As a follow-up to an earlier post on BPAI decisions; appeal efficiency and potentially over-worked Administrative Patent Judges, I took a look at BPAI decisions from January and February 2009. According to BPAI's statistics, the BPAI disposed of 993 ex parte appeals during that two month period. Based on the PTO's FY2009 numbers, about 9% of those disposals were either remands or dismissals without a decision on the merits. The examiner's rejection was affirmed in 55% of the cases; Affirmed-in-part in 14% of the cases; and reversed in 23% of the cases.
776 of the Jan-Feb 2009 ex parte decisions show-up in the Westlaw database. Those 776 decisions were authored by 78 different Administrative Patent Judges. During the two month period, four judges penned more than 25 opinions, although the average is closer to 10 opinions. (If we assume that Westlaw includes 80% of the opinions, then the average jumps to 12 opinions in the two months – or six opinions per month). On an annualized basis this extrapolates to authoring an average of 72 opinions per year. Of course, this average includes opinions by BPAI administration who regularly write only a small handful of decisions. Excluding those individuals pushes the extrapolated average to about 75 opinions per year for each BPAI Judge handling ex parte cases.
These numbers are comparable to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Each of the twelve Federal Circuit judges (not counting Senior Judges) wrote about 28 majority opinions in 2008. In addition, each Federal Circuit judge participated in over 400 cases (most of which were decided without opinion). Thus, while the BPAI judges write more opinions, the Federal CIrcuit judges actually decide more cases.
- The lower number of cases found in Westlaw is due – in part – to the fact that many of the cases being appealed are unpublished. In those cases, the BPAI decisions are kept secret. In addition, for some reason, Westlaw is not picking up all of the released BPAI decisions. Still, the Westlaw format is easier to use than the BPAI PDF.