Trademark attorneys can call it in

Jay Besch is fairly new to telework, but his employer, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, has been at it for a quite a while.

The agency launched its telework effort 10 years ago, beginning with trademark examining attorneys. Besch joined their ranks 15 months ago. Besch said working at home four days a week reduces his commuting time, either a 45- to 90-minute drive or a 75-minute Metrorail journey from Bethesda,Md.

Telework program vitals

AGENCY: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, trademark line of business.

TELEWORKER POPULATION: 83 percent of employees eligible to telework.

TYPES OF JOBS: Trademark examining attorneys, supervisors and managers.

TELEWORK GEAR: Laptops, voice-over-IP phone, virtual private network connection to office-based applications; Nortel’s MCS collaboration software.

“I’ve got that time back in my life,” he said.

Telework also cuts down on office interruptions and lets him take calls from the West Coast that he would otherwise miss, Besch said. Working from home also means his environmentally conscious family can make do without a second car.

A total of 394 trademark business line employees are teleworking — about 83 percent of the trademark population eligible to do so. A USPTO spokeswoman said telework programs exist for most trademark services work units — in addition to those for examining attorneys. She said many supervisors and managers also participate.

Trademark examining lends itself to telework, given the level of autonomy involved, Besch said. Trademark examining attorneys analyze trademark applications, considering applicable rules and statutes to determine whether a trademark will be registered.

Besch said he can handle all aspects of the trademark examining job at home with a couple of exceptions. Law Office meetings, for instance, usually take place at USPTO’s facility in Alexandria, Va.

In addition, USPTO teleworkers must report to the Alexandria office weekly to maintain their official duty station. That visit is required under Office of Personnel Management regulations.

When working at home, examining attorneys are equipped with a laptop and voice-over-IP phones. The laptops have software for connecting to a virtual private network and Nortel’s Multimedia Communications Server conferencing software. Besch and his colleagues also remotely access a database search program that was developed for trademark examining.

Although telework is hardly new for the trademark line of business, the practice continues to evolve.

“We are constantly looking to expand the program,” said Besch, who is a union representative for the Trademark Work At Home initiative.

He pointed to the Trademark Geographic Expansion pilot. That pilot, begun last year, lets examining attorneys move far afield of the Washington, D.C., area.

Besch said attorneys now work in California, Illinois and North Carolina, among other distant locations.

Besch said the participants are happy with the program — apart from the weekly reporting requirement.

About the Author

John Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.

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