How Long Does Patent and Trademark Prosecution Take? (2007 Edition)

A common question that I receive relating to patents and trademarks is “how long will my application take?”  The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office just released new statistics that can help answer that question.

According the the USPTO’s 2007 Performance and Accountability Report, the average time between the filing date and issuance of the first office action for patents is 25.3 months, while the average total pendency (i.e., time from the filing date to either patent issuance or abandonment) is 31.9 months.  For trademarks, the average time from filing to first office action is 2.9 months, and the average total pendency is 15.1 months.

The statistics show improvement in the area of trademarks, but longer waits for patent applications.  For trademarks, the USPTO reduced both time to first action and overall pendency in each of the last four years.  In fact, the USPTO reduced the average time to first action for trademarks by more than half — from an average of 6.6 months in 2004 to only 2.9 months in 2007.   However, patent application pendency increased in each of the last four years, and the average time to first action increased from 20.2 months in 2004 to 25.3 months in 2007.

Although not mentioned in the USPTO’s 2007 Report, the statistics vary based on the type of application.  For example, the time involved in a patent application largely depends on the technology, with applications in the areas of computer networks, cryptography and e-commerce averaging 36 months or more to first action according to recent reports. 

A USPTO press release relating to the 2007 Report describes other significant statistics, including the fact that patents were granted on only 51% of patent applications examined in 2007 (compared with a 72% allowance rate in the year 2000).

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