05 May 2010

Increased Allowance Rate at the USPTO

As reported here, the USPTO issued 167,349 utility patents at an average rate of 3,218 per week in 2009, which increased in April 2010 to an average of 4,385 patents per week. That is, the weekly average has been increased more than 35% from the 2009 weekly average, whereas patents issued from January to April 2010 were probably allowed during the second half of 2009. An estimate for the whole year based on the April figures would result in an estimation of about 220,000 allowances in 2010, which would represent the largest single-year jump in history.

Now Mr Matt Osenga speculates in his blog, that the USPTO might has changed its policy and will now allow patents at a higher rate than in recent years, which would be a good sign for future applicants and innovators and also significantly reduce the backlog of over 700,000 unexamined applications.

On the other hand, one may also draw the conclusion that a significant increase of issued patents would apparently not go together with an increase in quality, which we recently learned from the EPO following the so called "raising the bar" agenda of former president Alison Brimelow, who appers to identify patent quality increase with a decrease of the allowance rate.

On the other hand, the USPTO has some internal quality statistical measures to at least identify poorly examinated patents, according to which multiple non-final actions, late restrictions, reopened prosecution after an appeal brief or after a final rejection, multiple RCEs, first action allowances or allowances after an RCE with substantially maintained claims are considered as indicators for lack of patent quality.