Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Time and money issues at the USPTO

On issues about more money for the USPTO, from popa.

Senate Appropriations Committee Report proposes $1.771 billion for the USPTO in FY07, down from the President's proposed budget of $1.843 billion. The Report includes harsh language concerning the USPTO's failures in examiner hiring/retention and its need for better management. The Report states,"[T]he Inspector General has received repeated complaints that PTO has allowed or encouraged unfair personnel practices. The IG has identified these problems as one of the top 10 management challenges of the Department of Commerce. Even with increased funding, the problems at PTO are getting worse, evidence that what is needed is better management."

*from the popa website on questions and answers:

Employee Comment: Get the examiners more time to do the cases. There are too many gs15s not examining. Reduce the QAS, SPRE and SPE positions and give us more time across the board to do cases. We need more time to do our cases more than a pay raise, at least some of us do. I would even be fore using pay raise money to hire more examiners and give us more time - significantly more time. POPA Response: POPA certainly concurs that examiners need more time to do a quality job. Management has made a concerted effort to employ more "watchers" at the GS-15 level to find errors often caused by lack of time for the examiner rather than to use that money to provide examiners with more examining time so the job can be done right the first time.

Q: What is POPA doing, if anything, to actually increase the number of examining hours per balance disposal to provide for quality examination and what is POPA’s likelihood of success?
A. POPA has been testifying before Congressional Committees and lobbying Congressional members and staff on the issue of more time for examiners for at least 10 years. POPA has written in our Newsletter distributed to many influential government and private sector individuals and organizations on the need for more time. The most recent news release from POPA called for an increase of 20% more time for examiners since the goals have not been changed since 1977. The effort for increased time for examination has mainly been one of lobbying and public relations along with some inroads for "other time" since the amount of work performed and the goals have been non-negotiable to the Association since 1978. POPA IS PROHIBITED BY LAW FROM NEGOTIATING ON PRODUCTION OR GOALS. In 1976, POPA won a court decision to allow us to negotiate many of the current goals only to have that right taken away in 1978. The goals system has remained essentially the same since that time with the determination of production goals being at the sole discretion of USPTO management. USPTO management has seen fit to not provide even a single minute of additional time over this period despite the additional duties, lengthy actions, equipment malfunctions, endless review and oversight, increase in technical complexity, etc. that the examiners now endure. Our successes have come in the form of "other time" for additional duties that management has heaped on the examining corps. However, in the current political environment, when POPA negotiated for time for examiners to rebut and respond to accusations by management of alleged error on the part of the examiner, the political appointees of the Federal Service Impasses Panel ruled to provide examiners ZERO time to do so.

On patent reform, see Getting the Patent Reform Wars on Track.


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