Regarding the Sept. 1 news article “Report: Patent examiners lied about showing up to work, reaping millions”:
While “fraud” makes for a better story, the tone of the Office of the Inspector General’s report of alleged fraud at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office exaggerated the scope of the problem. The report says that 288,480 hours were claimed but not worked in a 15-month period. The inspector general looked at about 8,400 examiners. That means that the number of hours allegedly wasted per examiner is about 34 hours for the entire period. Assuming 325 workdays in those 15 months, that’s slightly more than 6 minutes a day. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average American worker wastes 34 minutes a day. This is not to excuse abuse, but the scale of the problem doesn’t justify the headline.
Moreover, the inspector general’s report is a distraction from the patent office’s focus on improving patent quality. The report focuses on hours worked; its recommendation is, essentially, to increase the speed of the assembly line. Issuing more patents, faster, is hardly the way to improve quality. The Government Accountability Office recently made recommendations on improving patent quality, including changing the ways that examiners are evaluated. We should focus on its recommendations for improving the patent system as a whole, not on overblown cries of “fraud.”
Matt Levy, Fairfax
The writer is patent counsel for the Computer and Communications Industry Association.