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Author Topic: Working Conditions at the Office  (Read 502 times)

friendofafriend

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Working Conditions at the Office
« on: 02-05-18 at 01:57 pm »

I had a discussion with a friend at the Office, basically this is how it went.

He's been at the Office for about 9 years, Primary examiner for 3.  He has always tried to be fair and reasonable in his examination.  He has tried to resist the constant pressure to reject, reject, reject.  He refuses to make rejections with the broadest, entirely unreasonable interpretation.  This is mostly because he worked in patent prosecution for several years before joining the Office, and he understands the law and how it is applied in the real world, not just at the PTO.  He has held up surprisingly well at the Office.

However, lately his SPE has told him that he allows too much, which has resulted in (1) more review of his allowances and nitpicking anything and everything in his work, and (2) he is no longer allowed to train or provide advice to younger examiners, which is something he enjoys doing.  His allowance rate is ~10% higher than the average, which really isn't that out of the ordinary (Primary examiners usually have higher allowance rates).  Of note, Quality Review has not flagged any of his work as defective in the past 4 or 5 years.

Long-ish story short, my friends has finally burned out, and is at the point where he either (1) gives in and becomes a mindless reject, reject, reject drone, or (2) leaves the Office.  Option 1 is terrible because it is, well, depressing to him.  Very depressing to realize that your knowledge and skills are not only unwanted and useless, but an actual detriment to your progression.  Option 2 would be frustrating because he enjoys the flexibility and stability that the Office provides.  Is the cost of that flexibility and stability your sanity and professional satisfaction?

Anyway, I had always looked to this friend as an example for me how to not get caught in the Office trap, since we have similar backgrounds and I've been at the Office just a couple years less than he has.  He has always seemed impervious to the whims and politics of the Office, instead just focusing on doing the job the best he knows how.

Can anyone else confirm or shed light on whether the Office is shifting to a worse place to work?  Have I (and my friend) been this naive this whole time?  Is this the inevitable end result of working at the Office for too long?

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also, how do I make a disclaimer here automatically for all of my posts like "bluerogue" does?
The views expressed are my own and do not represent those of the USPTO. I am also not your lawyer nor providing legal advice.
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This post is on an anonymous internet forum, and does not represent the views of the PTO, any law firm, or any other entity, and is not legal advice.

Toot Aps Esroh

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Re: Working Conditions at the Office
« Reply #1 on: 02-05-18 at 02:11 pm »

Assuming you plan to stick around long enough to bother with it, click your Profile above, then click Modify Profile-->Forum Profile.  In the Forum Profile area you can add a signature that will accompany all of your posts (including those made in the past).

I can't answer your main question though.  But from experience, I'd say these things tend to wax and wane.  In 18 months, this SPE might move on or your friend might get put under a different SPE.  I had an absolute terror of a boss a few years ago but managed to live through it, and now the new boss is a fine person.  Take the long view. 
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Robert K S

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Re: Working Conditions at the Office
« Reply #2 on: 02-05-18 at 02:38 pm »

Too bad there's not a third, whistleblower option
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bluerogue

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Re: Working Conditions at the Office
« Reply #3 on: 02-05-18 at 02:51 pm »

Can anyone else confirm or shed light on whether the Office is shifting to a worse place to work?  Have I (and my friend) been this naive this whole time?  Is this the inevitable end result of working at the Office for too long?

I've always followed the maxim of the administration will change eventually.  Such is the nature of being a government employee.  Our bosses' priorities change with the political winds. Keep doing your best and don't take anything too personally.  I don't know if it's gotten better or worse -- just different.  It's not necessarily better out of the office.  Even if you're the boss, you have to cater to your client and still not fully in control of what you do.  It's more what you can live with. 

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also, how do I make a disclaimer here automatically for all of my posts like "bluerogue" does?
The views expressed are my own and do not represent those of the USPTO. I am also not your lawyer nor providing legal advice.

I'm honored to have my disclaimer referenced? :)
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The views expressed are my own and do not represent those of the USPTO. I am also not your lawyer nor providing legal advice.

lazyexaminer

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Re: Working Conditions at the Office
« Reply #4 on: 02-05-18 at 03:03 pm »

I've had a terrible SPE before. SPEs leave and move around so you never know how long you'll be with them. I had four in my first five years and also four in the past five years. It is also possible to transfer to other art units, but it would help to have a SPE that wants you and it depends on case loads and things, with your Director ultimately deciding I believe.

