By Donald Zuhn --
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office released its FY 2008 Performance and Accountability Report yesterday and announced that the Office had for the first time "met 100 percent of its Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) goals." According to the Patent Office, the year-end numbers "demonstrate the agency’s commitment to sustaining high performance in the quality and timely examination of patent and trademark applications."
The Performance and Accountability Report indicates that the Office examined 448,003 applications in 2008 -- the highest number of applications the Office has ever examined in a year (the Office's previous high of 362,227 examined applications was set last year). The report also notes that 72.1% of patent applications were filed electronically via the EFS-Web in 2008, which is up from about 50% last year and less than 2% in 2005. Not surprisingly, the Office also received a record number of application filings via the EFS-Web in 2008 (332,617). Despite the significant increase in the number of applications that the Office examined in 2008, the report states that the total number of applications awaiting action rose from 760,924 in 2007 to 771,529 in 2008, and the total number of applications under examination rose from 1,112,517 in 2007 to 1,208,076 in 2008.
The report indicates that while the Office had more patent application disposals (396,228) in 2008 than in any of the four previous years, the Office allowed fewer applications (187,607) in 2008 than it did in 2007. The percent of application disposals constituting allowances in 2008 was 47.3%, down from 54% in 2007, 56.1% in 2006, 61% in 2005, and 64.2% in 2004. Last year, the Office indicated that the dropping allowance rate supported its assertion that patent quality was on the rise. In the 2008 report, the Office instead focuses on its higher than expected allowance compliance rate of 96.3 percent when speaking of increased patent quality. (The allowance compliance rate is the percentage of reviewed applications allowed by examiners that did not have any errors.)
Turning from the (ever) dwindling allowance rate, Tech Center 1600 (biotechnology and organic chemistry) offered biotech and pharma applicants and practitioners some good news, as that Group was once again able to reduce the average pendency to a first Office Action. The average pendency to a first Office Action dropped (for the second year in a row) from 22.7 months in 2007 to 19.9 months in 2008. Unfortunately, the average total pendency in Tech Center 1600 rose slightly to 34.8 months from 34.4 months in 2007. As a point of comparison, the average pendency to a first Office Action for all Tech Centers combined jumped from 25.3 months in 2007 to 25.6 months in 2008, and the overall average total pendency increased from 31.9 months in 2007 to 32.2 months in 2008.
For additional information regarding this and other related topics, please see:
• "USPTO Announces 'Record Breaking' 2007 Performance," November 15, 2007
• "BIO Issues Statement Regarding USPTO Performance Report," December 6, 2007
• "Patent Office Announces Record-Breaking Year," December 27, 2006