In its 110-year lifespan, the Detroit-based General Motors (GM) has owned many wildly successful automotive brands, including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and many others. Despite some rough terrain in 2009 when the American corporation filed bankruptcy, GM has bounced back and continues to push innovation and to improve automotive performance. Having prosecuted over 18,000 patent applications with the USPTO, the patent prosecution experience for GM is apparent in two of its more recent, aerodynamic-focused patents.



Patent Number: US 9,994,267
Patent Application: 15/485,281
Filed: 4/12/2017
Granted: 6/12/2018


For those unfamiliar with a vehicle side skirt, it is a body modification that sits between the front and rear wheels and is intended to reduce drag and help airflow around the vehicle’s wheels. The GM ‘267 patent, which was granted mid-June 2018, improves on previous fixed-skirt designs by incorporating sensors and actuators that allow for the adjustment of the vehicle side skirts (either by extending or retracting the side skirts from the body of a vehicle) to improve the vehicle’s overall aerodynamics.

The ‘267 patent was assigned to a patent examiner who grants 88.4 percent of the patent applications he reviews, issues an average of only one office action per patent application, and typically finalizes his patentability determination after one year, ten months, and 14 days in prosecution. Facing a patent examiner with an ETA of 1.3 (a proprietary metric provided by LexisNexis PatentAdvisor® to assess patent examiner difficulty), GM entered patent prosecution with a high likelihood of a short prosecution length. While GM did have to grapple with two office actions, they managed to secure a patent in only ten months – confirming the assessment PatentAdvisor™ provided initially.



Patent Number: US 10,035,548
Patent Application: 15/233,256
Filed: 08/10/16
Granted: 7/31/2018
Also intended to improve vehicle aerodynamics, a spoiler is a device often attached to the rear of the vehicle (though, front spoilers exist, too) that “spoil” unfavorable airflow around a vehicle while it is moving. Working similarly to an upside-down airplane wing, a spoiler generates “downforce” on the vehicle, which helps to increases a vehicle’s grip on the pavement beneath it.

GM filed its ‘548 patent application on August 10, 2016, and in it describes a spoiler “having an airfoil shape” that works similarly to GM active side skirts. GM’s active spoiler uses sensors that collect and communicate information that can be used to adjust the position of the spoiler for optimal results.

GM’s ‘548 patent examiner was slightly more difficult than their ‘267 examiner (with an ETA of 2.5), but they still made patent prosecution look easy. The ‘548 patent examiner maintained a 72.7 percent allowance rate and issued an average of 1.9 office actions in an average of two years, seven months, and 11 days before the grant or abandonment of his examined applications. GM was granted their ‘548 patent after needing to overcome only one office action in one year and eight months. This is a significant improvement on the typical time in prosecution for GM – three years, one month, and 11 days.

Foreign Filing at the USPTO

Utilizing Big Data Insight to Outperform Your Competitors

Over half a million patent applications are filed at the USPTO every year, approximately half of which originate from companies outside the U.S. Non-U.S. companies clearly play a significant role in the U.S. patent landscape but how do they fare compared to U.S. companies in terms of prosecution efficiency and patent claim quality?

The issues encountered by international filers of applications in the United States differ from those faced by their U.S. counterparts. These include:

  • Choosing and managing outside counsel
  • Effective translation of patent applications
  • The distance between parties and time zones
  • Experience and focus

Do such variables negatively affect the results of the patent prosecution process? Using patent analytics to answer that question, this paper specifically examines prosecution metrics for internal combustion engines. Finally, this paper addresses how big data can be leveraged for a more cost-efficient, effective prosecution strategy.

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