USPTO dashboards are windows into their operations

How long will it take from the time a patent application is filed until you get a response from USPTO?

Through May 2011, the latest date available, what is called the First Office Action Pendency is up to 26.5 months.

How long will it take from the time a patent application is filed until final disposition (a patent is issued or the application is abandoned)?

On the average, it will take just under 34 months.

How is USPTO performing against their stated goal of reducing the backlog of patent applications?

The number of pending applications still exceeds 700,000, though it is trending down slightly. Progress is even better, however, as the backlog is trending down while the number of new applications is increasing significantly.

Reducing the backlog must be a function of manpower, right? What is the total number of patent examiners on staff (not counting design patent examiners)? In January it was 6,626; in May it was 6,794 … not good, but not bad considering the severe budget cut.

If staffing is relatively stable, how are they handling the increasing workload? One of the dashboard gauges is a productivity measurement, measuring what is called Utility, Plant, and Reissue (UPR) Patent Application Production Units. Here is the definition: “A production unit effectively represents the complete examination of a single application.  The production units are the total first office actions plus the total disposals completed, divided by two.” Obviously this measurement can be manipulated by attacking the backlog and getting out more first responses, even if final disposals lag.  That’s okay. The sooner the first responses go out, the sooner the application is in queue for examination. The gauge tells us USPTO is keeping relatively the same pace as last year, when they completed nearly 480,000 units.

Another strategy employed at the patent office is clearing out many of the old applications, which they define as 16 months and older. They have reduced this number by over 130,000 applications this fiscal year, but as we see from the First Office Action Pendency data, above, it is not without some cost.

All of these measurements will be directly affected by the compromise reached on patent reform and whether or not USPTO can spend all of the revenues they generate. Here’s the link for the USPTO’s Patent dashboard. Trademarks has its own dashboard here, and in the spirit of transparency, USPTO has created a Policy and External Affairs dashboard here.