The Patent Pipeline: A Look at the Numbers

For companies or individuals looking to file a patent application, one of the first questions is always, “How long will it take?” Unfortunately, it is often difficult to provide a specific timeline, as each patent application process is different.

To further complicate matters, the United States Patent and Trademark Office currently has almost 700,000 patents under review and is facing a backlog of over one million. While the USPTO is currently taking steps to speed up the process and clear the backlog, the process is projected to take several years.

Nonetheless, it is possible to look at a few different numbers to arrive at a general idea of how long it may take to proceed through the patent application process.

First Office Action Pendency

First Office Action pendency is the average number of months from the patent application filing date to the date a First Office Action is mailed by the USPTO. The term “pendency” refers to the fact that the application is pending or awaiting a decision. This measure of First Office Action Pendency includes the time until a first action by the USPTO, as well as any time awaiting a reply from an applicant to submit all parts of their application.

As of October 2011, first office action pendency stood at 26.9 months. The USPTO is striving to reduce first action pendency to an average of 10 months by 2015.

Traditional Total Pendency

Total pendency, as traditionally measured, includes the average number of months from the patent application filing date to the date the application has reached final disposition (e.g., issued as a patent or abandoned), which is called a “disposal.” This pendency includes the time periods awaiting action by the USPTO, as well as any time awaiting reply from an applicant.

As of October 2011, total pendency was 33.9 months. The goal of the USPTO is to reduce Traditional Total Pendency to an average of 20 months by 2015.

Of course, patent applications will take longer if an appeal or request for continued examination is filed. If you are concerned about the time frame for patent approval, it is best to speak with an experienced patent attorney who can develop a patent strategy for your unique circumstances.


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