Paralegals hired to work in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office were “paid to do nothing,” passing their time watching television, doing laundry, and shopping online, according to the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The OIG released an audit last week that revealed “deeply disturbing” abuse within the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), resulting in the waste of millions of taxpayer dollars in pay and bonuses to paralegals that had no work to do.
The office, which recently cancelled several Washington Redskins’ trademarks, hired 19 additional “Paralegal Specialists” in 2009, despite a lack of judges for them to work for. Management was aware of the problem, and instructed paralegals to bill hours spent watching TV or walking their dog as “Other Time.”
A senior manager described billing as “Other Time” as the “I don’t have work but I’m going to get paid code.”
“Our investigation uncovered substantial, pervasive waste at the PTAB that endured for more than four years and resulted in the misuse of federal resources totaling at least $5.09 million,” the OIG said.