By Jason Rantanen
This afternoon my frequent collaborator Lee Petherbridge will be presenting Unenforceability (which we wrote with Polk Wagner) at the Houston Intellectual Property Law Association's annual IP Institute. As we were talking about the presentation, our conversation turned to the subject of the AIA's impact on post-grant proceedings at the PTO (particularly supplemental examination). I was able to assemble the following charts based on data from the PTO's website (specifically, from this page and this page).
Note that the inter partes review data points are my estimates based on graphical data from the PTO; practically speaking, however, any deviations from the "true" values are going to barely show up here due the scale of this graph.
Unsurprisingly, there was a large jump in both ex parte and inter partes filings in Q4 of 2012. These spikes corresponded with the approximately 5-fold fee increase for filing an ex parte reexamination request, and the transition to inter partes review coupled with a similarly high fee structure on September 16, 2012. Since then, ex parte reexamination requests have remained low while inter partes review filings have been on the rise, eclipsing even pre-September 16 inter partes reexamination levels (for just the first two months of Q4 of FY 2013, there have already been more than 130, which constitutes more inter partes filings than any previous 3-month quarter except for Q4 2012).
What about supplemental examination requests? In the past I've expressed skepticism that supplemental examination will be a widely used mechanism. To date, the actual filing data appears to have born that skepticism out: the PTO's supplemental examination final rules predicted about 1,430 requests anually; as of August 30, 2013 there were 40.
What surprised me the most about this data is that supplemental examination was widely believed to be the new path to ex parte reexamination for patent owners (i.e.: rather than file an ex parte reexamination request, just file a supplemental examination request), including by the PTO itself. See 77 Fed. Reg. 48828, 48847 (Aug. 14, 2012) ("In view of the benefits to patent owners afforded by supplemental examination under 35 U.S.C. 257(c), the Office is estimating that all 110 requests for ex parte reexamination that would have been filed annually by patent owners will instead be filed as requests for supplemental examination."). So far, however, traditional ex parte reexamination requests are an order of magnitude greater than supplemental examination filings. Of course, this can all change with time – inter partes post grant proceedings started off slow but now have eclipsed ex parte reexamination.
One last chart, again from the PTO's website: pre-issuance submissions are becoming a relatively common, although by no means ubiquitous, type of filing.