I was also there through the Dudas/Doll era when it truly was the rejection Office. I don't see any evidence that it is getting like that again, Office wide, but I'll admit I'm not as connected as I used to be. So I don't think you are being naive or that this is inevitable.

All that said, this does sound concerning. Extra review of his work and not permitting him to train are red flags--is the SPE trying to build a case? Is your friend getting bad ratings? Is the SPE actually finding legitimate errors (i.e. justifying the extra review)? Does understanding how the law works in the real world mean he disregards Office policy if he feels it shouldn't be a certain way?

How do others feel about the SPE? Your friend may not be the only one with a complaint. I'm not a huge fan of POPA but it may pay to talk to them if he is being singled out, nothing is being found, and the singling out continues. It would also pay to document what's going on. I am arrogant but if it was me I would challenge the hell out of this if I wasn't doing anything wrong other than allowing slightly more cases than average, I agree 10% shouldn't matter.
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friendofafriend

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Re: Working Conditions at the Office
« Reply #5 on: 02-05-18 at 03:20 pm »

I'm honored to have my disclaimer referenced? :)
Yours was the first I saw in the "Working for the USPTO" comment thread that brought me here.
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friendofafriend

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Re: Working Conditions at the Office
« Reply #6 on: 02-05-18 at 03:28 pm »

I've had a terrible SPE before. SPEs leave and move around so you never know how long you'll be with them. I had four in my first five years and also four in the past five years. It is also possible to transfer to other art units, but it would help to have a SPE that wants you and it depends on case loads and things, with your Director ultimately deciding I believe.

I was also there through the Dudas/Doll era when it truly was the rejection Office. I don't see any evidence that it is getting like that again, Office wide, but I'll admit I'm not as connected as I used to be. So I don't think you are being naive or that this is inevitable.

All that said, this does sound concerning. Extra review of his work and not permitting him to train are red flags--is the SPE trying to build a case? Is your friend getting bad ratings? Is the SPE actually finding legitimate errors (i.e. justifying the extra review)? Does understanding how the law works in the real world mean he disregards Office policy if he feels it shouldn't be a certain way?

How do others feel about the SPE? Your friend may not be the only one with a complaint. I'm not a huge fan of POPA but it may pay to talk to them if he is being singled out, nothing is being found, and the singling out continues. It would also pay to document what's going on. I am arrogant but if it was me I would challenge the hell out of this if I wasn't doing anything wrong other than allowing slightly more cases than average, I agree 10% shouldn't matter.
Thank you for your insights.  I'm sure my friend is giving me his "side" of the story, so there may be more going on.  I believe his claims that his SPEs extra review isn't coming up with anything legitimate, and his ratings have been all 4s/5s the last couple years.  His art unit is running low on work and almost everyone in the art unit is a primary now, so maybe his SPE just has more time to review work and there are fewer juniors to train.  That's really why I posted this here, was to see if there might be a bigger trend at the Office, or if maybe my friend is just the victim of a series of unfortunate events not specifically related to him or his work.  To him it feels very personal, though.
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abc123

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Re: Working Conditions at the Office
« Reply #7 on: 02-05-18 at 05:23 pm »

To him it feels very personal, though.

It will feel more personal if he quits and does not have a job to go to. Of course, if he is just "bored" and lands a better job, it may be a blessing in disguise, especially given the good state of the job market.

I had a friend who suffered under a bad SPE for 5 years, and another who quit after being assigned a new SPE, and the new SPE was transferred in two weeks. So anything can happen.

In my experience, and from what the office has found, examiners tend to get to the burn-out point around the 10 year mark. It could be like having a mid-life crisis, something you just have to get over with.

Aside from the job's flexibility, he is probably making good money, so he may hate the job, but there are a lot of jobs worth hating that do not pay nearly as well. And to the extent he has dug his career into a hole with limited exit options, he probably knew he would reach that point some day when he was going in. If he didn't, he should have. I found his situation is not uncommon at the PTO. And I suppose any other narrowly focused, piece-meal job as well.
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steelie

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Re: Working Conditions at the Office
« Reply #8 on: 02-05-18 at 11:15 pm »

The Office did shift to a worse place to work for examiners.

They implemented "Quality Initiatives", and gave us no more time for the extra work, and scrutiny.
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steelie

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Re: Working Conditions at the Office
« Reply #9 on: 02-08-18 at 05:45 am »

Another angle ... the office has been doing the time study for like a year now.

Your friend might be raising his/her art unit's allowance rate , and negatively affecting their opportunity to get more examination time.
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