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Patent Office Bills Taxpayers For 300,000 Hours Of Work They Never Did

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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Thousands of government employees billed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for close to 300,000 hours of work they never performed, according to a bombshell report from an independent government watchdog.

The Office of the Inspector General for the Commerce Department conducted a minute-by-minute review of the claimed work hours of over 8,400 USPTO employees. The watchdog group identified 288,479 unsupported hours of work among the 8,400 employees between August 2014 and November 2015.

The Office of the Inspector General said it adopted a conservative approach in its consideration of the evidence. The report said that the number of unsupported hours over the 15-month period could be twice as high, but did not count many hours to ensure it did not unfairly assume that a particular examiner was not working.

The report details that the 288,479 unsupported hours equates to over $18.3 million in potential waste. There were 415 employees who had 10 percent or more unsupported hours, and accounted for 43 percent of the total unsupported hours. The USPTO paid approximately $7.8 million in bonuses to those 415 employees, according to the report.

Of those 415 employees, 310 of them received an above-average annual performance rating from their superiors and those 310 accounted for nearly 98,000 unsupported hours.

The report estimated that the total number of unsupported hours could have reduced the patent application backlog by 16,000 cases if those hours had actually been worked. The office had a backlog of approximately 550,000 applications last spring and reviews typically take between 16 to 26 months to complete, according to the Washington Post.

“The amount of wasted man-hours that could have been spent reducing the patent backlog is astounding, not to mention the millions of taxpayer dollars that were wasted paying employees for work they were not doing,” Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte told the Washington Post following the news.

A spokesperson for the USPTO said Tuesday that the agency “continues to focus on time and attendance compliance among employees,” and called the report a “resource in our ongoing efforts to improve.”

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