“Going with the Workflow…”

We had a lecture on workflow and managing our time, today.


21 thoughts on ““Going with the Workflow…””

  1. Echoing my production advice, workflow means different things to different SPE’s. Some don’t worry about it too much, others will be breathing down you neck about every deadline. Be sure to ask around and find out what you SPE expects.


  2. i hope you have approval for this site.
    i would hate to see you get fired before
    you even get to experience the joys
    of examining.


  3. Hi, g: I appreciate your concern, but I don’t discuss any internal office positions, nor do I give my opinions on patentability or potential patentability. I don’t claim to represent the office. I don’t make a dime from the operation of the site; I run it at my own cost, without advertisements. I’m not giving advice to anyone with regard to prosecution. I don’t say anything negative about the office.

    But please, if you do feel that there is something untoward in what I am writing, please let me know so that I can correct it. My intention has never been to agitate.

  4. I just worry you will be cited by a for-profit media
    site. The opinion will be presented as those of the
    office even though they are just your opinions.

    Normally nothing would happen. But say in this case
    for whatever reason your quote makes it to CNN, NYT, Wash Pst.
    And the quote is not taken out of context. Even though
    it is your opinion, you have upset people @ the office.

    There are rules for communicating with the public.
    Normally they are not used unless they need to be.
    And you never know when this will happen.
    It could even be a comment to the site.

    There is only one other site that is from an examiner,
    that I know of.. “Just a Patent Examiner”

    You should speak with him. He has probably communicated
    with the office about his site and has been around for
    at least a year.

    I don’t mean to sound over cautious. But keep in mind
    who is your boss, who is his boss, etc. etc.

    I like the site overall and am interested in the new 8 mo.
    program. Just don’t want anything to happen to you.

    Good luck with the program.

  5. I hope the lecture on managing time did not include instructions to limit blog entries to a few sentences. Please keep up the informative posts.

  6. Yeah, despite all of your well thought-out reasons as to how your blog does not affect the PTO in any negative manner, someone there may view things in a different manner.

    However, you have taken perhaps the most important step by not publishing your name. Then again, you have posted some fairly fact-specific posts that could potentially be used to identify you.

    Yeah, I am probably being paranoid but people have been fired over their work-related, not sanctioned by the employer, blog.

  7. oonix: depends on the lab. At least one lab is working almost exclusively on restriction practice at this point, because it is more important for that art. For other labs, every person is different. Some people haven’t gotten any done yet, others have several. There isn’t much pressure being applied at this point, and some people are more familiar with their arts than others.

    Even if I could give you a straight answer, I don’t think it would tell you much. Different arts have different expectancies.

  8. Many, many years ago there was an emperor who was so terribly fond of beautiful new clothes that he spent all his money on his attire. . . . He had an outfit for every hour of the day.

    In the large town where the emperor’s palace was, life was happy; and every day new visitors arrived. One day two swindlers came. They told everybody that they were weavers and that they could weave the most marvellous cloth. Not only were the colours and the patterns of their material extraordinarily beautiful, but the cloth had the strange quality of being invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office or unforgivably stupid.

    “This is truly marvellous,” thought the emperor. “Now if I had robes cut from that material, I should know which of my councillors was unfit for his office, and I would be able to pick out my clever subjects myself. They must weave some material for me!” And he gave the swindlers a lot of money so they could start working at once.

    They set up a loom and acted as if they were weaving, but the loom was empty. The fine silk and gold threads they demanded from the emperor they never used, but hid them in their own knapsacks. Late into the night they would sit before their empty loom, pretending to weave.

    “I would like to know how far they’ve come,” thought the emperor; but his heart beat strangely when he remembered that those who were stupid or unfit for their office would not be able to see the material. Not that he was really worried that this would happen to him.

    Everybody in town had heard about the cloth’s magic quality and most of them could hardly wait to find out how stupid or unworthy their neighbours were.

    “I shall send my faithful prime minister to see the weaver,” thought the emperor. “He will know how to judge the material, for he is both clever and fit for his office, if any man is.”
    The good-natured old man stepped into the room where the weavers were working and saw the empty loom. He closed his eyes, and opened them again. “God preserve me!” he thought. “I cannot see a thing!” But he didn’t say it out loud.

