Thursday, November 15, 2007

USPTO Releases Fiscal 2007 Year-End Results

It's out - all 146 pages!

According to the PTO, the Office achieved "record breaking year-end numbers that reveal historic improvement in the quality of patent and trademark reviews and subsequently the quality of issued patents and registered trademarks."

In FY 2007, USPTO's patent examiners

  • Examined 362,227 applications - the highest number in history.
  • Quality compliance was 96.5 % - equaling last year's results, "the best in a quarter century."
  • Patent examiner decisions were upheld by the USPTO's patent appeals board 69 % of the time, up from 51 % in 2005.
The PTO seems to be pleased that applications are being rejected. Just as Thomas Blackstone said that "it is better that ten guilty men escape than one innocent suffer," the PTO's current mood appears to be that "it is better to reject ten legitimate inventions than to issue one bad patent."

- One of the highlights touted by the PTO is that, in 2000, a record high of 72 percent of all patent applications became patents. In contrast, 51 percent of patent applications were granted in FY 2007.

- Pendency remains a problem: average pendency is 25.3 months from filing to first action, and 31.9 months until issue or abandonment

- Regarding the Accelerated Examination program, the Office notes that, in the first year of the program, 24 patents were issued (paradoxically, the report doesn't disclose how many applications under the AE program were filed).

- The PTO intends to make 101 issues a tops priority. According to the report, "[b]ecause the boundaries of patent eligibility in certain areas remain ambiguous, we anticipate that the Federal Circuit will issue precedential opinions in these appeals in the next year. These opinions will provide guidance to our patent examiners on evaluating the fundamental issue of what types of claimed inventions qualify for patent protection."

- Reexaminations have jumped to an all-time high. From 2006-07, ex parte reexaminations went from 511 t0 643 (369 of those had known litigation pending). Inter partes reexaminations went from 70 to 126 (81 had known litigation pending).

The must-read report can be downloaded here (link)

NOTE: In the meantime, the continuation rule battle rages on - Dennis over at Patently-O (link) discusses the PTO's response to the Tafas/GSK complaint. As expected, the PTO asserts that they acted within the Patent Act, and that the plaintiffs lack standing. The PTO is asking that all summary judgment briefs be filed prior to the Christmas Holiday. The next hearing is scheduled for tomorrow (November 16).

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