by Dennis Crouch
Only two weeks into 2013, the USPTO continues to issue patents at a record pace. New patents are issued each Tuesday morning. On January 8, 2013 the PTO issued 5,633 utility patents – the most ever issued on a single day. The prior two weeks rank second and third on the all-time list. Thus, although we are only two-weeks into the new year, if current projections hold the PTO will issue more than 290,000 patents in 2013. That represents a major jump from 2012's record of 253,000 issued patents.
Two things are happening to cause this change: (1) the PTO now grants a greater percentage of patents than it did a few years ago – that percentage has continued to rise throughout the past two years; and (2) the PTO has a greater number of disposals - primarily because of the agency's hiring binge. In 2012, the first of these contributed more to the increased number of grants. I expect that in 2013 the increased throughput will have the greater impact as new examiners get up-to-speed.
The strength of this forecast will largely depend upon whether the Agency continues on the same path after Director Kappos steps-down later this month. Deputy Director Rea is unlikely to move away from this course and may well push for more efficiency during her expected tenure as Acting Director. However, the new appointee (yet unnamed) may be a different story. A second major factor that could negatively impact the grant rate is another budget crisis that would limit the ability of the USPTO to pay examiners for overtime work.