Following several whistleblower complaints, the US Patent and Trademark Office began an internal investigation two years ago into a programme which allowed employees to work from home.
Some of the 8,300 patent examiners, about half of whom work from home full time, lied about hours they were putting in and received bonuses for work they didn’t do. While supervisors knew what they were doing, top agency officials blocked their efforts.
Effectively examiners could do what they like, when they liked, and charge what they like and do basically nothing.
To make matters worse, when it came time last summer for the patent office to turn over the findings to its outside watchdog, the most damaging revelations had “disappeared.”
The final report sent to Commerce Department Inspector General Todd Zinser concluded that it was impossible to know if the whistle-blowers’ allegations of systemic abuses were true. This was different from the original USPO report which described systematic abuse of the system.
The agency’s army of examiners and other officials has been falling behind, with a backlog of patent applications swelling to more than 600,000 and estimated waiting times of more than five years.
Chief communications officer Todd Elmer called the original report a “rough draft for discussion purposes” that was an “initial attempt to describe the full investigation record”.
We guess he means that the first report got his department into so much trouble it was better to prepare a report that said there were not problems here and no one would have be fired.
Elmer said that the original report was looked at by a lawyer who said that most of the allegations were unproved so they had to be ignored. This is a little odd because both versions of the report were written by chief administrative officer Frederick Steckler.
Our guess is that the US Patent Office will be providing material for trolls for many years at this rate.