USPTO hopes budget will help more examiners telework

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will double the number of teleworking patent examiners in the next fiscal year, said Steve Pinkos, deputy undersecretary of commerce for intellectual property.

About 500 patent examiners work outside the agency's campus in Alexandria, Va., using secure connection programs and high-speed Internet access.

In its fiscal 2008 budget request, released today, the Bush administration seeks an almost $150 million increase in USPTO's budget over the agency’s fiscal 2007 budget. Some of the new money would be spent on telework, Pinkos said. Lack of funding was the main impediment to further implementation of the agency’s telework program, he added.

“It's not necessarily a lack of demand that's holding us back,” Pinkos said today. “It's really a matter to get them the tools and to get people comfortable operating in that electronic environment.”

USPTO has already taken steps to speed telework adoption. In mid-January, the Government Accountability Office said USPTO could reimburse teleworkers for high-speed bandwidth costs.

Promoting telework is of particular interest to the office because of the large number of patent examiners it hired last year. USPTO hired nearly 1,200 examiners in 2006, while 400 left. Most of the new examiners are involved in technology-related fields such as electrical engineering.

The main concern with the promotion of telework among examiners is ensuring that new examiners are properly trained, Pinkos said. Moving seasoned examiners outside the office would make the training process difficult.

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