Bigger and Better Patent Examiner Statistics

21 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2019 Last revised: 25 Jan 2019

See all articles by Shine (Sean) Tu

Shine (Sean) Tu

West Virginia University College of Law

Date Written: October 21, 2018


The American government charges the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with reading and reviewing patent applications to determine what new or improved inventions, machines, and processes qualify for patent protection. Each application is reviewed by a specific patent examiner who theoretically applies the standards of patentability in an even, fair, unbiased and consistent manner. This task requires the examiner to not only be internally consistent with the applications she reviews but also consistent with the behavior of other examiners within the same technology center. I have conducted two studies based on data from hundreds of thousands of patents, thousands of examiners, and millions of Office Actions. Both studies point to consistency issues within the USPTO that may undermine the very duty with which it is tasked. These studies also posit possible solutions that will help the USPTO create more effective guidelines and, ultimately, better patents. Part I introduces why the efficiency and quality of the patent process is so important. Part II outlines the two studies that informed this paper and discusses the results. Finally, Part III summarizes what both studies suggest for the patent prosecution process.

Keywords: Intellectual property, patent, patent law, patent examiner, patent statistics, patent prosecution, United States Patent and Trademark Office, USPTO, PTO, patentability, examination

JEL Classification: K11

Suggested Citation

Tu, Shine (Sean), Bigger and Better Patent Examiner Statistics (October 21, 2018). WVU College of Law Research Paper No. 2019-006, IDEA: The IP Law Review, Vol. 59, 2018, Available at SSRN:

Shine (Sean) Tu (Contact Author)

West Virginia University College of Law ( email )

101 Law School Drive
Morgantown, WV West Virginia 26506
United States

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