Today, the USPTO issued its 168,000th utility patent of calendar year 2010. I highlight that milestone because it surpasses the 167,350 mark for the entire 2009 calendar year. At the current pace, I project that the USPTO will grant at least 33% more utility patents in 2010 than it did in 2009 (36% more is a better estimate). The high-water mark for USPTO patent grants is 2006 — that year, the office issued 173,772 utility patents. At the current 2010 pace, that mark will be passed in the next two weeks.
This dramatic increase in the rate of granting patents is impressive — especially in light of the fact that during this time, the USPTO eliminated examiner overtime hours for an extended period of time and hired only a handful of new examiners.