My keen research assistant Patrick Barnacle pulled up records on 56 ex parte patent appeals that have been decided by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit since March 2005. All of these cases arise from rejections sustained by the USPTO’s internal Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI). We are working to create a more complete database. In the meantime, I wanted to report some preliminary results on timing.
The median ex parte appeal took just over fifteen months to complete as measured from the date of the BPAI decision until the date of the Federal Circuit decision. As measured from the filing of the CAFC Notice of Appeal, the median appeal took exactly one year (365 days). Some appeals took longer: Comiskey, Ferguson, and Bilski each took more than two years from the NOA, but they were all tied to en banc decisions. About 25% of the appeals took less than ten months from the NOA.
Once oral arguments (if any) are complete, the Federal Circuit is rather quick at issuing an opinion. The median decision was issued 47 days after the oral arguments. (Again, a skewed average of 86 days is driven by the handful of en banc decisions) 30% of the decisions came within one week of oral arguments – most of those took one to two days.
We have not yet analyzed the correlation between delay and results, but it appears that especially quick decisions tend to favor the PTO over the applicant. As you might expect, delays in judgment correlate with longer opinions; opinions marked precedential; dissenting opinions; and opinions with Judge Newman on the panel.