By Donald Zuhn --
In a press release posted last Friday, the Patent Office announced that 2006 has been a record-breaking year for the USPTO. In particular, the Patent Office noted that it received a record number of patent applications (440,000) and hired a record number of patent examiners (1,218) in 2006. The Patent Office also stated that despite completing a record number of patent applications (332,000), the Office achieved its lowest patent allowance error rate in the past twenty years (3.5%). The Patent Office noted, however, that the patent allowance rate dipped to an all-time low of 54% (see chart below). With respect to electronic filings, the Office observed that as a result of its implementation of the Electronic Filing System-Web (EFS-Web), electronic filing of patent applications rose dramatically from 1.5 percent per month to 33 percent per month.
A full presentation of the Patent Office's 2006 performance can be found in the USPTO 2006 Performance and Accountability Report. Of interest to biotech and pharma patent prosecutors are the report's findings with respect to application pendency and examination costs. In particular, the report indicates that in 2006, the average pendency to a first Office Action in Tech Center 1600 (biotechnology and organic chemistry) was 23.5 months, and the average total pendency was 34.4 months. Both figures were slightly more than the overall averages of 22.6 and 31.1 months. In addition, the report states that in 2006, more than seventeen percent of the Patent business group's total costs had gone to the prosecution of biotechnology (7.8%) and chemical (9.5%) utility patents.