By Donald Zuhn --
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently released its Performance and Accountability Report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. As in last year's report, the most recent report notes that the Office's 2010-2015 Strategic Plan sets forth three strategic goals and one management goal in support of the Office's mission to foster innovation and competitiveness by providing high quality and timely examination of patent and trademark applications, guiding domestic and international intellectual property policy, and protecting intellectual property rights.
The 2010-2015 Strategic Plan specifies eleven performance outcome measures for which the Office has developed annual performance targets. According to the report, the Office met its annual performance targets for ten of the eleven performance targets. Among the patent-related performance targets that the Office met in FY 2013 were average total pendency (29.1 months versus target of 30.1 months) and patent applications filed electronically (98.1% versus target of 98.0%). The Office was slightly below the target, however, with respect to average first action pendency (18.2 months versus target of 18.0 months). Table 2 of the report provides data for the patent-related performance targets for FY 2009 to FY 2013 (click on table to expand):
The report also presents data for the following patent-related performance targets: patent average first action pendency for FY 2008 to FY 2013 (upper panel), patent average total pendency for FY 2008 to FY 2013 (middle panel), and patent applications filed electronically for FY 2008 to FY 2013 (lower panel):
The report notes that the number of applications filed increased from 565,406 in FY 2012 to 601,317 in FY 2013, which constituted a 6.4% increase in filings. This followed a 5.3% increase in application filings in FY 2012.
Despite accepting more than 500,000 patent applications for the fourth straight year, the number of applications awaiting action dropped from 633,812 in FY 2012 to 616,409 in FY 2013 (which marked the fifth consecutive year that the number of applications awaiting action has dropped). The total number of pending applications also decreased, dropping from 1,157,147 in FY 2012 to 1,148,823 in FY 2013.
Utility patent issuances were up significantly in FY 2013, rising from 246,464 in FY 2012 to 265,979 in FY 2013. It was the fourth straight year that the Office issued more than 200,000 utility patents (having issued 207,915 patents in FY 2010 and 221,350 patents in FY 2011), and the fifth straight increase.
With respect to first action and total pendency, the results in FY 2013 were mixed and the goals for FY 2014 and FY 2015 present even tougher challenges. For first action pendency, the annual performance target drops from 18.0 months for FY 2013 (which the Office failed to meet) to 17.1 months for FY 2014 and 15.1 months for FY 2015, and for total pendency, the annual performance target drops from 30.1 months in FY 2013 (which the Office did meet) to 26.1 months in FY 2014 and 25.7 months in FY 2015.
For biotechnology and organic chemistry applications, average first action pendency continued to drop, falling from 17.8 months in FY 2012 to 13.4 months in FY 2013 (average first action pendency for these applications was 23.8 months in FY 2011). Similarly, total average pendency for biotechnology and organic chemistry applications once again improved, falling from 30.0 months in FY 2012 to 27.5 months in FY 2013 (total average pendency was 33.6 months for these applications in FY 2011). Both pendency measures for FY 2013 were below the Office's overall averages of 18.2 months and 29.1 months, respectively. No other Technology Center posted a better first action pendency than TC 1600, and only TC 2800 (semiconductor, electrical, optical systems & components) posted a better final action pendency.