Tillis, Issa, Kiley Ask Vidal to Investigate Issues Raised by ‘Patent Examiner’ Reddit Thread

“We deeply hope that this post is not true, but the USPTO must take this seriously and act quickly to protect innovators and our economy.” – Letter from Senator Tillis, Reps. Kiley and Issa

TillisLast week, IPWatchdog’s CEO and Founder Gene Quinn exposed a “Patent Examiner Reddit” thread in which a purported examiner asked peers for advice on how to approach examination of 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 U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal asking the Office to conduct a review into that 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 guidance.”

As reported last week, User Snoo_86350 posted the following:

“I have a case in my docket filed by a company in Israel, which is basically for soldiers to provide military solutions by combining real battlefield experience with technological innovation. I have been watching news about Columbia campus protest. And Obviously, I can’t refuse to examine this case and I won’t, but can’t help thinking of Gaza Strip where about 2 million Palestinians live, can’t escape and bombarded. So I have mixed feelings, as I would allow this case, thus strengthening their portfolio only to get more investment. Do you guys any similar experience or feelings? It is my first time to examine this kind of case as our Art Unit rans out of cases.”

A user named zyarva urged Snoo_86350 not to allow the application and recalled instances in which zyarva had purposely stonewalled applicants in order to get them to abandon applications with which they disagreed.

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

In addition to the question posted, Snoo_86350 has discussed special assignment within the Office, eSignature requirements, GS pay-grade, and even non-public emails sent by the Director to all employees, Quinn said. “Snoo_86350 has described themselves as a new primary examiner seeking advice from more experienced primary examiners, explained that at times they have no motivation to search, and has asked questions about what to do when relevant prior art is located after already sending a notice of allowance.”

Quinn urged the USPTO to investigate and find the examiner in question as it shouldn’t be difficult to identify them.

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

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



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Join the Discussion

12 comments so far. Add my comment.

  • [Avatar for Julie Burke]
    Julie Burke
    May 17, 2024 02:12 pm

    Anon asks good questions about existence of other SAWS-like programs within the USPTO. In her response to Congressional inquiry, Director Vidal refers to “many checks and balances in place” and “taking steps to review our processes and internal quality checks to ensure they are fortified.”

    Meanwhile, here’s some evidence suggesting what looks like SAWS-like actions taken against one application filed by a US independent inventor directed to military technology and preferential treatment directed towards an application filed by a watchlisted entity claiming coverage for clearly military technology.


  • [Avatar for Anon]
    May 17, 2024 08:04 am

    I concur with Pro Say here: sunlight is not only the best disinfectant, but the Rule of 37 CFR 1.2 requires any and all examination impacts to be in writing – and it should be understood that THAT writing is in the image file wrapper so that it IS visible to all.

    I noted at the time of the SAWS debacle, that the admission by the Patent Office said MORE than what it perhaps wanted to say (SAWS was but one of such clandestine ‘quality’ programs). I asked how many others, and why were any such others allowed to continue under the same lame excuse given by the Office in their first defense of SAWS (making these ‘quality programs’ public would somehow compromise their effectiveness).

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    May 16, 2024 06:24 pm

    Julie — Never stop posting. Never.

    America needs you, and others like you, to keep shining the bright light of truth into the dark, secret cave that is the U.S. Patent Office.

    Bright light is indeed the best sanitizer.

  • [Avatar for Julie Burke]
    Julie Burke
    May 16, 2024 12:53 pm

    On the off chance that Anonymous is speaking to me-

    Is this the third show over the bow?

    Soon after I began posting the Life Raft Chronicles on LinkedIn about Oct 2023, I was contacted by someone who had been retained by someones who were high up in the IP community to deliver to me the message that I should refrain from posting material that made the USPTO look bad.

    Later on, a PR rep for a big high tech company scheduled a zoom call with me to find out about what I was doing, what else I knew, and what my plans were for future disclosures of damaging information. I told him I was retiring and had no set plans.

    Which is true. I am trying to fully retire and I pretty much take things day by day. But when something pops up in the IP world, if I have information to share that would help deciding officials take corrective action to address our nation’s IP woes, I do not intend to be complicit and keep quiet.

    If the USPTO, and/or these shadowy IP movers-and-shakers wanted me to keep quiet, they should have included an NDA clause in the Julie Burke versus Michelle Lee Settlement Agreement.

    To be clear, I post information of my own free will and volition. I am not receiving any money, support, endorsement or backing from any individual or group. As John Doll would say, nada, zero, zip, zilch.


  • [Avatar for Anonymous]
    May 16, 2024 10:45 am

    You do realize that you’re just being used as a pawn in a deeply cynical attempt to undermine the role of government in protecting intellectual property, right? Think about the larger picture before you craft more posts on this topic.

  • [Avatar for Julie Burke]
    Julie Burke
    May 16, 2024 09:24 am

    Senator Tillis and Representatives Kiley and Issa, the controversy over the reddit thread step arounds the executive branch culture that created and implemented the SAWS program.

    SAWS, which ran unabated across the patent corps from 1994-2015, left a long shadow on USPTO operations. SAWS-flagged applications were delayed, denied and subject to addition scrutiny. Have folks forgotten the horrific treatment of one high profile SAWS-flagged applicant, which was accompanied by internal creation and circulation of an anti-semitic graphic?

    Note that it was the corps-wide administrator of the SAWS program, a fellow TC1600 QAS, who specifically singled me out during the Lifeboat game, saying that in order for me to be on their team, I had to pick someone out to drown.

