US Patent and Trademark Office

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US Patent and Trademark Office Reviews in Virginia

Updated November 27, 2014
Updated November 27, 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

21 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1. 7 people found this helpful  

    A lukewarm first job

    • 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 3 years)

    Pros

    I applied to the USPTO (PTO) because I was interested in working in the patent industry and wanted to base my understanding of the industry on experience and not strictly word of mouth. I worked four years at the PTO before leaving to work somewhere else. I left because I was bored with the same routine and had learned enough about the patent industry. Also, I learned enough to determine that I did not want to stay at the PTO nor work in the patent industry.

    flexible work hours, government benefits package, good starting salary (with option for overtime after first year), promotions based strictly on performance (up to GS-14), you are your own boss when you become a “Primary Examiner” (GS-14), excellent learning experience if you are interested in the patent industry.

    Cons

    Unusual work schedule: There were bi-weeks when I could get the job done within the first week and attend to other objectives the second week but then there were bi-weeks where I was working 7 days a week. The work schedule is a roller coaster ride so try to make production every bi-week and do not try to cram until the last minute. This modus operandi (MO) might be the single most important ability at the PTO. I’ve read a lot of complaints about the job being stressful but I never determined that the job was stressful and I imagine this MO prevented me from being stressed while working at the PTO.

    No one supervises the supervisors: I endured many an event where the supervisor had me retract my rejection or change references because they couldn't understand what I was doing or just didn't want to and had me search for another reference and redo the office action. In fact, in every instance where a supervisor got involved, the outcome was worse. This occurs because most of them don’t want to read all data that you have read and only look at snippets of information.

    The attorneys play a lot of games: They have three games that they play to get around your rejection without actually arguing against it.
    Cancel all claims and submit new ones.
    Heavily amend existing claims.
    Pile up the paperwork for arguments.

    A lot of cases that I saw were not novel at all and so the attorneys will do anything they can to get them allowed because that’s what they get paid for and that's what stays on their record. Some will just flat out lie. These games are tolerated by top management at the Office and become just part of the job.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Work with the examiners. Most of them are just trying to get by and your job is super safe.

    Summary
    After working at the PTO for a year and a half, I determined that:
    1.) An engineering degree is not necessary to work at the PTO, it actually hinders your ability to have a higher production number because in engineering school you have to stay conceptually consistent. At the PTO, not so much.

    2.) Of all the patent applications I saw, I never saw one actual invention. While I understand this expedites the patent examining process, every one of those applications could have been made up and not based on an device that was created.

    3.) There is a game played where no matter what “prior art” you cite, the attorneys always argue because they are being paid by multinational companies. For the most part, they always get a patent application allowed (albeit with amendments) and I was actually punished by continually rejecting the same applications. By punished I’m referring to receiving less credit for each office action associated with the application (doing the same amount of work for less money), its office policy. Eventually, I just accepted a routine of rejecting the application in the first round and allowing it, with amendments, in the second, regardless of what was disclosed. I got paid to prosecute cases not continually argue one case.

    My advice if you want to work at the PTO for the entirety of your career is to gain the accelerated promotions and buddy up with your supervisor to continue receiving promotions. The whole career track at the PTO is designed for the examiner to earn “full signatory authority” in which you can sign all your cases and consequently reject or allow any case you want. Once you get this “full signatory authority” you don’t have to answer to anyone. The less people you have to interact with for this job, the better.

    The supervisors can’t give or block promotions but they do considerably affect your numbers and a lot of their actions become based on whether they “trust” you or not, not so much of actually reading the claims, reading the application, reading the reference(s) cited and then reading your rejection. I imagine they revert to trust instead of reading everything because it is that much easier and they have to supervise 20 examiners. Work with the attorneys and supervisors to get to an agreement. The attorneys are looking for a Notice of Allowability and the Supervisors and mostly looking for some kind of amendment. Satisfy both conditions and your home free, only to repeat the same motions again and again.

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

    Decent environment, not for everyone

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

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

    Pros

    Good pay, wonderful flexibility in hours and time off. Rarely hassled over much. Perfect work for those who don't prefer team based work.

    Cons

    The work is rather dreary, graduating with an engineering degree does not prepare you for 40 hours of patent law a week. Highly in subjective work. You day will go as well as your manager or attorney allows it to.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Sorry. The problem for me was the work itself. I didn't have a problem with management. Maybe better office parties?

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

    Patent Examiner

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

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

    Pros

    This job is good for somebody who does not want to work as an engineer or who realizes that she/he is not good at engineering. The job consists of reading, searching for publications with similar inventions in databases, writing opinions, and arguing with others about interpretations and opinions. Zero engineering skills in design, research (real research, not reading about somebody else's research), test, evaluation are used.

    Cons

    I took the patent examiner job right out of college, worked for 6 months and transferred to an engineer job that is a good fit for me. My review is based on the 6 months working at the PTO.

    Be careful if you take this job as your first job out of college. This job is quasi-legal and bureaucratic, and you will loose your engineering skills and knowledge if you work in this job for longer that a year (I am guessing...). You resume will loose its marketability, you will be stuck with this job and be unable to get an engineer job in the future. This is not an engineer or researcher job. This is more like a journalist+librarian+legal job. If you take the job, please figure out if this job is worth it as quickly as you can because after a year in this job you may become unemployable as an engineer.

