Earlier this week, Patently-O reported that the PTO is issuing patents at a much higher rate in 2010 compared to 2009. Last year the PTO issued 167,349 utility patents or about 3,218 per week. The 2010 rate wasn’t significantly higher in January, but has been increasing as seen in the chart on the Patently-O site. In April 2010, the PTO issued an average of 4,385 utility patents per week, a 35% increase over the 2009 weekly average. If this rate continues, the PTO will issue about 220,000 utility patents in 2010 or over 50,000 more than in 2009.
Is the PTO allowing patents at a higher rate than its notoriously low rates of under 45% in recent years? Probably so, but it’s too early to get a clear indication of where the allowance rate is going. That is, of course, a good sign for applicants and innovators. Patents issuing in the first third of 2010 were probably allowed during the third and fourth quarters of 2009.
Is the PTO making progress on the backlog of over 700,000 unexamined applications? They had made slight headway at the end of FY2009. Again, it’s too early to tell, but this would also be good news.
Other PTO News
In the PTO’s Spring 2010 unified agenda, one of the proposed initiatives under consideration within the Office is to stop issuing ribbon copies of patents and to instead issue them electronically. This would cut patent pendency down by a month or two. It typically takes the PTO 2-4 months (although this time has been decreasing) from the time the Issue Fee is paid until the patent issues. Others have been suggesting issuing patents electronically for a while to reduce pendency. There is no specific information on how or when the PTO may consider this proposal other than to note that applicants who still desire a ribbon copy of their patent can obtain one for an additional fee.
Certainly the Rogan and Dudas years will go down as the dark days at the PTO. Kappos is clearly doing some good work to make improvements in the PTO’s patent business.