USPTO lawyers: Don't penalize us for system problems

Computer systems downtime has emerged as a bone of contention in labor negotiations between trademark attorneys and senior U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officials.

At issue in the negotiations is a proposed performance appraisal plan that federal trademark attorneys say would fail to take computer systems downtime fully into account in measuring attorneys' productivity. Senior management officials contend that the new appraisal plan is fair and necessary for the agency to meet higher production and quality standards.

Under the plan being negotiated, computer downtime is built into the work appraisal model by which trademark attorneys would be rated. It would replace a plan that lets managers exercise discretion in dealing with computer downtime.

Current rules let USPTO managers take attorneys off the clock when systems are down for a couple of hours, said Howard Friedman, an attorney adviser who is president of the National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 245, which represents trademark attorneys. Taking attorneys off the clock, he said, avoids penalties for systems downtime.

Friedman said he lacks confidence that a new appraisal model in which systems downtime is precalculated and built into the model would be fair to patent attorneys. Trademark attorneys, however, welcome having computer systems to do their jobs, he said.

"As a fairly young, progressive bargaining unit, we like using the computer, we like using different technologies, different software

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