Year in Review: Patent office telework under fire


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An award-winning telework program that was once considered a model for the federal government lost some of its luster this year amid unflattering reports of time abuse among some users.

The Washington Post broke a story about investigators who found some teleworking examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had been lying about their hours while top officials had failed to address the problem. However, in the final abbreviated report sent to Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General, many of the damning revelations had been removed.


In a separate report, the OIG found that paralegals in one of USPTO’s subagencies had been surfing the Web and doing laundry while working from home. The report found that the paralegals had not been given enough work by their managers.

Agency officials were taken to task by congressional lawmakers in the wake of the reports. Since the reports, officials said the agency has revamped its efforts to combat telework fraud.

Earlier this month, USPTO’s Deputy Director Michelle Lee outlined for lawmakers what the agency has done in response: conducted additional training for patent managers on time abuse, established two cross-agency bureaus to prevent abuse and intervene early on and reached out to the National Academy of Public Administration to review the entire telework program.

“As I understand, when theses issues came to the attention of PTO management, they immediately took action to implement additional controls, policies, procedures and training,” Lee told lawmakers.

The National Academy of Public Administration’s two-pronged review is due out in May.

Big Story of 2014

Misconduct report batters USPTO’s celebrated telework program

By Billy Mitchell · Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 · 3:29 p.m.

Read more of our 2014 wrap-up coverage:

2014 Year-in-Review: Big names and big stories

Federal IT acquisition 2014: A year of reform

2014 forges a new, more comfortable relationship with cloud for government

Congress 2014: The year of unfinished business

Cybersecurity 2014: The battle for mindshare

Defense 2014: The year of strategies and women

FAA 2014: From UAS integration to NextGen

The FCC’s 2014 in the spotlight may be just the beginning

Health IT 2014: The push toward interoperable data

Veterans Affairs 2014: The Year of Being Held Accountable

Federal workforce 2014: Hiring millennials and closing the STEM skills gap

White House 2014: Departures, digital service and Google

-In this Story-

Archives, Commerce Department, Department of Justice (DOJ), Departments, Government IT News, mobile and wireless, mobility, Tech, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), workforce