“A Strange Application…”

Today we had additional training on PCT applications, and some cadets had training on another non-patent literature database we can access.

I think many of us are at an awkward stage: we have learned enough basics that a lot of the information we’re seeing is somewhat repetitive from what we learned earlier. At the same time, it is easier to get lost on the newer, more advanced material. I think I sense some nervousness in much of the class as we enter the final days of our non-production time, especially since many people still haven’t finished their first Office Actions, yet.

There’s no great reason to be worried. We have time to improve and learn over the next six months in the academy. At the same time, there’s the prospect of accelerated promotions, which many people are anxious to get. With many new jobs, I think, there are a few stages that new hires go through.

  1. Excusable Incompetence. I’m new here, I’m not expected to know anything.
  2. Fear About Future Competence. I’ve been here a little while. I should be better at this. Everyone else here is good at this, why am I not?
  3. Increasing Competence (hopefully). I’m getting better at this. I remember things, I can do tasks with less supervision. I’m catching on.
  4. Competence (again, hopefully). I can do this job independently. For the most part, I know the ins and outs.

Most of us are at stage two. Maybe many people aren’t fearful, but that’s a natural reaction. After all, our trainers and other experienced examiners make it look so easy. Will we be able to work at that level? All you can do is your best; focus on learning and not asking the same questions over and over, and doing as much as you can.

Perhaps I’m overstating the case, however. Perhaps most in the class are supremely confident. Many of us have been working on applications in some form or another for a little while now, without the pressure of production, so perhaps that introduction is enough to convince most that they can do the job.

Of course, my point isn’t about the universality of fear at this particular stage in the process, but rather that I’m sure everyone goes through it. Maybe not at this particular job, but in another. It’s something to work through and acknowledge as part of the natural learning process.

And sometimes it helps to know that you’re not the only one.


6 thoughts on ““A Strange Application…””

  1. How long has your class been at the PTO? Regardless as what your trainer tells you about production, many SPEs require first year examiners to be at 100% at the end of the first year. This doesn’t mean 100% for the last few biweeks – 100% cumulative for all four quarters. So if some haven’t a single count they could have some massive catching up to do in the 4 short months after the academy depending on their SPE.

    Not trying to do as much work as you can in the academy because you don’t have to is not advisable. First, you get into a bad habbit of wasting time during the day that may be hard to break when you are released. Second, the best way to learn and become a good examiner is the write action and get raked over the coals by attorneys. The attorney’s hate it, but the reality at the office is that many SPEs do hand off the training to attorneys by blindly signing action to have the examiners learn from their mistakes. And trust me, no matter how long you’ve been lectured in the academy – you don’t know anything until you start getting amendments back (or should I say arguements since your first actions are probably going to be poor). I hope this helps. I’ve been at the PTO for over 3 years now and love the job, but it’s not for everyone.

  2. 3 year examiner:
    Thanks for your comments.
    That is not what our trainers (or our PAP) says about production. What do you mean by “require?” Since a “fully-satisfactory” rating is 95%, do you mean that one can be terminated for being above fully-satisfactory but below 100%? They have told us – repeatedly – that we are not expected to have 100%, we are expected to show progress and get up to fully satisfactory by the end of our first year. So I hope that you are mistaken, or that I have misunderstood you.

    I agree that students in the academy should try to do as much as they can before leaving. I hope I never gave the impression otherwise.


  3. You are a probationary examiner; they can let you go if you are at 300%. They do not need a reason. Many SPEs will not recommend they keep you if you cannot show that you can produce at 100% since you might be a drag on their unit’s production. This may be less prevalent now that the office is trying to hire (and keep I hope) so many new examiners.

    Be careful of the advice from trainers and recruiters. The recruiter that I talked to at my University told us everyone would have their own office and my trainer told us not to worry about production. Only when I talked to my SPE for the first time did I find out what was really expected of me.

    I recommend every new examiner talk to their SPE the first day you find out who it is and have them tell you what will be expected of you – they are the ones that matter, not your trainer. Your SPE most likely, has a relationship with you TC director. The director has the final say on your retainment, but often just takes the recommendation of your SPE.

    I don’t mean to worry any of you newbies. The only people I know that were not retained was one examiner that wanted to leave and another that was trading stocks all day instead of examining. Since the office is under such a hiring crunch, I’m sure the standards have relaxed a bit. Do your best and you’ll be fine.

  4. The production requirement for our class was: >40% at 4 months examining, >60% at 6 months examining, and 80~95% at 8 months examining. I always assumed this was aggregate production, but it actually wasn’t specified, now that I think about it.

    One thing I strongly advise you to do (while you still have time), is to *learn* as much as possible from examination, rather than just trying to get cases out the door as fast as possible. Seriously *READ THE MPEP* – there are sections in that thing that are not covered in any lectures, and are quite useful in examination. Also, read case law – not nearly as important or helpful as reading the MPEP, but being familiar with court precedent allows you to formulate some arguments that you might not be aware of. Finally, skim some office actions from your primaries. This will give you an idea of how things are typically done in your art – the format of the actions, the thoroughness of the rejections, the number (and type) of restrictions done, etc.

  5. “3 year examiner” is correct. Each SPE is different. For example, the new SPE in my AU is a hawk on workflow. The week your amendment becomes a 2+, he’ll breathe down your neck.

    On the other hand, a few of my friends have SPE’s who dont’ care if you have a bucket loads of 2+’s on your docket.

    It’s not fair since your amendments don’t get a count unless it is allowed.

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