As the USPTO fiscal year comes to an end on September 30, I thought this would be a good time to review the USPTO backlog statistics. The currently available data reflects the backlogs as of the start of August 2013, and reveals a decrease in the backlog of unexamined applications, a slight decrease in the backlog of RCEs, and an ever-growing increase in the backlog of ex parte appeals.
The Patents Dashboard
The Patents Dashboard provides data on a number of parameters relating to ex parte examination. The following pendency parameters may be of most interest:
- Unexamined patent application backlog: 591,665 (down from 596,159 in May)
- Time to the first Office Action: 14.4 months (down from 14.5 months in February)
- Forward looking time to first Office Action: 16 months (down from 16.5 months in May)
- RCE backlog: 94,617 (down from 107,288 in May)
- Total average pendency (including RCEs): 36.1 months
- Track I pendency from petition grant to allowance: 4.9 months
The Appeal Dashboard
The Appeal Dashboard provides data on a number of parameters relating to ex parte appeals. The following parameters may be of most interest:
- Total number of docketed appeals: 25,656
- Number of appeals docketed for more than 14 months: 13,702
- Number of appeals docketed for less than 10 months: 8,371
- Total number of pending appeals: 25,697
- Number of appeals filed in FY 2013: 9,980
- Number of appeals decided in FY 2013: 10,767
The Process Production Report also includes data on contested cases:
- Number of interference proceedings: 47
- Number of inter partesreview proceedings: 399
- 458 IPR petitions have been filed
- 150 trials have been instituted
- 22 petitions were denied
- 37 proceedings were disposed of on the merits
- Number of covered business method patent proceedings: 48
- 48 CBM petitions have been filed
- 12 trials have been instituted
- 3 petitions were denied
- 3 proceedings were disposed of on the merits
One post grant review petition was filed, but not granted.
One derivation petition was filed.
Looking Ahead To FY 2014
It is good to see that the USPTO is making progress on the new application and RCE backlogs, but the magnitude of the RCE backlog and the growing ex parte appeal backlog is troubling. The USPTO’s ability to address these problems will depend on its ability to hire and retain qualified examiners and administrative patent judges, and on the availability of funds to support its initiatives. While many hoped that the budget provisions of the America Invents Act would protect the USPTO’s spending authority from politics, the USPTO was not spared the effects of the sequester, and could be vulnerable if Congress is not able to agree on a new budget for FY 2014.