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USPTO Unveils Reforms After Examiner Golfed On The Job

The Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a scathing review of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s time and attendance policies. In particular, its oversight of the former employee identified as Examiner A, who was not authorized to telecommute and committed at least 730 hours of time and attendance abuse, resulting in the payment of approximately $25,000 for hours not worked in Fiscal Year 2014 alone. These hours amounted to about 43 percent of the total hours the employee clocked for the fiscal year.

“The evidence regarding Examiner A’s actions raise concerns about whether the agency’s internal controls to prevent such misconduct are adequate and function properly,” the Inspector General said. “Despite numerous red flags and the USPTO’s internal controls, the agency did not review Examiner A’s time and attendance records to determine if he was claiming time for work he did not perform.”

The investigation started after two supervisory patent examiners at the USPTO walked into their offices and found copies of an anonymous letter claiming Examiner A only came into work at the “end of the quarter” to submit work.

On one occasion, Examiner A left work after spending less than three hours at the USPTO, writing in an instant message to a coworker at 12:57 p.m., “ok, did u wanna [hit golf balls at Golf Bar] today at all?”

The coworker replied a minute later, “Actually yeah, let’s just go there now?”

The inspector general could not identify any data that showed the examiner worked after the IM conversation, yet Examiner A certified a full day of work.

The inspector general found that during 613 of the 730 supported hours — the equivalent of about 76 work days — there was no evidence Examiner A visited any USPTO offices, connected to the USPTO network offsite, or performed any work on his government-issued laptop when connected to the network.

“Although the vast majority of the USPTO’s almost 13,000 hard-working and highly skilled professionals perform their jobs with integrity and dedication, the agency nonetheless takes very seriously even one incidence of time and attendance abuse, such as by this particular employee, who is no longer with the agency,” the USPTO said.

The agency will consider implementation of additional improvements to identify and correct “even isolated cases of abuse,” they said.

For more information, see Law360.

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