The USPTO is requesting input on the “optimal” targets for its patent application pendency metrics. The USPTO’s current targets are 10 months to a first Office Action and 20 months to grant or abandonment. The USPTO wants to know if you think these targets too long, too short, or just right, and will consider written comments received by September 8, 2014.
As explained in the July 9, 2014 Federal Register Notice, the current patent application pendency targets were established in the USPTO’s 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, after consulting with stakeholders. The current target for first Office Action pendency is 10 months, and the USPTO has reduced first Office Action pendency from 25.7 months in 2010 to 18.1 months. The current target for total application pendency is 20 months, and the USPTO has reduced total application pendency from 35.3 months in 2010 to 28.1 months.
Pursuant to the USPTO’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, the USPTO seeks to “refine” the pendency targets to “optimal” levels that balance competing interests, such as prompt examination, examiner workload, USPTO production capacity, and patent examination quality.
The Federal Register Notice asks for input on the following points in particular:
The pendency targets are important, because they influence USPTO decisions regarding staffing levels, resource requirements, patent fee levels, and revenue (and budget) estimates.
One of the more interesting questions is whether pendency targets should vary depending on the Technology Center. Many people believe that applicants in high-tech fields want their patents granted quickly while applicants in pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields prefer longer examination times, but I’m not convinced that’s true enough to justify setting different pendency targets.
The concerns about “hidden prior art” are valid, but less significant for patent applications with priority claims. To answer question 5, it would be helpful to know the percentage of applications for which the U.S. filing date is not the critical date for prior art. (This would include applications based on U.S. provisional applications, foreign priority applications, and PCT applications.)
The only question I feel strongly about is question 6, to which my answer is a resounding NO. Patent law is always evolving, so uncertainty is not a good reason to delay examination.
As noted above, the USPTO has requested comments by September 8, 2014. Comments must be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.