US Patent and Trademark Office

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US Patent and Trademark Office Reviews

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Teresa Stanek Rea
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  1. 6 people found this helpful  

    A lukewarm first job

    • Comp & Benefits
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    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
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