US Patent and Trademark Office

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US Patent and Trademark Office Reviews

Updated December 13, 2014
Updated December 13, 2014
173 Reviews
3.6
173 Reviews
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Teresa Stanek Rea
23 Ratings

Review Highlights

Pros
  • it's good, great flexibility, work from home, freedom to sign own work (in 27 reviews)

  • Flexible work schedule and workload (in 19 reviews)


Cons
  • Has to meet production requirement (in 8 reviews)

  • Challenging production requirements (in 7 reviews)

More Highlights

26 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1. 1 person found this helpful  

    Good benefits don't outweigh monotonous and production-based rating

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Junior Patent Examiner
    Former Employee - Junior Patent Examiner

    I worked at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    Great benefits, Extremely flexible work hours, Clear path and progression, Educated co-workers, Comprehensive training system

    Cons

    Monotonous work, Overly rejecting applications, Stressful production for junior examiners, Little chance for quality work since there is so much emphasis on quantity

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Emphasizing quantity over quality, almost the opposite of what I was trained as an engineer and as a prudent hard worker. Quantity isn't what's best for the Office or the Country. Money now (fees) isn't always money saved for the future (prosecutions, infringements, invalidations, etc.).

    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  2. 4 people found this helpful  

    Marketed as a less-stressful alternative; insanely stressful

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA
    Current Employee - Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA

    I have been working at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    Good compensation, exposure to new technology, excellent facilities, bulletproof benefits, excellent training program, full-time work-from-home after two years, very flexible scheduling

    Cons

    Terrible work-life balance--you will work a *lot* of unpaid overtime in order to make production, which causes stress. Production requirements are insane. Early arrival and late departure is the norm.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Provide more one-on-one guidance for employees having difficulty making production. Provide more "real life" training rather than breaking down the principles of the patent laws. Work more closely with EAP to help employees having difficulty adjusting to the job.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  3. 4 people found this helpful  

    NOT an engineering job but a legal job

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Junior Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA
    Current Employee - Junior Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA

    I have been working at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    I am still trying to find one...

    Cons

    4 months training:
    - MANY 2 or 3 hour lecture with 40, 50 or 60+ power point slides, you are encouraged to print the slides to take to class, however, you are not allowed to read the slides before lecture and you are not allowed to take slides home. So how are you supposed to learn the stuff?
    - You are CONSTANTLY reminded that this is a production job and you can be let go if your numbers aren't satisfactory.
    - In training you are taught how to write "office actions" (replies to patent applications) in one way. I once made the mistake of asking three different trainers the same question and got three different answers. And when you move to your art unit, your supervisor tells you that you should write the "office actions" in another manner. In other words: no consistency.

    I tried doing research about the turnover rate at the USPTO, and it appears that nobody knows exactly. But the several articles that I read estimate the number between 30% to 50%. What the USPTO does are cattle calls, they hired 1000 people this year (2014) and expect 30% to 50% to quit the first year. And we were told that they plan to hire another 1000 more next year. When I heard that they hired 1000 examiners, I thought that the reason was due to the backlog of patent applications. I believe that the backlog might be a secondary reason with the main reason being the unusually high turnover rate. Do the research on the USPTO's turnover rate before accepting the offer, and see if you can find a reason WHY it is extraordinarily high.

    After a year, I feel that the job is really nothing more than legal petty arguments with lawyers over what this or that word means. And when I got international patent applications, it was worse because the applications are translations from applicants native language and all I could think is, "I feel like Linda Blair in the Exorcist movie" trying to translate it to a more reasonable form of English.

    One final thing to consider before accepting the offer from the USPTO, is the cost of living. I live almost 5 miles from the USPTO and I am paying $1500/mo. (1B/1B) in rent, and several people told me that 1500/mo is normal for the area. The cost of living is "gut-wrenchingly" expensive!

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    - Change the training to include a book that trainees can read.
    - Rewrite the power points that are shown to the trainees, do not cram a whole chapter of material in one slide.
    - Limit the lectures to one hour, any more than that and you lose your audience.
    - ALLOW TIME TO READ THE MATERIAL THAT YOU EXPECT YOUR TRAINEES TO LEARN!
    - Get pedagogically trained teachers to teach the material, I could tell that most "lecturers" (and I am using the term loosely) were not prepared and were just "winging it," and some of them had such strong accents that made it difficult to understand.
    - During interviews ask applicants if they would consider changing their career from engineering to law, because that is what I ended up doing.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
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  5. 2 people found this helpful  

    Benefits good, management & policies questionable

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA
    Current Employee - Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA

    I have been working at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (more than 3 years)

    Pros

    The salary, ability to telework full-time, flexible schedule

    Cons

    Supervisors can have no technical knowledge & sign your work & lack communication & "soft skills". Further, as a junior, you report to a primary. As you continually get switched around, it becomes confusing & you get tired of accommodating other peoples' opinions (which they like to sell as "being flexible". It's a backwards system.