    The swindlers asked him to step a little closer so that he could admire the intricate patterns and marvellous colours of the material they were weaving. They both pointed to the empty loom, and the poor old prime minister opened his eyes as wide as he could; but it didn’t help, he still couldn’t see anything.
    “Am I stupid?” he thought. “I can’t believe it, but if it is so, it is best no one finds out about it. But maybe I am not fit for my office. No, that is worse, I’d better not admit that I can’t see what they are weaving.”
    “Tell us what you think of it,” demanded one of the swindlers.
    “It is beautiful. It is very lovely,” mumbled the old prime minister, adjusting his glasses. “What patterns! What colours! I shall tell the emperor that I am greatly pleased.”
    “And that pleases us,” the weavers said; and now they described the patterns and told which shades of colour they had used. The prime minister listened attentively, so that he could repeat their words to the emperor, and that is exactly what he did.

    The two swindlers demanded more money, and more silk and gold thread. They said they had to use it for their weaving, but their loom remained as empty as ever.

    Soon the emperor sent another of his trusted councillors to see how the work was progressing.
    . . . . “I am not stupid,” thought the emperor’s councillor. “I must be unfit for my office.
    That is strange; but I’d better not admit it to anyone.” . . . . .
    “I think it is the most charming piece of material I have ever seen,” declared the councillor to the emperor.

    Everyone in town was talking about the marvellous cloth that the swindlers were weaving.

    At last the emperor himself decided to see it before it was removed from the loom.

    . . . . . “Isn’t it magnifique?” asked the prime minister.
    “Your Majesty, look at the colours and patterns,” said the councillor.
    And the two old gentlemen pointed to the empty loom, believing that all the rest of the company could see the cloth.
    “What!” thought the emperor. “I can’t see a thing! Why, this is a disaster! Am I stupid?
    Am I unfit to be emperor? . . . . ” Aloud he said, “It is very lovely. It has my approval,” while he nodded his head and looked at the empty loom.

    The two swindlers were decorated and given the title “Royal Knight of the Loom.”

    The night before the procession, the two swindlers didn’t sleep at all. They had sixteen candles lighting up the room where they worked. Everyone could see how busy they were, getting the emperor’s new clothes finished. They pretended to take cloth from the loom; they cut the air with their big scissors, and sewed with needles without thread. At last they announced: “The emperor’s new clothes are ready!”

    Together with his courtiers, the emperor came. The swindlers lifted their arms as if they were holding something in their hands, and said, “These are the trousers. This is the robe, and here is the train. They are all as light as if they were made of spider webs! It will be as if Your Majesty had almost nothing on, but that is their special virtue.”
    “Oh yes,” breathed all the courtiers; but they saw nothing, for there was nothing to be seen.

    “Will Your Imperial Majesty be so gracious as to take off your clothes?” asked the swindlers. “Over there by the big mirror, we shall help you put your new ones on.”

    The emperor stood in front of the mirror admiring the clothes he couldn’t see.
    “Oh, how they suit you! A perfect fit!” everyone exclaimed. “What colours! What patterns! The new clothes are magnificent!”

    The two gentlemen of the imperial bedchamber fumbled on the floor trying to find the train which they were supposed to carry. They didn’t dare admit that they didn’t see anything, so they pretended to pick up the train and held their hands as if they were carrying it.

    And all the people of the town, who had lined the streets or were looking down from the windows, said that the emperor’s new clothes were beautiful.

    None of them were willing to admit that they hadn’t seen a thing; for if anyone did, then he was either stupid or unfit for the job he held. Never before had the emperor’s clothes been such a success.
    “But he doesn’t have anything on!” cried a little child.
    “Listen to the innocent one,” said the proud father. And the people whispered among each other and repeated what the child had said.
    “He doesn’t have anything on. There’s a little child who says that he has nothing on.”
    “He has nothing on!” shouted all the people at last.
    The emperor shivered, for he was certain that they were right; but he thought, “I must bear it until the procession is over.” And he walked even more proudly, and the two gentlemen of the imperial bedchamber went on carrying the train that wasn’t there.

