US Patent and Trademark Office

  www.uspto.gov
  www.uspto.gov

US Patent and Trademark Office Reviews in Washington, DC

Updated November 23, 2014
Updated November 23, 2014
166 Reviews
3.6
166 Reviews
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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

124 Employee Reviews Back to all reviews

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  1. 1 person found this helpful  

    Largely positive experience

    • 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 10 years)

    Pros

    - As a primary patent examiner you enjoy near-complete autonomy
    - Exceedingly high quality of life
    - Many career development oppurtunities
    - Great telework oppurtunities
    - On site gym, daycare
    - Tax-deferred Parking Payment Plan
    - Potential for great bonuses

    Cons

    - Over the long term the job is monotonous
    - Lack of quality in English language ability of new-hires is concerning, especially if you are tasked with mentoring one of these individuals
    - Autonomy/telework also brings less interaction with colleagues

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Consider requiring new hires to pass a writing test evidencing there English language writing abilities.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
  2.  

    My Job

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

    I have been working at US Patent and Trademark Office as a contractor

    Pros

    Leadership, Training,People, Commute, Office, Peers

    Cons

    No benefits, No perks, No personal time off , No sick leave

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    benefits

  3. 2 people found this helpful  

    Flexibility makes up for the slog

    • 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 8 years)

    Pros

    1. Incredible flexibility: work from home, telework, flex time, comp time, plenty of annual leave, and paid sick leave. After you are trained you work independently for the most part, and this lets you keep your own schedule and hours (within reason).

    2. Agency: you make many of the decisions in your cases. You are the one who knows more about it than anyone else, you manage your own docket, you make your own choices on how to examine a given application, and ultimately you are responsible for what happens. Your supervisor will weigh in on the consequential decisions, but as time goes on you are given more authority up to the point where your work is no longer reviewed. Truly a Patent Office of One.

    3. Solid foundation for a career in patent law. Many examiners use work at the patent office as a training ground to go into private practice, either quitting to go to law school full time or going to one of the many excellent evening programs in the DC area. Law firms appreciate the deep knowledge of substantive patent law that examiners walk out with. That said, being a patent examiner has diminishing returns in terms of staying for years and years. Most who leave for law school or law firms do so in their first 5 years.

    Cons

    1. It can be a slog. You have to do a set amount of work ("counts") every two weeks, so over time this can become pretty draining. Each week, open up your docket, calculate a way to your weekly production requirement, do the work. Repeat.

    2. Bureaucracy: the PTO is a big place, and it can be easy to get lost. Your supervisor might work remotely most of the time, or spend his time on other projects, so it can be difficult to get feedback or useful advice. Most of the work processes are set in stone; even management can't change them at this point. Some feel like hamsters running in a wheel of production.

    3. Loneliness: you work by yourself the overwhelmingly majority of the time. The only required interaction is with your supervisor, and after the first year or two even that becomes sporadic. If you don't go out of your way to make friends and socialize with coworkers, you can easily end up not interacting with anyone at all.

    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    No opinion of CEO
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  5. 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
  6. 2 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
  7. 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
  8. 1 person found this helpful  

    Junior patent examiner

    • 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

    Great patent academy training from experienced trainers.The training includes lectures about patent laws, and the tools used in modern patent examination. The examiner position has lots of room for career and financial advancement, i.e. becoming primary examiner. Most coworkers are helpful and they are not your competitors. Flexible schedule is a definite pro.

    Cons

    Relatively low starting salary without IP experience. Production system can get stressful. Unfortunately, plenty of bad supervisors are out there and they can make or break careers.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Encourage continuation and expansion of telework programs. Weed out bad supervisors, and replace them with competent individuals who can get the job done.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  9. 1 person found this helpful  

    great!

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

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

    Pros

    love the place, most ppl are very helpfull.

    Cons

    can become very repetitive, burnt out.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    na

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  10. 1 person found this helpful  

    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 work life balance, good salary and benefits. These benefits can be worth even more if you work in less expensive areas of the country. Once you are a primary examiner you manage your work-flow yourself. The production requirements are achievable and bonuses are given for exceeding those requirements.

    Cons

    Patent Examining can be a very dry subject and tedious at times. You may get switched to examine patents that aren't in your focus area. If you work at home it can be very lonely. Even if you work at the Office you may not talk to many people.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    More opportunities for advancement for Primary Examiners. Make senior examiner positions easier to get. Many people apply for SPE positions for increased salary not because they want to be a SPE. Giving an outlet for such as senior patent examiner will also improve the SPE candidates you get. Speed up appeals at the PTAB. It can take over 2 years to get an appeal back from the PTAB this limits feedback to Examiners on whether rejections are being formulated correct or not.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO
  11. 3 people found this helpful  

    Veteran Intern Patent Examiner

    • 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 as an intern (less than an year)

    Pros

    USPTO is one of the few Federal agencies I have seen that runs fairly smoothly. Everyone I have encountered there is professional, helpful and personable (in the way that Engineers and Scientist can be), and very relaxed atmosphere. They have a very generous flexible schedule where you can work just about whenever you want as long as you make 80hrs every bi-wk and your numbers are good; when I say work whenever, I mean whenever (4-10hr days no problem; every other Friday off same deal..ect). The Academy they send you through is through and they definitely teach you the way to conduct Patent business. The Veterans program is very robust and right now they are in a hiring spree. Other benefits include onsite gym, a Patent social club and other various forms of perking up the work-life balance. Once you hit GS-12 (which can theoretically take about 1.5-2 yrs) you can work anywhere CONUS and never have to come into the office again.

    Cons

    The work itself. You need to realize that there is absolutely NO engineering work involved. The work is monotonous but it is a steady gig. I would probably not recommend USPTO for those just coming from college as the technical skills picked up in school will be lost. I can understand why those from industry would come to the PTO as it offers a major change of pace to how corporations conduct business. Another Con would be that everyone, due to the nature of the job itself, tends to stay in their offices so there is not a whole lot of social interactions. One final Con is the way the production system is setup. What the work comes down to is the numbers...and that is what you will be graded on constantly. I understand why they do production numbers, but I feel its a double edge sword. The nature of the work is tough and there is a learning curve, so the pressure is to constantly get applications reviewed and adjudicated as fast as possible.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    The management, at least whom I have encountered have been nothing but supportive and helpful. Make sure applicants know that there is no engineering work involved.

    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

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