Patent Applications and the Performance of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Federal Circuit Bar Journal, Vol. 23 (2013)
15 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2013 Last revised: 22 Apr 2014
Date Written: February 26, 2013
This paper presents and analyzes data collected from United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) reports and a series of FOIA requests for the period from 1996 to 2012. The data and analyses is set forth in three parts — the number, types, and disposition of patent applications being examined by the USPTO (the USPTO’s “input”); the number of applications allowed and patents issued by the USPTO (the USPTO’s “output”); and the number of pending applications and the average pendency for an application (the “difference” or commonly referred to as the USPTO’s “backlog”).
The data shows that the backlog of patent applications awaiting examination has declined even though patent applications are increasing. However, an ever growing percentage of these applications are requests for continued examination (RCEs) taking another turn in the USPTO. And we are experiencing a return to the rising allowance rates of the late 1990s, which presumably is facilitating the USPTO's drop in backlog.
Our modest hope is that this information will bring awareness to the current state of play at the USPTO and in the U.S. patent system in general and help others answer, empirically, questions surrounding the health of the U.S. patent system and the performance of the USPTO.
Keywords: patent, USPTO, application, continuation, RCE, backlog, United States Patent and Trademark Office
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