How long does patent and trademark prosecution take? (Fiscal year 2009 update)

Each year on this blog I’ve addressed a question that is commonly posed by patent and trademark applicants:  “how long will it take for my application to grant?”  The USPTO recently released statistics for fiscal year 2009 that help answer this question, so here are some benchmarks from the USPTO’s FY 2009 Performance and Accountability Report, and the shorter form FY09 Patent Pendency Statistics:

Patents:  The average time between filing and first Office Action is 25.8 months, while the average total pendency (i.e., time from the filing date to patent issuance or abandonment) is 34.6 months.  As has been the trend in every year since at least 2005, both of these statistics are higher (i.e., a longer time) than the previous year.

Applications classified in Technology Center 2600 (Communications) must wait an average of 33 months to first Office Action, which is one of the highest average waits at the USPTO.  Applications in Technology Center 2100 (Computer Architecture, Software & Information Security) generally wait 29.4 months to first action, while applications in Technology Center 1700 (Chemical and Materials Engineering) typically wait 25.9 months to first action.  The total average start-to-finish pendency is the highest in Technology Center 2400 (Networking, Multiplexing, Cable and Security), where the total pendency averages 47.7 months.

The USPTO allowed 214,523 patent applications — nearly 35,000 more than last year.  However, 272,607 applications went abandoned — also more than last year.  Thus, the overall allowance rate decreased to only 44% in FY 2009.   

The USPTO has also seen a significantly higher number of appeals.  As of the end of FY2009, 35,241 patent applications were on appeal — a 14.1% increase over FY 2008 statistics.

Trademarks:  In 2009 the average time from filing to first Office Action in a trademark application was 2.7 months – slightly shorter than the time required in the previous year.  The average total pendency was 13.5 months — also down slightly from 2008 statistics.

The total number trademark applications filed decreased 12.3% to 352,051 total filings in FY 2009 — the USPTO’s lowest number since FY 2005.

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