Continuing their earlier work on patent examination and prosecution, professors Mark Lemley and Bhaven Sampat released a draft copy of their paper title "Examining Patent Examinations," which statistically analyzes patent applications filed in the month of January 2001 - the year PAIR was introduced - through April 2006. Here are some of the things they found:
• 85% of the PTO's first office actions are non-final rejections; only 13.5% of granted patents issued on the first office action without any argument or negotiation.
• Almost three-fourths of the applications that do issue (73.1%) do so without ever receiving a "final" rejection. More than half of those applications that received a final rejection had ultimately resulted in a patent
• Amendments are key to obtaining a patent: over 94% of issued and pending applications had some form of amendment during prosecution. After a final rejection, 66.1% of amended applications are patented (versus 29% pf those that were not amended)
• Despite the fact that Examiner amendments are allowed as of right only after a non-final rejection, 77.2% of interviews come after the final rejection. While 50.91% of applications with a final rejection but no interview are eventually patented, 62.6% of those with an interview after final are patented.
• 14.4% of all applications have children (continuations, CIPs, divisionals); 15.9% of all applications have RCEs. Of the continuation types, 30.16% are continuations, 20.96% are CIPs and 38.19% are divisionals.
The technology areas with the greatest percentage of continuations:
(1) AU1600 Biotechnology and Organic Chemistry -- 27%
(2) AU1700 Chemical and Materials Engineering -- 20%
(3) AU3700 Mechanical Engineering, Manufacturing, and Products -- 17%
(4) AU2800 Semiconductors, Electrical and Optical Systems and Components -- 15%
(5) AU2600 Communications -- 11%
(6) AU2100 Computer Architecture, Software, & Information Security -- 10%
(7) AU3600 Transportation, Construction, Electronic Commerce -- 10%
The paper concludes:
The evidence illuminates the patent prosecution process as a continuing negotiation between examiner and applicant. That negotiation does not end with an initial or even a final rejection. Interviews and amendments after final play an extremely significant role in generating patents, and in limiting the scope of those claims as well. Nor is that the end of the process. Continuation applications are flourishing. They have broken into two roughly equal groups, with different uses. Many applicants are using RCEs to keep fighting for claims that the examiner wasn’t willing to give them. The second group is filing continuation applications rather than RCEs. They have opted for a slower process, either because they want delay so that they can modify their application to track developments in the marketplace or because they want multiple patents to build an effective fence around a single invention.
Read/download a draft copy of the paper here (link)