by Dennis Crouch
USPTO records identify about 41,800 active registered patent practitioners. That number is obviously wrong because many folks have retired from the practice of patent law or even passed-away in the many years since the many years since the USPTO last conducted a survey of active practitioners. Because the PTO has no CLE requirement or regular registration fee, non-practitioners often stay on the rolls even when they should have been dropped.
The Office of Enrollment and Discipline (OED) has a new director — William Covey — who has initiated a new survey of practitioners that will attempt to refresh the rolls. The USPTO will begin mailing survey letters later this month to practioners whose registration numbers are below 25,000. A response must be returned to the PTO within 45–days in order to remain on the rolls. Questions can be sent to: OED@USPTO.gov.
In addition to this survey, I am looking to find the rough number of patent attorneys that are actively practicing before the PTO. As a first cut, I decided to identify all of the registered practitioners associated with one or more recently filed patent applications. To do this, I pulled up the PAIR files of 47,000 of the patent applications that published in the calendar year 2011. (This represents about 15% of the applications published that year). Using those documents, I identified all of the patent attorneys associated with each application (usually by PTO customer number).
It turns out that this group of 47,000 patent applications is associated with about 21,500 patent practitioners — just over half of the 41,800 practitioners on file at the PTO. Based on my rudimentary stats, this projects-out to an estimate of fewer than 26,000 patent practitioners associated with at least one application published in 2011.
As an aside, about 82% of these active practitioners are registered as attorneys and the remaining 18% as agents. Not surprisingly, agents have a much greater drop-out rate than attorneys. About 8% of the applications listed no professional.
- I'm planning to work these numbers up a couple of different ways and would appreciate comments or suggestions. firstname.lastname@example.org
- If anyone would like to help with the population estimate based on my sample, please let me know. The problem is a bit tricky because each attorney may be associated with any number of applications and each application may be associated with any number of attorneys. You can download the raw data listing each attorney for each application in my sample. [qryExportFile.zip]