The USPTO has publicly released its data visualization center and patent dashboard. The site does an excellent job of providing a visual overview of the current USPTO state-of-affairs in terms of patent backlog, pendency, and allowance rate. The site also breaks-down those numbers in various ways that may be useful for advising your clients. Data-downloads on the site provide unprecedented public access to PTO numbers that were previously either uncalculated or largely kept secret.
PTO Director Dave Kappos additionally sees the dashboard as providing patent office accountability and publicly facing the challenge of reducing patent pendency. Kappos writes on his blog:
An important part of the effort to reduce pendency is better understanding the numerous factors that contribute to examination delays and measuring their impact in a way that makes the USPTO more transparent to the public. By looking at the whole picture, we can more effectively develop ways to increase the efficiency of the examination process. While we know we have to hire more examiners to reduce the backlog, we also know that we must re-engineer the way we do business at the USPTO and have already implemented a series of initiatives designed to improve efficiencies. These process changes will empower our workforce to be more effective and have already begun to yield important gains.
. . . [The Dashboard] will help the entire IP community to better understand our processes, and enable applicants to make more informed decisions about their applications, especially as we develop more opportunities for applicants to control the timing at which their applications are examined. The new dashboard, which will be updated monthly, will also be used internally by the USPTO to analyze and improve our examination process and to track the effectiveness of our improvement efforts. We intend to further refine the dashboard and welcome your input about ways we can improve it. A dedicated mailbox [firstname.lastname@example.org] has been set up for your comments and we intend to monitor your feedback carefully.
The dashboard introduces six new measures of pendency designed to give a better overall picture of the contributions of different parts of the examination process to application pendency. For example, the traditional total pendency measure stops the clock with the filing of an RCE, which may not provide an accurate measure of the total time it takes to complete the examination of an application through request for continued examination (RCE) practice. A new measure, called "Traditional Total Pendency Including RCEs," looks at pendency of applications from filing of the original application to ultimate disposal of that same application, including any additional time attributable to RCE filings in those applications where RCE filings are made. Similar measures are provided relative to divisional applications and other types of continuation practice. We also provide information about pendency for applications in appeal practice.