Report unearths questions about USPTO’s telework program

An internal investigation by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently found that some patent examiners who work from home may have lied about the hours they worked and received unjustified bonuses.

There are 8,300 patent examiners, and approximately half of them work full-time from home through USPTO’s telework program. A two-year internal investigation found that program oversight was “completely ineffective,” the Washington Post reports.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the report comes at a time when patent examiners appear to be falling behind on one of the agency’s core functions.

“The USPTO reportedly has a backlog of patent applications of over 600,000 and an approximate wait time of more than five years,” Issa said. “Despite patent examiners generally receiving salary at the top of the federal pay scale – some making $148,000 a year – it appears the telework program is not serving its intended purpose to produce more efficiency. The waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement described by the Post is unacceptable.”

The report raised questions about the accuracy and extent of the USPTO’s internal investigation. Top agency officials reportedly denied requests from supervisors to pull employee computer records. Additionally, the report sent to the Commerce Department Office of Inspector General concluded that it was impossible to know if whistleblower allegations of systemic abuses were true, the Washington Post reports.