Tillis, Issa, Kiley ask Vidal to investigate issues raised by ‘Patent Examiner’ Reddit thread

“We sincerely hope this report is untrue, but the USPTO must take this seriously and act quickly to protect innovators and our economy.” – Letter from Senator Tillis, Representatives Kiley and Issa

TillisLast week, Gene Quinn, CEO and founder of IPWatchdog, published a “Patent Examiner Reddit” thread in which a purported researcher asked colleagues for advice on how to approach examining patents that have purposes they may fundamentally disagree with politically . Now Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Representatives Kevin Kiley (R-CA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) have sent a letter to US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal asking to conduct an investigation into this matter, as well as “a broader investigation into whether there is a pattern of patent examiners substituting their own preferences and beliefs for the law and USPTO guidelines.”

As reported last week, user Snoo_86350 posted the following:

“I have a case on my docket, brought by a company in Israel, that basically aims to provide soldiers with military solutions by combining real battlefield experience with technological innovation. I watched the news about the protest on Columbia’s campus. And of course I cannot refuse to investigate this matter and I will not, but I cannot help but think of the Gaza Strip, where about 2 million Palestinians live, cannot escape and are being bombed. So I have mixed feelings as I would allow this case to happen which would only strengthen their portfolio to get more investments. Do you have similar experiences or feelings? This is my first time investigating this kind of case as our Art Department no longer has any cases.”

A user named zyarva urged Snoo_86350 not to allow the application, recalling instances where zyarva had deliberately held back applicants to get them to abandon applications they disagreed with.

Although the USPTO dismissed the comments as unverified and told IPWatchdog that “we generally do not comment on unverified statements made by anonymous commenters on Reddit or any other social media platform,” Quinn noted that the profile for Snoo_86350 “suggests that this person is in fact a patent examiner.”

In addition to the posted question, Snoo_86350 discussed special assignments within the Bureau, e-signature requirements, the GS pay rate and even non-public emails sent by the director to all employees, Quinn said. “Snoo_86350 has described himself as a new primary examiner seeking advice from more experienced primary examiners, explained that sometimes they lack motivation to search, and has asked questions about what to do if relevant prior art is found after they have already sent a compensation notice.”

Quinn urged the USPTO to investigate and find the researcher in question, as identifying them should not be difficult.

Tillis on Tuesday posted on X about the article, calling it “a matter of grave concern” that the USPTO should investigate immediately. “If this turns out to be true, we need answers about the executive branch culture that fostered this. Concerns,” the post added.

“Innovation cannot flourish without a transparent and robust set of rules, which this unnerving claim undermines,” today’s letter said. “We sincerely hope this report is untrue, but the USPTO must take this seriously and act quickly to protect innovators and our economy.”

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