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Patent Office Seeks to Hire Veterans


The United States Patent and Trademark Office on November 10, 2011, issued a notice that it is seeking to double the number of veteran hires over previous years for the position of patent examiner.  It intends to hire more than 1500 patent examiners this year and hopes that ten percent of those new hires are military veterans.

What is a patent?

A patent is a temporary monopoly right, in a sense, that is issued by the government to protect certain types of intellectual property, such as inventions or novel processes, from market competition for a limited period of time.  Patent law seeks to balance society’s interest in free access to new technologies against the need to encourage people and companies to invest the necessary time and energy into developing such inventive or creative products.  Some technologies require high levels of investment of time or effort to develop but yield an ultimate product that can be discovered or reverse-engineered rather easily.  A good example is a drug formula: it can take years of research and enormous sums of money to develop and test a medication and then get FDA approval for it, but the end result is a tablet that can be chemically analyzed and reproduced relatively inexpensively by someone else.  Patent protection gives the developer of the invention the exclusive right to use and sell it for a limited period of time (20 years) before it becomes open to others.  This is why there are no generic alternatives for more recent drugs.

What does a patent examiner do and what are the basic job requirements?

After a period of extensive training, a patent examiner is assigned to review patent applications within a particular field of technology to determine if those patent applications comply with law and reflect a genuinely novel invention. The examiner scrutinizes applications, determining the scope of protection claimed by the inventor, researching relevant technologies, and communicating findings and decisions in writing to inventors or their representatives.  This involves extensive review of technical information, including detailed drawings or process diagrams. It requires the analytical ability to efficiently digest large volumes of scientific information and to use this ability in making timely decisions regarding the patentability of an invention.

The basic requirements for consideration are that one be a U.S. citizen and either hold a four-year degree in engineering or science from an accredited college or have a sufficient combination of education and experience.  One must also be willing to relocate to the Washington, DC area, but examiners are afforded opportunities for flexible work schedules and telecommuting.

For more information on the USPTO veteran hiring program, contact Mr. Fred Steckler at or call 571-272-9600.

Should you, as a veteran, become a patent examiner, you could conceivably interact with Goodman Allen Donnelly lawyers not only through our work assisting our nation’s veterans in seeking benefits, but also through the work of our Intellectual Property Practice Group in assisting our nation’s innovators in seeking patent protection through the USPTO.