Anticipate This!™ | Patent and Trademark Law Blog

USPTO Announces Drop in Patents Approved.

Posted in General Commentary by Jake Ward on December 22, 2006

According to this Marketplace article from American Public Media, the USPTO in 2006 approved the lowest percentage of patents in its recorded history.  Apparently, about 54% of all U.S. patent applications (filed in 2006? 2005?) were approved this year.  To put this in perspective, in 2003 the number of approved patents was about 70%.  For those without their calculators handy, that is roughly a 22% drop in the number of patents issued relative to the number of patent applications filed three years ago. 

I would think one would normally consider this to be postive news.  However, the article proceeds to paint a fairly negative picture of the present patent system, particulary with respect to the state of the obviousness standard (the old “flash of genius” test was actually mentioned).  Quotes from Professors Samuelson (Berkley) and Lerner (Harvard), as well as from Director Jon Dudas are included.  An interesting read, if you have a few minutes. 

JW Note: With the percentage of issued patents dropping, why is there such a clamoring to change the present obviousness standard?  Isn’t this evidence that the present system is correcting itself and that the standards, if applied appropriately, can be effective?  Any thoughts? 

Addendum:  Per the wonderful folks at Rethink(IP), the full results of the agency’s progress can be found in USPTO’s FY 2006 Performance and Accountability Report at

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