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Archived updates for Wednesday, October 26, 2005

POPA President Calls USPTO "Legal Sweatshop"

In the September-October issue of "Radio Free PTO," Patent Office Professional Association President Ronald Stern called the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office the "most ruthlessly effective federal agency in firing employees." The POPA newsletter report cites an August 2005 study by the National Academy of Public Administration finding that the USPTO was responsible for almost ten percent of all non-Defense federal employees fired in 2001. The USPTO fired three times more employees in one year than the State Department removed in 17 years. In his congressional testimony,

Stern described the toll that the USPTO's "quality initiatives" have taken on employee morale and productivity. The recertification of primary examiners, in-process reviews, and second-pair-of-eyes program intended to improve quality instead force examiners to constantly look over their shoulders. While only 60 percent of allegations of error were upheld in the first part of fiscal year 2005, the
need to defend themselves against alleged errors continues to sap examiners'
morale and fortifies employee bitterness and frustration.

While the USPTO speaks of the volume of examiners it's hiring, the patent corps is like a sieve leaking employees almost as fast as they're hired. From fiscal year 2000 through 2004, the agency hired 2,309 patent examiners yet lost 1,527. . . . "If the USPTO truly desires to reduce attrition, it must effectively address the reasons that most examiners leaveā€”job dissatisfaction and higher pay," testified Stern. The USPTO's workplace benefits like flextime and transit subsidies are overshadowed by the day-to-day stresses of working in a "legal sweatshop." Stern noted that examiners are "skilled professionals and deserve to be treated as such... examiners want to do a good job they can be proud of."

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