The US Patent & Trademark Office has been far ahead of most employers in encouraging remote working arrangements – employees with two years at the Office are generally allowed to work remotely, with periodic visits to DC to check in. It’s a great trade off, allowing employees to get the most out of a federal paycheck while steering clear of the expensive DC market.
So, has there been any immediate impact from the COVID-19 quarantines? Surprisingly, yes – the trademark examination branch’s pace of issuing Office Actions was basically identical in February and the first week of March. The second week of March, which just concluded, held up pretty well – the Office was right around the normal production for a week in either 2019 or 2020, pre-virus. Numbers were down a bit from the prior week, but within the normal variance range.
A bigger drop would have been entirely understandable – many of the USPTO’s remote employees work from home, and many USPTO employees have children. Those children are also at home, as schools and daycares and the like close, and that can make a big difference in productivity. We’ll need to see if the USPTO continues to keep up with its workload — or if there will there be a slowdown in new filings that impacts USPTO workloads in several months.