Fellow Field Trip! – USPTO

By: Delisa Morris, Esq., M.S.

Last week I, Delisa Morris, former PSJD Fellow, had the opportunity to visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for educational programming about the office, and its internship and job opportunities. The audience got to hear from six offices inside the USPTO: Office of the Chief Communications Officer (OCCO), Office of Equal Employment and Opportunity and Diversity (OEEOD), Trademarks, Office of Human Resources (HR), Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) / Office of Policy and International Affairs (OPIA) and Patents. Each office representative shared a little about what she does day-to-day, the initiatives the office is pursuing, the type of jobs the office has and what hiring managers in each office look for in applicants.

The USPTO was listed as the Best Place to Work in Government in December 2013.  The agency is self-supported, which allows it to be insulated from government shutdowns.  Additionally, the USPTO allows for alternate work schedules and full-time work from home capabilities. Sounds like a great agency to start a career right?  It’s also a great place to work for the long haul!  Many of the presenters commented that they had been with the agency for decades.  They contribute their longevity with the USPTO on their ability to do ‘Details’ (a stint with another office or agency entirely for a period of time).  Some Details have lasted for years.

Below, I’ve pulled out a few key facts from what I learned about the USPTO.


  • There are 9,000 patent examiners (electrical, mechanical and physics)
  • 35 to 40% of the people who apply to become patent examiners receive full-time offers and 50% of those are JD holders
  • Fall externships are open now
  • There are opportunities to shadow employees on a case by case basis


  • Always searching for strong writers
  • Accepting interns, but no full-time opportunities upcoming
  • Interns get ‘a run at the salad bar’
  • Hiring officials look favorably at applicants who were previously interns


  • Helps make USPTO diverse
  • 18 staff members (Directors are attorneys)
  • The formal team has three attorneys
  • The hiring manager is looking for:
    • Passion for EEO & Diversity and Inclusion
    • Prior education/internships in the area
    • work with affinity groups (i.e. NAACP)
    • solid writing skills
    • proven use of alternative dispute resolution skills
  • No internship program currently


  • Attorneys are the bulk of the workforce. 860 employees, 555 attorneys
  • 1,000 applicants per 50 jobs
  • The hiring manager is looking for:
    • Detail oriented and decisive
    • Works well independently, most of the time it will be just you and your computer
    • Soft skills: staying abreast of pop culture/current news, well rounded knowledge from art to sports to history
  • 80 attorneys telework across the USA and Puerto Rico
  • Legal internships (paid and unpaid) are available, and they are very competitive


  • Wants the USPTO to be considered the Google of Government
  • Using storytelling to reach applicants starting with a new campaign #ChooseGov
  • 19% of recent grads are looking for government jobs, 74% of those seeking a government job are looking for work with the federal government
  • They understand the USAJobs is a tough system to work with, but working at the USPTO is wonderful and worth the application process
  • Veteran Hiring Program
    • Visit veteran recruitment fairs
    • Disabled veterans >30% are referred up to GS-15
    • Veterans with campaign medals are referred up to GS-11
    • Use the ‘Hire Vets’ mailbox to be matched before a position is broadcast to the public
      • Send an email to the veteran hiring coordinator and ask what’s available and if you qualify
      • Go through Recruit Military or Hiring Out Heroes


  • A 2010 startup
  • Works on European trademarks, economic & legal literature updates
  • Trademark registration is a leading indicator of economic ups and downs (The base of IP is econ)
  • Hiring manager is looking for:
    • PhD’s
    • Open to different communication styles
    • Team oriented
  • Office has unpaid externs that work on specific programming projects

Bonus: The cafeteria at the USPTO is amazing! I had a delicious made-to-order salad from the manifold of food stations including a pop-up BBQ.

Thank you Tanaga Boozer for giving us an inside look at your great agency!


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