    ====== The Moral of the Story =============

    Dear Under Secretary & Commissioner, please, put some clothes on! The rationale being used to cloak our production expectancy as fair doesn’t exist, just like the emperor’s robe. And rather than appear stupid or unfit we muddle along working far in excess of 40 hrs each week, burn our vacation time and various other ways and means just to make production. It’s nothing less than bruttal for 8 out of 10 examiners within the corps.

  9. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, according to the PTO’s statistics, 60+% of the examining corps is getting a bonus for doing 110+% production. There is no argument to be made for adjusting hrs/bd.

    I saw the recent POPA newsletter had a letter written by an SPE in 1979. The SPE was close to retirement and wrote to the Commissioner that the production requirements were overbearing and would soon likely break the back of the examining corps. Here we are 28 years later and that prediction has been proven to be incorrect.

    I predict that 28 years from now, the examining corps will still be decrying the unfair production system and how it requires them to work VOT day and night, 24/7, “just to make production.” I’m confident my prediction will be proven correct.

  10. 80% of all statistics are made-up, and the PTO’s are no different given that VOT is just that, voluntary and not accounted for anywhere in the “statistics”.

    OK, let’s see it YOUR way, if you’re so confident of the “fairness” of the expectancy, why isn’t it transparent?

    Why can’t we see what variables that went into arriving at those numbers?

    Why aren’t the BD expectancies for the over 900 classes published so I can see how it’s been “weighted” throughout the corps.

    We’re ENGINEERS for cripes sake, show us the f(x) that = BD.

    Don’t treat us like mushrooms, by keeping us in the dark and covering us with *highly enriched fertilizer*.

  11. Aside from the VOT issue, there’s two other problems with the “60% of examiners making 110+%” statistic:

    1. Production is largely self-paced. You can always get as many counts as you need–just cut the search short and send out a crappy action. Or scour your docket for easy cases. No matter where you set the bar, the percentages of examiners making 110% and 100% will not change much IMO. It’s examination quality that will change.

    2. Is 60% a lot? You would hope that only a very small percentage of examiners are below 100% of production, and it’s not surprising that the productivity difference between the bulk of the examining corps and the stragglers is more than 10%. 110% is really the baseline expected in most art units anyway–the SPEs have to make their own expectancies.

  12. There’s no “problem” with the “VOT issue.” If examiners are working VOT, the logical conclusion is they are doing it to get a bonus. Why is that the logical conclusion? Because 60+% of the examining corps is getting a bonus for doing 110+%. That is not made up. That’s fact. It’s not my opinion, or Mr. Dudas’s opinion. It is fact. Your conclusion that ” [i]t’s nothing less than bruttal [sic] for 8 out of 10 examiners within the corps” is completely unsupported by the facts. How is is brutal for 8 out of 10 when 6 out of 10 are being told they are commendable or outstanding and getting a bonus for doing extra work? You have no credible argument.

    I don’t see why the PTO needs to publish the expectancies. Every class has its own hrs/BD at the GS-12 level assigned to it. (When I worked there, the GS-12 expectancy for each class was “published” right on my production report. I would assume it’s still that way.) I suspect you want them published so you can run around judging which classes are “getting too much time” so that they can be cut, and the extra time given to you. I see that posted all the time too. I very often see examiners claiming that there are classes that get “too much time.” However, I rarely see any examiners claim that the particular class they work in is one of those getting too much time. (The one exception was the examiner who posted on Patently-O about how RCE’s made it “ridiculously easy” to make production. I assume he/she is still in hiding somewhere.) The reason you don’t see “the variables” that go into determining the individual expectancies is because they were assigned 30+ years ago. All of the people who set them are retired. Or dead. And there was no “f(x) = BD” used. They were essentially made up. They haven’t been changed because there’s no need to change them. 60+% of the examiners can meet their goals and do 10+% more on top of that. Who cares how they’re doing it? Who cares if they have to work VOT? It’s getting done. As long as it’s getting done, why change it? You’ve heard the expression, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

    Examiner X has it right. No matter how much time is given to the examining corps, whether it be more or less, the percentage of examiners getting the bonus won’t change much. That’s exactly why PTO management hasn’t changed the expectancies in 30+ years. It really is that simple.

