Continuing Patent Applications and Performance of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as of Fiscal Year 2016
Richmond School of Law Intellectual Property Institute Research Paper No. 2017-01
19 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 1, 2017
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 2016. 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 continued to decline even though patent applications are increasing. However, the growing percentage of these applications continues to be requests for continued examination (RCEs). For example, there were 285,144 Refiled Continuing Applications (192,002 RCEs, 81,893 continuations, and 11,249 continuations-in-part) in Fiscal Year 2016, a record high, and they comprised nearly half (47%) of the applications filed. And we continue to experience a return to the rising allowance rates of the late 1990s, which presumably is facilitating the USPTO's drop in backlog. Patent application allowances have doubled since Fiscal Year 2008 and reached a record high 332,281 in Fiscal Year 2016. This empirical information is relevant to 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
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation