Each year on this blog I’ve addressed a question that patent and trademark applicants commonly ask: “how long will it take for my application to grant?” Each year, the USPTO issues a report with statistics that help answer this question. Key statistics for the USPTO’s 2010 fiscal year are found in the FY 2010 Performance and Accountability Report, and are summarized below
Patents: The average time between filing and first Office Action is 25.7 months, while the average total pendency (i.e., time from the filing date to patent issuance or abandonment) is 35.3 months. The average total pendency increased again this year, just as it has since at least 2005. However, the time to first Office Action remained relatively constant when compared to 2009 data.
Applications in Technology Center 2100 (Computer Architecture, Software & Information Security) generally wait 29.3 months to first action, while applications in Technology Center 1700 (Chemical and Materials Engineering) typically wait 25.7 months to first action. The total average start-to-finish pendency is the highest in Technology Center 2600 (Communications), where time to first action averages 32 months, and total pendency averages 42.9 months.
The total number of nonprovisional patent applications filed in 2010 was 509,367, which is a 4.7% increase over 2009 filings and the highest level in the past five years. Provisional patent application filings also increased by 4.5% in 2010.
The USPTO allowed 264,119 patent applications — nearly 50,000 more than last year. 289,419 applications went abandoned — also more than last year. Thus, the overall allowance rate increased from 44% in FY 2009. to 47.7% in FY 2010. The USPTO granted 233,117 patents in FY 2010 — the highest number granted in any year for which statistics are available.
The 2010 statistics also show that patent holders are holding on to their patents for a longer period of time. To keep a patent in effect, the owner must pay maintenance fees at three intervals: after the third year of patent grant, after the seventh year of patent grant, and after the eleventh year of patent grant. In 2010, 99.4% of existing patents were maintained after the first stage, 71.2% were maintained after the second stage, and 50.0% were maintained after the third stage. The first and third stage statistics are higher than they were at any point in the past five years.
Trademarks: In 2009 the average time from filing to first Office Action in a trademark application was 3 months – slightly longer than the time required in the previous year. The average total pendency was 10.5 months — a 6.2% reduction from 2009 statistics.
In 2009, the USPTO experienced a significant drop in the total number trademark applications filed. However, a rebound occurred in 2010, as filings increased to 368,969 applications. This represents an increase of 4.8% when compared to FY 2009 , but it is still below 2007 and 2008 levels.
Unlike patents, trademark owners are less likely to hold on to their marks when the time comes for renewal. Only 28.2% of trademark holders renewed their registrations when they came up for renewal in 2010 — the lowest renewal level of the last five years.