Sunday, July 08, 2007

Job Stresses

The patent attorney position was very exciting for me because I was actually doing the work of a patent attorney. This is what I worked towards for so many years! Thank G-d I've finally been given the opportunity to work in the field I trained in.

In short, the position as I understand it is that I am a pre-examiner for a law firm who has been contracted by the foreign wing of the US patent office to examine patents before the examiners get to them. The USPTO has been quite backlogged these past few years, and so I am one of the attorneys who are working on the files that have taken quite a while for the examiners to get to. I have access to the same resources as the patent examiners, and so I can see what they see which on the one hand is exciting for me, and on the other hand is a bummer because they are a bit not yet up to date on the searching technology they use.

My first case was a killer, probably because it had so many sub-parts to it. It wasn't one invention, it was around 5 or 6 crammed into one patent. Further, above me is a boss for each of my patent files, and my boss wasn't too helpful in helping me search for prior art references. In fact, I found him to be quite on the lazy side in that he didn't want to help me in searching for the references I could not find. He just wanted to get paid his portion of what he would get paid when I turned in the file.

I worked on that case for over 50 hours before I submitted the file for my boss' review. During my prior art searching, I regularly sent my boss status updates so that he can see which references I am using and could comment (or give me constructive advice) on what I was doing. "Great job!" he said over and over again... Well, when I submitted the file, I realized that he hadn't been reading any of the work that I have been doing because he rejected my work telling me that a prior art reference that I used (and that I asked him about before I used it) had a publication date later than the priority date / filing date of the patent application that I was examining. In US law, it's the filing date that takes priority in a dispute between two applications. In foreign patent law, it is the publication date that takes precedence. How was I supposed to know this? I am a US patent attorney, not a foreign patent attorney. In short, my opinion and the 50 hours I spent was for nothing. On top of that, my incompetent boss complained to his bosses about me and told them I was incompetent.

Honestly, I will accept blame for mistakes when I make them, but I checked this reference with my boss before I used it. Had he taken any time to read my e-mails or actually do due diligence in answering me properly, he would have caught that mistake before I used it rather than 50 hours later after applying that patent to every claim in the application. I was very annoyed and the law firm removed the case from my docket, which means that I don't get paid on it.

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