With a backlog of more than 700,000 patent applications, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office needs all the help it can get. It'll have plenty to choose from - in response to a recent patent examiner vacancy announcement, the agency was flooded with more than 4,000 applications.
The PTO will hire 250 of them, part of a push to reduce chronic backlog problems. It now takes about three years on average for a patent to issue.
Training new examiners is a time-consuming process, and normally takes eight months. Given the current workload, the PTO is looking to shorten this process. The agency has reached out to former examiners and encouraged them to apply, according to an agency spokesperson.
The PTO hopes to hire another 350 examiners later this year, and (subject to budget approval) another 1,000 in FY 2011 and 1,000 more in FY 2012.
Throughout FY2009, the agency had a self-imposed hiring freeze in place. The PTO’s budget is linked to fees paid by patent and trademark applicants. But in tough economic times, applications declined and the cash-strapped agency was unable to hire new employees.
In 2009, 15 – 20 examiners left the agency every two weeks, according to the examiners’ union, the Patent Office Professional Association. This attrition has brought staffing down to about 6,000 examiners.
In a don’t-call-us -we’ll-call-you move, the agency posted the hiring schedule for the new vacancies online. Candidates who make the first cut will be notified this week, with all offers made by May 3. New examiners can start work on May 10, June 7 or July 6.
The positions pay between $69,899 and $90,866 a year – no weekend of evening work expected. The bare qualitifactions: you must be a U.S. citizen, have a college degree in science or engineering, and be willing to work at the agency’s headquarters in Alexandria, Va.