  13. I believe the point JD was trying to make is “There is no argument to be made for adjusting hrs/bd.”

    Any reasonable person cannot believe that the hours/count are accurate in any art after being static for 30 years. The hours/count should be reviewed and adjusted accordingly on a regular basis.

    However, IF the stats are true and IF the PTO is having record breaking quality then where is the basis for raising the hrs/bd? Minus all the complaints on the IP blogs it has the appearance that everything is running smooth as silk. Why would the PTO managment be motivated to change anything. They are not going to change it because some blog comment says the stats are fudged.

  14. Thank you exexaminer. Finally, somebody who gets it.

    On Just a Patent Examiners blog, I have posted, many times, my proposal for a system of assigning hrs/BD to each application on an individual basis. Would it be difficult to implement and monitor? Somewhat. Would it be more fair than the current system? Definitely.

    I do not believe that the all of the current expectancies are “fair.” Didn’t think that during my 9 years at the PTO, don’t think so now. But you are right, who cares what I think? PTO management doesn’t. And shouldn’t. Their job is to manage the PTO so that cases get moved. That is what they are doing. There is absolutely no objective evidence that supports changing the system as it currently exists. That is all that PTO management knows, needs to know, and cares about.

    Please, let’s not junk up Relativity’s site with any more debate on this topic. I posted on JPE’s site my position on this matter. Feel free to move over there. Relativity is way too nice, and new, for such bare knuckle debate.

  15. “I do not believe that the all of the current expectancies are “fair.” Didn’t think that during my 9 years at the PTO, don’t think so now.
    . . .who cares what I think? PTO management doesn’t. And shouldn’t.

    Their job is to manage the PTO so that cases get moved.

    That is what they are doing. There is absolutely no objective evidence that supports changing the system as it currently exists.

    That is all that PTO management knows, needs to know, and cares about.”


    Well let’s see . . . you’ve got a pending brain-drain occurring as the baby boomers begin to retire which is going to hit the PTO in waves that match the hiring waves of years past.

    To a lesser extend another form of a brain-drain is occurring with Primaries opting to be trainers or SPE’s for the current new-hires, the Primaries being the top producers of moving cases.

    Both of which represent a form of attrition. What have the exit interviews revealed about why people are “leaving”? Oh there are NO exit interviews! I’ve held a few informal ones myself and when it comes down to it, the bone of contention is “the production”.

    How then, in keeping with your logic, is not addressing the inequity w.r.t hrs/BD a responsible position by a management which works to “keep cases moving”?

    Retention of well-trained Examiners would naturally “keep cases moving”. No newbie is going to match the production of a seasoned Examiner and I know of at least 7 that have “left” (either the PTO itself or the production treadmill) in the last year, just on my floor in one building.

    As for your plea “Please, let’s not junk up Relativity’s site with any more debate on this topic. Relativity is way too nice, and new, for such bare knuckle debate.”

    NOW is the time for these individuals to fully understand what they’re getting themselves into, because after spending 3 or 4 years taking personal responsibility for an unfair system you’re now out-dated as an engineer and stuck.

    So J.D. why did you bail after 9 years?

  16. Attrition is a problem, but PTO management has studied it (or more accurately, paid some consulting group to study it), and has concluded that the main reason for attrition is the attitude of many in the generation recently hired. This generation is referred to as “millennials” and they supposedly have the attitude that all jobs are essentially temporary and not to be held for too long. That is what PTO management tells their “customers” at meetings (e.g. IPO, AIPLA, ABA, etc.). I was at the AIPLA meeting in January and that’s exactly what Mr. Doll said. So that’s PTO management’s position, not mine. And they acknowledge that there are other causes of attrition, including defections to private practice, and maybe even the production system. But their attitude is more along the lines of: the production system is not for everyone. So if some leave because of it, it’s more an individual choice and not symptomatic of any “unfairness” in the system. Again, their position, not mine.

    As for the brain drain, PTO management will have to address that as it occurs. I agree with you that there are too many primaries who are no longer producing. PTO management has created squadrons and squadrons of GS-15 positions (QAS, TQAS, RQAS, SPRE, OPQA, whatever the heck they’re called) that allow primaries to 1) get a raise, 2) leave production requirements behind, and 3) take a position that allows them to meddle and interfere in the examination of cases without ever having to sign their name to anything or deal with dissatisfied applicants and practitioners.

