Maria V. Hernandez
The Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched a work-at-home project for 125 senior patent examiners today. The project provides employees a better quality of life, including more time at home and less time in traffic, while the agency benefits from higher productivity and reduced costs.
The work-at-home program for patent examiners is a six-month pilot to evaluate the feasibility of having 10 percent of USPTO's most experienced employees working at home one day each week. Twenty-five of the participants will perform their full duties from home using USPTO provided workstations with full electronic searching through encrypted transmission over high speed data lines. Over 100 additional examiners will work from home using their own computers, with USPTO provided equipment, to perform a more limited scope of functions, such as reading correspondence from applicants and writing replies.
"USPTO believes very strongly in using telecommuting in a way to improve our employees' quality of life both at work and at home, while still meeting the needs of our customers and making USPTO a better place to work," says Nicholas Godici, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO. Continues Godici, "The program also saves the agency money by reducing the need for additional office space."
The project is part of a larger agreement between the agency and the Patent Office Professional Association (POPA), the union representing 3,500 USPTO employees. The other components of this agreement are a special pay scale, moving to an electronic environment by the phased elimination of paper search files, improving automation tools, and adding a customer service element to employees' performance plans.
On June 27, 2001, USPTO received the 2001 Commuter Connections Employee Recognition Telework Award for its Trademark Work-at-Home Program from the Metropolitan Council of Governments. Today, over 90 of the agency's 400 trademark examining attorneys are telecommuting from home using workstations supplied by USPTO.
USPTO administers patent and trademark laws protecting intellectual property and rewarding individual effort. Intellectual property is a potent force in the competitive free enterprise system. By protecting intellectual endeavors and encouraging technological progress, USPTO seeks to preserve the United States' technological edge, which is a key to our current and future competitiveness. USPTO also disseminates patent and trademark information that promotes an understanding of intellectual property protection and facilitates the development and sharing of new technologies worldwide.
Over 6 million patents have been issued since the first patent in 1790 and more than 2.3 million trademarks have been registered since the first in 1870. Last year USPTO issued 182,223 patents and registered 127,794 trademarks.