    Also it's not a social environment. It's essentially like working for yourself. There is no sense of teamwork or commraderie. The work itself is not bad. But please have an outside life before you come in.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  6. 1 person found this helpful  

    management quality highly variable

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA
    Former Employee - Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA

    I worked at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (more than 5 years)

    Pros

    Flexible work schedules and work from home options for both examiners and managers as of 2014, production based advancement for examiners, good pay, good benefits, offices instead of cubes.

    Cons

    Managers are hired mainly on achievement as an examiner, which has almost no bearing on how good a manager someone will be. Yes, things are production based, but your direct supervisor reviews all of your work until you are GS13 partial sig, giving them great power over your success or failure as an examiner.
    My advice, do whatever it takes to get to primary examiner as fast as possible, then except for quality review team spot checks no one reviews your work.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Find better ways to identify management potential.

    Doesn't Recommend
    No opinion of CEO
  7.  

    Primary Patent Examiner

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Primary Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA
    Current Employee - Primary Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA

    I have been working at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (more than 8 years)

    Pros

    Good salary and flexible schedule.

    Cons

    Challenging production requirements. Very isolating.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  8. 12 people found this helpful  

    An honest look at employment at the USPTO for engineers with experience

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Patent Examiner
    Former Employee - Patent Examiner

    I worked at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    The pay and benefits. The culture if you're at the main campus. Working on your own to accomplish a task. The initial training even if it really is only good for teaching the laws and can not convey the actual experience of working in an art unit.

    Cons

    My one year at the USPTO was both nerve wracking and a learning experience over all. I would advise prospective employees to think long and hard before taking this job especially if you have engineering experience. This job is like non-other, you will get X amount of time in training but expect to perform immediately after on a rising slope of production. In the first 6 months 60%, at 8 months 80% and at 10 months 95%-100%. This may not seem bad but be wary it is a very fast approach for someone with no experience. I honestly believe that someone fresh out of college or law school would have an easier time with this as they are essentially a "clean" slate. Engineering experience is both a benefit and a hamper because in this job everything is looked at through a legal lens. Prepare to throw away your engineering technical mind and enter a of world gray lines better known as "interpretation". Meaning, that you will have to traverse the mine field of other people's interpretations who are signing your work and evaluating the "art" you cite to reject your applications.

    I would highly recommend that you DO NOT uproot yourself for this position. There are far too many risks in the first year regarding being retained (20% of the people in my class left before month 6). For instance, many of my applications were not reviewed until Sunday night before count Monday (the due date) at about 8-11pm. Meaning you would have to work on these applications through the night to have them handed in by 3pm the next day. I can not stress the reality of this enough. This is one minor hiccup. If you get a SPE (Supervisory Patent Examiner) who is not familiar with your art (mine wasn't) then you might be in for a bit of trouble. If his/her interpretation does not line up with yours then you will have to trash w/e you worked on and redo everything. This is a daunting task believe me especially if you are in an art unit with a high BD (number of hours you get to evaluate per case).

    If you do choose to try this. I would immediately scope out everyone in your art unit and try to guage who is helpful and who could really careless if you succeed. There are many primaries in the art units that simply do not want to help anyone. Primarily b/c they are deeper in the swamp than you are. The SPE in alot of cases will be there for you but will most likely brow beat you as a method of learning. This is not an effective means of learning for this job as it really requires a mentor mentee atmosphere. The training academy will train you for the most part but you will likely redo every application from the academy as it will NOT be correct per the art unit's policies and interpretations.

    I myself had to put in many many hours of overtime over the course of the year (including weekends) to meet production but in the end I did dip and as a result had to quit. There will be no leniency they will drop you like a sack of potatoes even if you have one week left (my case).

