How long does it take to get a patent or trademark registration? (2017 update)

At the end of each fiscal year, the USPTO releases a Performance and Accountability Report, with statistics about patent and trademark allowance rates, average pendency, and other details. The USPTO recently released its Performance and Accountability Report for Fiscal Year 2017. 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 register a trademark?”

To answer that question, here are a few highlights from the USPTO’s FY 2017 report:

Patents:  The USPTO continued a six-year trend of reducing overall patent application pendency in FY 2017. The average time between filing and first office action was 16.3 months, which is about the same as last year. However, average total pendency decreased to 24.2 months (down from last year’s 24.2-month average pendency, and down from a high of 33.7 months in 2012).

The report did not discuss the effect of the USPTO’s “Track 1” expedited examination option on the overall timeline. Applicants who pay the additional fee for Track 1 processing typically receive a first action within 4-6 months of filing, and allowance or final action within 12 months of filing.

The wait times vary depending on the technology involved. Patent applications for computer architecture and mechanical engineering inventions generally experienced the longest waits, while applications in the biotech and organic chemistry fields moved relatively quickly. The breakdown by technology included:

  • biotechnology and organic chemistry (USPTO Technology Center 1600) had an average wait time of 12.1 months to first action, and an average total pendency of 23.2 months;
  • chemical and materials engineering (USPTO Technology Center 1700) had an average wait time of 18.5 months to first action, and an average total pendency of 27.5 months;
  • computer architecture (USPTO Technology Center 2100) had an average wait time of 21.3 months to first action, and an average total pendency of 28.5 months;
  • networks, multiplexing, cable and security (USPTO Technology Center 2400) generally waited 16.7 months to first action, and have an average total pendency of 25.6 months;
  • communications technologies (USPTO Technology Center 2600) had an average wait time of 12.0 months to first action, and an average total pendency of 21.7 months;
  • methods relating to transportation, construction, agriculture and e-commerce (USPTO Technology Center 3600, in which the e-commerce inventions are often considered to involve “business methods”) had an average wait time of 18.2 months to first action, and an average total pendency of 25.5 months; and
  • mechanical engineering products (USPTO Technology Center 3700) had an average wait time of 19.7 months to first action, and an average total pendency of 28.9 months.

347,243 patents issued in FY 2017 — an all-time high. The overall patent allowance rate was 59.4% – an increase from last year’s % 53.3% allowance rate.

The number of patent applications filed in FY 2017 was 647,388 — about the same as the previous year. Of these applications, approximately 602,000 were utility filings and 167,000 were provisional filings. The other patent applications were design, plant, or reissue filings.

Trademarks:  In FY 2017 the average time from filing to first Office Action in a trademark application was 2.7 months, down from 3.1 months last year. Average total pendency was 9.5 months down slightly from last year’s 9.8 months. These numbers reflect a 5-10% reduction in wait times as compared to five years ago.

The total number of trademark applications filed was 594,107, an all-time high that is a 12% increase over the previous year.

To maintain a trademark registration in effect, the owner must pay a renewal fee and demonstrate continued use by the 10-year anniversary of the trademark registration date. U.S. trademark owners renewed only about 32% of trademark registrations that were eligible for renewal in 2017.

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