Dear Examining Corps,
As we all know, we have faced trying times lately. Criticisms and attacks on our work product and work ethics come from all sides. Now, seemingly, even our integrity is being called into question by the latest IG report.
The methodology of the report is flawed and unreviewable, at least by POPA. While the report relies on electronic “data” to calculate “unsupported work hours”, none of the data is provided with the report and the report itself acknowledges that the electronic data is not reliable “for various idiosyncratic reasons”. Where the data was found inconsistent with or unexplainable by the conclusions of the report, the apparent methodology was to throw that data out and exclude it from the study. As a further example of the flawed nature of the report, a review of the timecodes from which “data” was gathered are not time codes used by most patent examiners.
The number of unsupported conclusions in the report is astounding. Time after time the report reaches conclusions such as “…this analysis likely understates the volume of unsupported hours” without consideration that margins of error go both ways and without providing any reasoning for the conclusion.
Voluntary overtime, i.e. the unpaid time many examiners work to reach production goals or bonus levels, is conveniently excluded. So the report draws no conclusions regarding the vast number of extra unclaimed hours worked by examiners. Leaving out extra hours worked also means that there is no way to determine if the alleged 2% “unsupported work hours” comprises little more than the misplacement of hours on our ponderous WebTA time reporting document.
Regarding the alleged 2% lack of “unsupported work hours”, a 2% error rate would be considered outstanding in any other context. No test we know of considers a 98% success rate as less than stellar.
But most disturbing is the final conclusion regarding our time expectancies. The investigators, who have little knowledge of the complexities of patent examining, conclude that many of us have “excess time”. To the contrary, patent examining becomes more complex every day. The volume of material that needs to be searched for prior art continues to grow exponentially thanks to the internet, the alleged “efficiency” that is claimed to have made the job so much easier and faster to perform. Office actions are required to be significantly more detailed than when our productions goals were established and the Agency is emphasizing the inclusion of more detail and explanation as part of recent quality initiative efforts.
The Examining Corps, through time and considerable effort, makes the U.S. intellectual property system the best the world has ever seen – and will continue to do so in spite of these unfounded attacks.
We appreciate the support received from Under Secretary Lee, Deputy Under Secretary Slifer, Commissioner Hirshfeld and Deputy Commissioner Faile. We know they understand the challenging nature of the work and the efforts by the Examining Corps to do the job to the best of our ability with the tools and the time available for the task.
POPA Officers: Pam Schwartz, Kathy Duda, Dave Reip, Gerry Ewoldt and Pat Duffy