    I refused. I wasn’t hired by the federal government to play God or play Hitler.

    Instead, I stood and asked if I was the only person in the meeting who found the activity offensive.


    The USPTO’s SAWS administrator was rewarded with a plum position in the Deputy Commissioner of Patent Quality’s office and currently is burrowing as a “fake SPE” in the Office of Patent Quality Assurance.

    While it may alleviate some inventors and patent practitioners’ alarm if USPTO management identified and somehow dealt with Snoo_86350, this culture of picking and choosing IP winners and losers based upon subjective criteria is hard wired into the USPTO’s infrastructure. Current USPTO management and leadership is riddled with those who implemented and/or were complicit with the SAWS program.

    And to be clear, Dept of Commerce OIG declined to investigate the SAWS program in their 2015 report entitled “USPTO needs to Strengthen Patent Quality Assurance Practices” the OIG reported:

    “USPTO’s Sensitive Application Warning System, (SAWS) has been identified as a process for the additional examination of patent applications meeting certain identified criteria. Because SAWS is not incorporated into the USPTO Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP), its impact is not considered in this report.” see page 25.

    Because of our 20 year patent term, inventors whose allowances were pulled back in 2007, 2010, 2014, etc., by the SAWS administrators are today incurring loss of patent term, to which but-SAWS, they were otherwise entitled.


  • [Avatar for Steve Nash]
    Steve Nash
    May 15, 2024 11:31 pm

    My larger concern is how Vidal went from serving as an attorney representing Micron on Intellectual Property issues, to direction the PTO, and accepting numerous IPR’s from Micron & Samsung & Google to attack patents that had been awarded to Netlist, with her staff determining invalidity of numerous innovative patents due to purported obviousness. Something stinks at the PTO, as Vidal neglected to spell out potential conflicts of interest with her prior employer or her the fact that her husband either works for or represents Google,

  • [Avatar for ExaminerX]
    May 15, 2024 08:29 pm

    “a broader investigation into whether there is a pattern of patent examiners substituting their own preferences and beliefs for the law and USPTO guidance.”

    The investigated being asked to investigate?

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    May 15, 2024 08:21 pm

    SAWS?! SAWS!? We don’t need no stinkin’ SAWS! Not when we’ve got wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing Directors like Michelle Lee, John Dudas, and now (sadly and shockingly) . . . Kathi Vidal . . . SAWing through American innovation like hot knives through butter.

  • [Avatar for Julie Burke]
    Julie Burke
    May 15, 2024 06:47 pm

    Senator Tillis and Representatives Kiley and Issa,

    In 2014, a USPTO Human Resource Specialist supported the USPTO’s Lifeboat Game and Stereotype Hat Game as diversity team building events.

    When I asked Human Resource for help, this Human Resource Specialist told me in an official email, linked, that these games are used as team building and critical thinking efforts. She said there are “no right answers – any so-called “correct” answers are based on debatable values (e.g., ageism, sexism, racism)”

    This person was well aware that USPTO GS15 and SES level employees were participating in a mandatory onsite, during work hours, training event, in an exercise that involved picking and choosing people to die based upon their demographics.

    This person supported the “team building” event in which my team chose to kill the Jewish Rabbi, the Catholic Priest and the Muslim cleric.

    This person supported a “team building” activity in which then-President Obama and Senator Romney were chosen to be thrown over board to drown.

    This person was aware that a USPTO SES-level TC Group Director proposed throwing the pregnant woman overboard as a “two-fer-one” in a mandatory team building event.

    Like many involved in these incidents, this Human Resource Specialist, who also sent blazingly anti-semitic material to myself and my Jewish POPA union rep, was promptly rewarded by the USPTO. In her case, with a promotion to Chief Union Negotiator.

    Her career progression did not end there.

    If her linked in bio is correct, in about 2018, this Human Resource Specialist was given a lofty position inside the US Capitol Police, where she can freely inflict her mindset on the brave men and women who risk their lives to protest yours.

    In addition to asking USPTO Director Kathi Vidal to deal with patent examiner Snoo_86350, as a former USPTO employee and whistleblower, I implore Congress to investigate the entrenched core dysfunction inside the USPTO, including, but not limited to the managers who devised, implemented, participated in, or were simply complicit with the SAWS program and the team building games.


  • [Avatar for Julie Burke]
    Julie Burke
    May 15, 2024 06:14 pm

    Senator Tillis and Representatives Kiley and Issa, as a former Quality Assurance Specialist, I can assure you that directing the USPTO to investigate itself is like asking rabid foxes to investigate the henhouse.

    USPTO management/leadership right now are likely most troubled by the fact that the patent examiner, aka Snoo_86350, said the quiet part out loud.

    When I objected to a team building game that required GS15 and SES level employees to decide whether throw then-President Obama or Senator Romney overboard to drown, it was career suicide.

    While that event occurred in 2014, USPTO management and leadership must still value the ethics and mindsets of those who organized this training, participated in it, sat by and watched with out objecting or were otherwise complicit, since they have been retained/protected/promoted to the positions they now hold.

    The USPTO will respond to your request by rounding up the usual suspects. That will not root out the underlaying problems that plague America’s Innovation Agency with entrenched core dysfunction.

    It’s time for Congress to act.


  • [Avatar for Julie Burke]
    Julie Burke
    May 15, 2024 06:06 pm

    To paraphrase Casablanca’s Captain Renault, I’m shocked, shocked to find that the USPTO may not be operating with a transparent and robust set of rules!

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