[author: Donald Zuhn]
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently released its Performance and Accountability Report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. The report notes that the Office's 2010-2015 Strategic Plan sets forth three strategic goals and one management goal in support of the Office's mission to foster innovation and competitiveness by providing high quality and timely examination of patent and trademark applications, guiding domestic and international intellectual property policy, and protecting intellectual property rights.
The 2010-2015 Strategic Plan specifies eleven performance outcome measures for which the Office has developed annual performance targets. According to the report, the Office met its annual performance targets for all eleven performance targets. Among the patent-related performance targets that the Office met in FY 2012 were average first action pendency (21.9 months versus target of 22.6 months), average total pendency (32.4 months versus target of 34.7 months), and patent applications filed electronically (97.1% versus target of 96.0%). Table 2 of the report provides data for the patent-related performance targets, as well as FY 2008 to FY 2011 (click on table to expand):
The report also presents data for the following patent-related performance targets: patent average first action pendency for FY 2000 to FY 2012 (Figure 4), patent average total pendency for FY 2000 to FY 2012 (Figure 5), and patent applications filed electronically for FY 2003 to FY 2012 (Figure 6):
The report notes that the number of applications filed increased from 537,171 in FY 2011 to 565,566 in FY 2012, which constituted a 5.3% increase in filings. This followed a 5.3% increase in application filings in FY 2011.
Despite accepting more than 500,000 patent applications for the third straight year, the number of applications awaiting action dropped from 690,967 in FY 2011 to 633,812 in FY 2012 (which marked the fourth consecutive year that the number of applications awaiting action has dropped). The total number of pending applications also decreased, dropping from 1,168,928 in FY 2011 to 1,157,147 in FY 2012.
Utility patent issuances were up significantly in FY 2012, rising from 221,350 in FY 2011 to 246,464 in FY 2012. It was the third straight year that the Office issued more than 200,000 utility patent issuances (having issued 207,915 in FY 2010), and the fourth straight increase.
With respect to first action and total pendency, the Office will have its work cut out for it if it intends to replicate the success of FY 2012. For first action pendency, the annual performance target drops from 22.6 months for FY 2012 to 18.0 months for FY 2013 and 15.8 months for FY 2014, and for total pendency, the annual performance target drops from 34.7 months in FY 2012 to 30.1 months in FY 2013 and 26.1 months in FY 2014.
With respect to Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) participation, the report notes that "[a]s of the end of FY 2012, over 17,400 applications at the USPTO had been received within the PPH program since its inception," and that the Office had "achieved the goal of driving significant increase in [PPH] usage for three years running."
For biotechnology and organic chemistry applicants, average first action pendency dropped from 23.8 months in FY 2011 to 17.8 months in FY 2012, and total average pendency dropped from 33.6 months in FY 2011 to 30.0 months in FY 2012. Both pendency measures were below the Office's overall averages of 21.9 months and 32.4 months, respectively. No other Technology Center posted a better first action pendency than TC 1600, and only TC 2800 (semiconductor, electrical, optical systems & components) posted a better final action pendency.
For additional information regarding this and other related topics, please see:
• "USPTO Releases Performance and Accountability Report for FY 2011," November 30, 2011
• "USPTO Releases 2010 Performance and Accountability Report," November 17, 2010
• "USPTO Announces 'Highest Performance Levels in Agency's History' in 2008," November 18, 2008
• "USPTO Announces 'Record Breaking' 2007 Performance," November 15, 2007
• "Patent Office Announces Record-Breaking Year," December 27, 2006