Patent examiners often bear the brunt of criticism for perceived shortfalls of the US patent system (whether one views the USPTO as being too restrictive or too permissive). The job of a being a patent examiner tasked with determining whether a given invention is actually patentable is no doubt a challenging one.

This recent article from Slate provides a fascinating history of the USPTO (and its critics) from 1790 to present, and describes how the role of patent examiners has evolved throughout that time period.