts in their fields, often with master's and doctoral degrees. They earn at the top of federal pay scale, with the highest taking home $148,000 a year."

When I was a senior in college, the USPTO was at a career fair trying to snap up as many new grads as possible for patent examiner positions.

New grads are not experts in their fields. Period. No matter what degree they're walking away with.

That said, if I can make $148K working at home for USPTO, where the hell do I sign up?!?

It goes to show... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47649207)

A fat paycheck isn't everything.

Brick-layer mentality does not scale (3, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#47649241)

a "significant" number of examiners did not work for long periods, then rushed to get their reviews done at the end of each quarter.

Where does this deadline cycle NOT happen?

Managers and/or auditors could spend more time monitoring employees, but then you have to pay the monitors and hire more managers, and also monitor the monitors to make sure they are monitoring correctly, creating a recursive bloat in inspection time.

Further, the monitors and monitor of monitors would have to be experts to know if employees are really spending quality time. If you just count time staring at the screen, typing, or reading research, you can't know if it's relevant to the task unless you are an expert in that specialty also. Industry-specific auditors are going to be pretty expensive.

Plus, recruiting is harder and/or more expensive if potential specialty employees find out their ass is always under Big Brother's watch.

Brick-laying is relatively easy to monitor. Intellectual tasks, not so much.

Sometimes it's just cheaper to accept some slack than add bureaucracy layers to prevent all slack.

(It's similar to weeding out welfare cheats: Republicans want to heavily monitor welfare recipients, but the cost of monitoring and related lawsuits could be more than the welfare cheating, making taxes even higher, which Republicans can't stand...or at least act like they can't stand.)

Managers should be able to give bonus pay and/or penalties for productivity. However, in practice this often results in favoritism as managers judge based on friendship or kissing up rather than raw merit. Humans are just that way, in general.

In short, no easy fix.

What patent office? (0)

AndyKron (937105) | about 4 months ago | (#47649247)

The patent system has been twisted into a cruel joke.

Consulting was a downer (1)

Curmudgeon420 (1092149) | about 4 months ago | (#47649319)

I consulted for the USPTO several years ago, holding classes on memory and memory interfaces, USB, and Firewire It paid very well, but in the class of 50 examiners there wasn't even one who seemed to care or had any kind of interest in what I was saying. I was invited back but declined.

Yet they are "more productive"&"envy of the wo (1)

Kartu (1490911) | about 4 months ago | (#47649335)

US Patent Office Grants Massively More Patents Than Ever Before (2011)
  https://www.techdirt.com/artic... [techdirt.com]

The world envies US Patent system (according to USPTO head):
  http://beta.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?