    One thing PTO management could do is stop that nonsense. Put all of those people back into examining cases and training junior examiners. And stop having SPE’s doing “special projects” (e.g. planning the TC holiday party) for which they are not qualified and return them to their original job duties: supervising and training junior examiners and managing examiner dockets. These are simple, but effective, measures PTO management could take. Why don’t they? I don’t know. I would guess because it’s a buddy system over there. As more and more of the PTO lifers get promoted to cushy (sp?) GS-15 paying management positions, they create more of those positions for their buddies still “stuck examining” so that their buddies can also have a generous GS-15 salary with no production requirements. It’s a great deal if you can get it. To be honest, I considered it myself.

    As for your concern about “inequity” in the system, that “chemicals get too much time” argument is as old as dirt. POPA is never going to allow any change to the current production system that results in any examiner getting less time. Somebody on JPE’s site suggested a study to update the current expectancies. What would be the point of that? POPA already knows the answer: expectancies have to be raised in every single class. Any study done, no matter how expensive, exhaustive, time consuming, and impartial, that does not arrive at that conclusion is not going to be accepted by POPA. PTO management is never going to accept a study that says expectancies have to be raised across the board. So what’s the point of a study?

    If a study was conducted and it determined that the particular class you work in could be cut by 1.5 hrs, and the class the examiner who works down the hall from you should be raised 1.5 hrs, are you going to accept that? Please don’t for one second delude yourself into thinking you would. So please stop all this nonsense about “unfairness” in the production system. There is no way to “adjust” the expectancies so that some examiners get more time and some get less. The furor and uproar that would cause would do more to exacerbate the attrition problem than leaving the production system as it is. And there’s no way PTO management is going to increase expectancies across the board because the FACTS don’t justify it. Face it, if you had POPA makes it’s best case for across the board increases to an impartial jury that knew nothing about the production system, and allowed PTO management to make its rebuttal case, it would take the jury all of about 10 seconds to decide in PTO management’s favor. Why? Because the FACTS are in PTO management’s favor. I know you don’t agree, but that’s the reality of the situation. Your argument that “examiners have to work VOT just to make production” is not supported by the FACTS. PTO managemet rebuts your argument with its documented personnel records that prove that the majority of examiners are not only meeting their production requirements, they are exceeding them. And getting paid a bonus to do so. Their rebuttal argument is simple: if examiners are working VOT, it is so they can get a bonus. And they have the documented personnel records for the past 30+ years to prove it. So you lose. Sorry, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

    Why did I leave? Because I was finished with law school, had completed my continuing service agreement, and was not learning anything at the PTO and was bored. I needed a new challenge, and the opporunities to use my education and experience in a wider realm. Nothing personal. I have many friends at the PTO, in various positions. They are happy there. I was not.

    If you’re not happy there, you should evaluate your options. Again, nothing personal, but life is too short to be miserable at your job. You owe it to yourself to be happy. Nobody else is going to look out for your happiness except you. No offense, but I’m certainly not going to. And you can bet PTO management won’t either.

  17. Whew! Wow, Thank you! WHOLE HEARTEDLY!

    I HAVE evaluated my options and that’s what scares me most, they are severely limited having not exercised my engineering skills in over 3 years who knows which versions of various key pieces of software are now the norm.

    I asked my SPE if (he/she) would consider allowing me to shop around for another art unit, one that may more appropriately play to my strengths. Nope.

    Yet, I DO love I.P.

    Anyway, thank you. Continued success to you!

  18. “”Yeah, I am probably being paranoid but people have been fired over their work-related, not sanctioned by the employer, blog””

    No they haven’t, that’s absolute nonsense.

    Jesus, the PTO can just barely get rid of people who’ve committed assault and battery, LOL.

    POPA can be suprisingly effective in adverse action (dismissal, suspension, etc.) proceedings.

    Fired an Examiner for a web blog? never has anything like that ever happened at the PTO.

    BTW- the first thing you should do after your off probation and officially into the Corps for good is join POPA.

  19. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article “Going with the Workflow…”, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

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