    Success in this job depends on 1) what art you get, 2) whether your SPE is helpful and whether she/he understands the art of your AU (she/he may be originally from a different art unit and may not know/understand your art); 3) whether anybody in your AU is willing to provide help. Asking questions helps but at first you will not know which primary is helpful (and if you AU has any helpful ones); keep finding new primaries to talk to until you find a primary who is competent in your art. I kept looking and found a competent primary in my AU on the day I accepted a job offer from my current engineer job.

    The Academy consists of 1 full months of lectures on patent law and examining procedures. The next 3 months are spent examining real cases with some guidance from your trainer and a examiner in your AU or your SPE. Your trainer may not necessarily know anything about your art. You may find yourself alone if examiners in your AU are not helpful as well (they may be busy because they have their production goals to meet). Your supervisor may be of little help with art too if she/he is from a different AU originally. You may get stuck with almost zero help and be basically examining on your own even in the very beginning. If your SPE does not understand the art, your rejections will be rubber-stamped by your SPE with little or no reading/verification and checking if your references are good enough.

    Few of my friends got nice SPEs and helpful primaries who helped and provided feedback on whether art if good enough, on things that need to be changed in office actions, etc. It all depends on luck of your initial placement in an AU by the HR. You may try to transfer to a different AU but it will take weeks, your application can be denied and your AU may block your transfer.

    New examiners with marketable engineer skills left the PTO even before I did. My understanding is that the new examiners from my Academy class who are still at the PTO now are 1) the ones who do not have marketable engineer skills (and thus the PTO job may be one of their best options), 2) who were laid off and can't yet find other engineer jobs (few of them said they were applying for engineer jobs), and 3) people with a BS in engineering + a JDs (and who can't find jobs as lawyers), or 4) the ones who were placed in art units that were a good fit with helpful primaries.

    Another tip is see if your AU (or that AU you will want to transfer) has weekly/bi-weekly meetings discussing issues relevant to its technology; AUs that have regular meetings like that may have more social examiners, which may be a sign that you will get help in that AU. My AU did not have meetings like that.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Appoint SPEs to art units whose technology they are examined in the past.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
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  5. 3 people found this helpful  

    It's a Job

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

    I worked at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    If you can't do anything else, this is the place for you. It's done indoors, so there is no need to worry about the weather.

    Cons

    If you can do anything else, this is not the place for you. You are really just reading and analyzing other peoples technical achievements and it requires almost no creativity to do the job.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The management is great- they do the best they can to make a difficult job easier.

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  6.  

    ok

    • 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 (more than an year)

    Pros

    flexible hours and good bonus.

    Cons

    work load is intensive though it's doable

    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  7. 2 people found this helpful  

    Good experience overall

    • 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

    The USPTO has a lot of great benefits. The flexible schedules, vacation time, and bonus structure all make it a pretty good place to work in general. The office also gets its funding from fees, so as you could see from the shutdown, people were still able to work.

    Cons

    If you are a person that thrives in working in groups, this is not the place for you. If you like working on different types of projects, this is not for you. You will spend most of your time on your own, looking at applications and talking with attorneys. It's pretty much what you do 95% of the time.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Continue to update the workforce on changes upcoming - with AIA on the horizon a lot is about to change.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  8. 1 person found this helpful  

    Tough performance req. for employees to remain outstanding each year, but some say possible if unpaid time is worked.

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

    I have been working at US Patent and Trademark Office full-time (more than 10 years)

    Pros

    Best telework plan in the government. Best workforce in the government. Best political appointees and upper management in government, except as described below.

    Cons

    Group directors and law office managers seem at complete odds on practice and procedure and employee relations. For employees, it is like being the child at a dinner table where your parents are arguing about getting divorced. That uneasy feeling? That is how it feels in meetings with Group directors and law office managers.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Get along and listen to each other and your employees

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  9. 3 people found this helpful  

    Pretty easy, but dull work.

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

    I worked at US Patent and Trademark Office

    Pros

    The work is pretty easy so if you know how to do it, it is a pretty easy job with regular salary increases as long as you meet production.

    Cons

    The work is bland, as you pretty much are doing more or less the same thing every day, so that can get boring.

    No opinion of CEO
  10. 2 people found this helpful  

    it's a bit slow and there's never anyone around the office...kinda boring...slow work

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Career Opportunities
    Current Employee - Program Analyst in Alexandria, VA
    Current Employee - Program Analyst in Alexandria, VA

    I have been working at US Patent and Trademark Office

    Pros

    benefit of govt employment is good. however, they haven't come through with helping my continuing education and the work is only ok...

    Cons

    most people work at home. that's great for them...but some like to come into the office to others...just isn't the place for that

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    they need to plan better. things need to have a true benefit...don't just put something on the schedule...funding it with millions of dollars...when it really results in minor, if any, improvement.

    Approves of CEO
  11. 5 people found this helpful  

    Three words: production, production, production.

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • 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

    Pros

    Great benefit, very flexible working schedule, high salary

    Cons

    This is not your typical easy to do government job. It all comes down to production, forget about what your Supervisor say about quality and customer satisfication. I heard many stories from other examiners that the only time people get fired is because people couldn't meet the production. Of course, production varies depending on which art you are examining, some are easy, some are hard, so opinion can vary depending on 2 things: Type of art you are examining and your supervisor.

    If you are planning to become patent attorney, it is good to work at PTO for a year or 2, as many legal office love people with PTO experience. However, if you plan to go back to the engineering industry, it is better to leave sooner than later, since the skill you learned from the PTO will most likely not appreciated by the engineering industry.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Compare to other patent office around the world, we are working way too hard. It would be great if we move to the european system. Also, abandoned case that gets revived should have a different count system.

    Approves of CEO

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