Guest Post: U.S. Patent Practitioner Trends of 2016 – Part I

By Zachary Kinnaird, Patent Attorney with International IP Law Group, PLLC

As an update to last year’s write-up on this topic, 1,210 new U.S. patent practitioners earned registration numbers in 2015, a slight rebound from the recent low in 2014 according to data gathered from the USPTO roster. These 2015 results extend a nearly 40% dip over the past six years from recent highs in 2008 and 2009 when around 2000 new practitioners were added each year. Based on Jan-April 2016 registrations, I project about 1,150 new practitioners in 2016.

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Last year I projected 1,000 new patent agents and patent attorneys would earn their registration number. My prediction missed by ~17% of the final total. However, last year I used only one month’s data was to make a year-end prediction, while this year my prediction is made with four months of data as a guide. Otherwise, I used the same methodology for this finding as the previous write-up last year.

The above graph shows only initial registrations.  It does not show changes in which a patent agent becomes a patent attorney, as the practitioner does not receive a new registration number.  The registrations for 2015 indicate that 42.4% of the initial registrations were for patent attorneys and 57.6% were for patent agents (some of whom later became or will become patent attorneys).

9 thoughts on “Guest Post: U.S. Patent Practitioner Trends of 2016 – Part I

  1. Admittedly a bit more data intensive, I would like to see the numbers here (and the modified numbers as discussed in the comments) serve as a norming factor to the quantity of application filings over the same period.

    And then compare that to a number of distinct signatories on those filings (taking the pro se filings into account, of course).

    Has the work load per attorney/agent (or per unique signee) changed significantly? Trended up? Trending down?

  2. I wonder how many are patent attorneys that do prosecution full-time. My guess is not many.

  3. …not to be confused with those that engage in patent litigation (without the benefit of maintaining a registration number with the Patent Office), right?

    Right. Patent litigators aren’t nearly as cool as the rest of us. Why, those patents in suit were issued years ago, and filed years before that. By definition, you’re working with old, boring stuff. :)

    1. Considering that there are 1.3 million licensed lawyers in the US, according to the ABA’s 2015 statistics, and around 45 thousand matriculating law students each year, it’s kinda cool that we have such a tiny niche.

      (I’m sure someone will insist that there’s still far too many of us)

      1. Agreed, it’s much likely smaller than 75k, at least on the U.S. patent prosecution side. Many of the assigned serial numbers were assigned to people who no longer practice. I’ll be covering that in part 2 of these trends. Based on the data I have, I’d guess it’s much closer to an active bar of 30k or fewer for practitioners who can file patents in the U.S. (i.e. ignoring patent litigators who have not passed the patent bar).

      2. Yup. And I would guess a fair bit fewer than half of those 75K actually working as patent lawyers or patent agents (given the current “active” roster is only 60% of that (about 44K).

        Then again, I could point out that that something less than 60% of those 1.3 million licensed lawyers actually has a job as a lawyer…

        Anyway, if you compare licensed patent attorneys to licensed attorneys, out of any 200 attorneys only 5 of us will be patent attorneys.

        1. …not to be confused with those that engage in patent litigation (without the benefit of maintaining a registration number with the Patent Office), right?

          Let alone any engaged solely in litigation but are not involved in obtaining protection for those with patents… (distinction supplied since some claim to be “patent attorneys” but are very much predisposed to be against patents, and more accurately should be called anti-patent attorneys)

          😉

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