Consider the consequences

Before kicking off its telecommuting pilot, officials at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office mulled the challenges of allowing some of their senior patent examiners to work from home one day a week.

The biggest hurdles are security and secrecy issues, said Esther Kepplinger, deputy commissioner for patent operations at USPTO. After an internal review, agency officials decided to allow patent examiners to take work home that is usually restricted to the office. And all searches and database queries would be done via encrypted Digital Subscriber Lines.

There are also technical and training challenges: DSL service is not available everywhere and searching huge databases from home may be cumbersome. And with senior examiners out of the office, the concern is that junior examiners won't have enough interaction with experienced employees, she said.

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