By Dennis Crouch
Although the Patent Act provides for a 20-year patent term, that term can be extended in a few ways. The most common avenue is through Patent Term Adjustment that is automatically awarded to patentees if the USPTO fails to meet its guarantee of timely examination. As the backlog of pending cases grew, so has the average patent term adjustment. More recently, however, the USPTO has moved to reduce the backlog and average pendency – that result is that PTA has also been significantly reduced — for the first time in several years, the average PTA is below 1-year. The time series below shows the average PTA for all utility patents granted since January 2005. The jump in PTA seen in 2009 was due to a legal change in how the term is interpreted. The second chart shows the percentage of patents that are awarded PTA – that figure is also trending down, but is still a troubling 70%.