A Conversation With the Commissioner for Patents: Part 1

Sep 15, 2020

Conversation with the Commissioner Blog Article

If there is anything positive to say about the year 2020, it is that it has been a year of deep reflection with a desire to improve in all aspects of our lives. In the darkness of a global pandemic and a state of social unrest, opportunities have arisen to revise our shared vision for the world and for businesses to adapt to both changes in their operations and changing economic demands. Even the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is putting its agility on display as it implements changes guided by USPTO patent statistics to improve the efficiency of the U.S. patent processes.

The USPTO is a machine comprised of 12,670 total employees.* Over 9,900 USPTO employees are considered patent employees, including more than 8,100 patent examiners. The USPTO patents division is further divided into nine distinct technology centers that consist of over 600 distinct art units. In the recent LexisNexis® IP webinar, “A Conversation With the Commissioner: A Look Inside Patent Processes at the USPTO,” Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfield discussed the state of the USPTO, as nearly all patent employees have transitioned to working remotely, and what we can expect to be done differently at the USPTO coming this October.

All is Well at the USPTO

Despite these uncertain times, the USPTO patent statistics presented by the commissioner paint a picture of unwavering innovation. Perhaps spending more time at home throughout the pandemic has made room for inspiration or has provided inventors more time to develop their concepts, because for the 2020 fiscal year, new patent application filings are up 1.4%. As of June 30, 1,053,529 patent applications were pending in USPTO dockets, and USPTO patent data trends suggest that more than 450,000 patent filings can be expected for the year. 

As for the most commonly cited USPTO patent performance metrics, the average total patent pendency sits at 23.1 months per patent application, and an average of 60% of patent applications are granted at some point in the process.

USPTO 2020 Stats

Upcoming Changes Will Impact USPTO Patent Prosecution

After conducting a thorough prior art search, many patent professionals carefully draft their patent applications to avoid patent examiner rejections or objections, but they let fate determine which patent examiner is assigned to their case. This is not out of laziness by any means; patent professionals rarely realize that they can influence which patent examiner they receive. With the proprietary patent metrics and patent analytics available on the LexisNexis PatentAdvisor® patent prosecution platform, patent professionals can identify which USPTO art units are most likely to be assigned to examine their patent application, and which of those potential art units are statistically the most likely to issue a patent.

Then, using insights from the LexisNexis PathWays™ tool, PatentAdvisor™ users can identify ways to amend their patent drafts to increase the chances of having their patent applications assigned to the most applicant-friendly art unit. An applicant-friendly art unit contains the most patent examiners who typically grant patents in less time and at a lesser cost than examiners in other art units.

Another option to positively influence the likelihood and the time it takes to get an application granted is with customized Pre-Filing Classification Reports™.  Classification experts provide in-depth insight into which art unit the patent application will be assigned. That insight can be used to tailor the application to target a more favorable art unit and improve your chances of efficient prosecution.

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