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Archived updates for Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Payola at the PTO?

Todd Jack is apparently still a U.S. Patent Examiner, even after losing his appeal of a 120-day suspension that he alleged was in retaliation for reporting corruption at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

According to Jack v. Dept. of Commerce (Fed. Cir., April 11, 2005), in February 2000, he alleged to the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he had been approached by other employees of the PTO who proposed that he join them in a scheme to sell patents and perform patent searches for persons outside the PTO for cash payments. In February 2001, Mr. Jack made the same allegations to a congressional office. In addition, he alleged that two PTO employees had accessed his e-mail, bank, and credit accounts. In April and May 2001, Mr. Jack informed the Identity Theft Division of the United States Secret Service that one of those employees had changed his ATM access code, and that another had switched the contact phone number associated with his bank account to that employee’s cell phone number.

Later in May 2001, Mr. Jack alleged to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that employees of the PTO were accepting cash for granting and transferring patents. He also again alleged that PTO employees had stolen his identity by breaking into his e-mail, bank, and credit accounts. In June 2001, he made the same allegations to Department of Commerce security officers. In addition, he alleged that PTO employees were accepting cash for performing unauthorized patent searches. Later in June 2001, Mr. Jack made identical allegations to the Office of Inspector General and to PTO security officers. In August 2001, Mr. Jack reported to the Navy Criminal Investigation Service that other PTO employees had stolen his identity. Mr. Jack made identical or similar allegations in April 2002 to the Veterans Employment and Training Service in the Department of Labor, and in August 2002 to another congressman’s office.

On April 8, 2002, Mr. Jack’s supervisor gave him a memorandum confirming an oral warning that his performance was unacceptable and giving him an opportunity to improve. The next day, the supervisor reported an incident with Mr. Jack, and as a result Mr. Jack was placed on a two days’ administrative leave. On July 30, 2002, Mr. Jack’s second-level supervisor proposed that Mr. Jack be removed "for (1) Harassing and threatening behavior exhibited toward your supervisor and co-workers; (2) Making false statements concerning another employee; (3) Creating a hostile work environment; and (4) Inappropriate behavior in the workplace." The Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations issued a decision on January 6, 2003, sustaining all of the charges, but reducing the proposed removal to a 120-day suspension effective January 7, 2003.

There is nothing in the decision to suggest that these payola allegations were taken seriously by investigators. If only it were really that easy to get a U.S. Patent . . . .
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