Is patent quality suffering from the improved efficiency at USPTO?

A paper by Christopher Cotropia, Cecil Quillen, Jr., and Ogden Webster, published by the University of Richmond School of Law, suggests patent application and backlog data have two edges.

On the one hand, patent applications are up … traditionally a good sign… and the backlog to first response is down … also good, right?

The report contains substantial data from two sources: annual “USPTO Performance and Accountability Reports,” and Freedom of Information Act requests. Data include the number of applications filed per year, the type of applications being filed and prosecuted, the pendency of these applications, and their disposition.

The authors’ conclusion is, frankly, light, but cautionary, with this statement, “we are experiencing a return to rising allowance rates of the late 1990s, which presumably is facilitating the drop in backlog at the USPTO.”