There has been much talk by experts and politicians about the Patent Reform Act of 2007. Much of the discussion and criticism of the proposed legislation has centered upon examiner retention and the possible strain placed upon the USPTO’s resources by some of the proposed changes. Given all of the discussion, it seems logical to see what the examiners themselves would like to see improved in the PTO. Recently, the results from the Commerce Departmentââ?¬â?¢s 2006 Federal Human Capital Survey were made available to the Patent Office Professional Association (POPA). The Commerce Department surveyed 1105 PTO employees and contains good insight into how examiners view the system in which they work. There were 73 questions in the survey where the answer choices were: ââ?¬Ë?positiveââ?¬â?¢, ââ?¬Ë?negativeââ?¬â?¢, ââ?¬Ë?neutralââ?¬â?¢, or ââ?¬Ë?do not know/no basis to judgeââ?¬â?¢. There were a few that were of particular interest. When asked if they have enough information to do their job well, 69.3% responded ââ?¬Ë?positiveââ?¬â?¢ while 13.2% responded ââ?¬Ë?negativeââ?¬â?¢, and 17.5% were neutral. When asked if they would recommend the PTO as a good place to work, there were 58.7% positive responses, with 21.6% neutral and 19.7% negative. While those two questions indicate that there are perhaps some problems, the question asking if the PTO is able to recruit people with the right skills, the positive responses dropped to only 50 %. Furthermore, there was only a 50% positive response rate as to whether the skill level in existing employees improved in the last year. Perhaps most telling is that the percentage dropped to 40% when those surveyed were asked if their workload was reasonable. Now, statistics can always be misleading, but the survey does not inspire confidence in the PTOââ?¬â?¢s ability to handle the increased workload that could result from the new Act. Readers may read the full survey here (PDF).

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