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    1) Stop telling first years production doesn't matter. We don't believe you.
    2) Consider giving first years a handicap as they do not have the benefits of allowances, disposals, RCE (request for continued examination) or any other point additions which help people with more than 2 years of experience. These additional point substitutes do no come into play until about 16 - 24 months.
    3) Stop throwing people away. You spend an amazing amount of money training new people coming in only to throw them away after a year. This is NOT a matter of them not getting it. I personally saw a guy with an engineering degree from UPenn and a law degree from Chicago having to walk away. The problem isn't with them it's the bumps in the road of the training and possibly the art unit. They may seem minute but they project a LARGE impact.
    4) All new hires should start at GS7 or lower. Regardless of degrees and especially if they have no experience in IP. No new higher should start as a GS9 (just my opinion).
    5)It is not acceptable to loose 20% of your incoming class. That speaks volumes to the people inside the agency and prospective new hires. It tells them you simply do not care about keeping people and that there is no loyalty should a person fall behind for any reason.
    6) The SPE's must take a more proactive roll assisting examiners. You can not expect new examiners to recognize any and all problems with an application. There honestly needs to be some bit of hand holding at first on your end through out the first year. Keep in mind they're new to IP and this is a totally new beast to deal with.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  9. 10 people found this helpful  

    Management Courses should be a requirement.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA
    Current Employee - Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA

    I have been working at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (more than 8 years)

    Pros

    I'll echo some of the comments others have left that the atmosphere is laid back, great benefits, decent pay, etc. But so is every other federal agency. The all have the same pay and benefits. Patent Office might pay just slightly higher. Work/life balance is second to none because of the hotelling program. Again, it is not unique to the Patent Office.

    Cons

    If you get stuck with a shitty manager, which happens often, good luck to you. You will feel like a helpless little kid. Adults should not be treated that way in a workplace. They are all a bunch of fat, stubborn bureaucrats; typical government agency. Typical manager has absolutely no idea how to communicate. Most are unapproachable. Extremely subjective and very stubborn. Advancement is non-competitive which requires no special skills or education thus reducing the quality of the "Applicant" to senior management. Managers and Directors come from the same stock. No management training, and most never managed a single person throughout their entire careers which could be as long as 20 years before becoming managers. Their presentation skills are worse than those of a high school student. Other than that, job is extremely boring.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Get some management classes. It should be a requirement to go through training or have an MBA. Training that the Patent office "suggests' is not enough. It does not require to do homework, work on projects, presentations, There are no classes on culture and leadership communication. It does not teach how to deal with subordinates. Most Managers have absolutely no clue how to deal with a subordinate.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  10. 2 people found this helpful  

    Not for Me

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA
    Former Employee - Patent Examiner in Alexandria, VA

    I worked at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (less than an year)

    Pros

    Most of the staff directly involved in the training program were great and eager to help. Contractors brought in to demonstrate the use of various programs were excellent and their training was very structured.

    Cons

    Trainers did not necessarily have any knowledge in your particular subject area, which caused them to lead you astray from time to time. Supervisors and others with signatory authority did not participate enough in the training efforts and, in some cases, were even detrimental by leading the trainee on wild goose chases. Often, different answers were given to the same questions. This is to be expected in gray areas, but not on questions of policy.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Insure your supervisors are required to meet with the trainees at the scheduled times or, if not possible, to establish an alternate time to be noted on the trainees schedule so that no trainee is left without meeting their supervisor during the entire 4 month program. Make it a punishable offense to provide misinformation (such as providing incorrect job search categories when the trainee is not specific in their request - even though their trainer told them they only needed to give the application # with no additional information). This misinformation leads to a waste of time by the trainee, trainer, supervisor, and any others involved. Any inefficiencies ultimately cost the customer as they are reflected in the patent filing costs.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11. 2 people found this helpful  

    From a Non-Patent Examiner

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Graphic Designer in Alexandria, VA
    Current Employee - Graphic Designer in Alexandria, VA

    I have been working at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (more than an year)

    Pros

    A very creative work environment

    Cons

    If you are in a non-examining position and not in a bargaining unit, good luck. The biggest mistake this private sector agency disguised as government makes is how they hire their leaders. The agency is run by people who have very impressive resumes, but no experience with actually managing groups of people, they are not willing to resolve conflicts, only care about themselves, demonstrate lots of favoritism, and have no idea about how government operates.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    When you hire leaders, start paying more attention to their experience with supervising diverse groups of people. Just because someone has a political background and a fancy resume, doesn't make them a leader.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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