125 PTO examiners test telecommuting

125 PTO examiners test telecommuting

BY PREETI VASISHTHA | GCN STAFF

The Patent and Trademark Office has begun a six-month work-at-home project for 125 senior patent examiners to test cost and productivity benefits.
Under the Patents Work at Home project, 10 percent of PTO's most experienced employees will telecommute one day a week.

The project is part of an agreement between the agency and the Patent Office Professional Association, the union representing 3,500 PTO employees.

Employees will participate at three levels.
At the first level, PTO will provide 21 participants with notebook PCs, digital subscriber line service and help desk support, said Wes Clark, manager of the Network Engineering Division in the agency's Systems Architecture and Engineering Office.

The agency will provide workers with 933-MHz Pentium III ClientPro PCs from MicronPC LLC of Nampa, Idaho. The notebooks come with 512M of RAM, 18G hard drives, DVD-ROM drives and Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0.

PTO will buy the machines under an existing contract with Dovala, Urbancsik, Larson LLC of Anaheim, Calif., Clark said.

The agency will choose contractors by the end of this month to perform the DSL installations, Clark said.

Level 1 participants must live within a 50-mile radius of the office, making it easier for PTO to install and support the systems.

The office will pay for the DSL installations and monthly service charges. Participants will use dial-up modems for Internet access until the DSL installations are complete.

Level 2 participants will use their own home computers. The PCs must be at least 300-MHz Pentiums with Universal Serial Bus ports, 56-Kbps modems, Windows 98, and Microsoft Word 97 or Corel WordPerfect 6.1. The office will provide 2G Jaz drives from Iomega Corp. of Roy, Utah, to upload applications such as PTO's Office Action Correspondence System.

Level 3 participants will work on paper patent applications at home without any hardware or software support.

After six months, the office will evaluate the pilot through surveys and other feedback from customers and employees.

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