How long does patent and trademark prosecution take? (2015 edition)

At the end of each fiscal year, the USPTO releases a Performance and Accountability Report, which is loaded with data about patent and trademark allowance rates, average pendency, and other details. The USPTO recently released its Performance and Accountability Report for Fiscal Year 2015. This means that it’s time for IP Spotlight’s annual review of the question:  “how long does it take to receive a patent or trademark registration?”

To answer that question, here are a few highlights from the USPTO’s FY2015 report:

Patents:  The USPTO’s efforts to reduce patent application pendency continued to pay off in FY 2015. The average time between filing and first office action was 17.3 months, down from 18.4 months in FY 2014 and a sharp improvement from the 28-month average time to first action that was the norm five years ago.  Average total pendency also decreased, from 27.4 months in FY 2014 to 26.7 months in FY 2015, despite the large number of patent applications that were facing difficult patent-eligibility rejections in the past year.

The pendency rates vary depending on the technology covered by the patent application. For example:

  • applications relating to biotechnology and organic chemistry (USPTO Technology Center 1600) have an average wait time of 14.1 months to first action, and an average total pendency of 25.3 months;
  • applications relating to chemical and materials engineering (USPTO Technology Center 1700) have an average wait time of 18.9 months to first action, and an average total pendency of 29.1 months;
  • applications relating to networking, multiplexing, cable and security (USPTO Technology Center 2400) generally wait 18.6 months to first action, and have an average total pendency of 29.6 months;
  • applications relating to communications technologies (USPTO Technology Center 2600) have an average wait time of 15.5 months to first action, and an average total pendency of 26.6 months; and
  • applications relating to mechanical engineering products (USPTO Technology Center 3700) have an average wait time of 20.4 months to first action, and an average total pendency of 30.8 months.

The total average pendency is still highest for applications involving computer architecture, software & information security (USPTO Technology Center 2100), where total pendency averages 31.1 months.

The overall patent allowance rate was 54.1% in FY 2015– about the same as last year’s 54.4% rate.

An interesting statistic is that for the first time in five years, the number of nonprovisional patent applications filings slightly dropped, from 618,457 in FY 2014 to 617,216 in FY 2105. This statistic  may reflect the fact that more than a few applicants are more closely reviewing patent-eligibility issues before filing new applications.

The USPTO also noted a substantial drop in the Patent Quality Composite Score of its work product in FY 2015. The Patent Quality Composite Score considers seven quality metrics, including random sample-based reviews of Examiner activity, as well as internal and external quality surveys. The USPTO explained that the large drop in the overall score was largely due to a relatively small drop in a possibly-overweighted factor in the scoring algorithm, and it intends to revise the method by which it determines this score in FY 2016

Trademarks:  In FY 2015 the average time from filing to first Office Action in a trademark application was 2.9 months.  The average total pendency was 10.1 months.  These numbers are similar to the USPTO’s trademark statistics for the past four years.

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