Patent Grant Rate by Technology Area

By Dennis Crouch

The chart below shows the grant rate of US patent applications grouped by technology center sub-groups (technology area). The numbers come from a random set of 10,000 published patent applications that were filed between 2003 and 2010. Later-filed applications cannot be readily used for this exercise because most of them are still pending. The grant rate is calculated simply by counting the percentage of applications that have as patents. The areas of technology are shown with a representative technology-center (or art unit). Overall the grant rate in this population was 60%. I have also added error-bars showing the 95% CI for each group.



17 thoughts on “Patent Grant Rate by Technology Area

  1. 5

    Sometimes you don’t realize how good you are until they show you how bad everyone else is. Clearly I’m leaving free counts on the table.

    If anyone really thinks there should be upwards of 50% allowance rates in most of these areas, you’re mistaken. There simply is not enough non-obvious stuff occurring. A handful of these should be at 10%ish.

    1. 5.2

      If anyone really thinks there should be upwards of 50% allowance rates in most of these areas, you’re mistaken. There simply is not enough non-obvious stuff occurring. A handful of these should be at 10%ish.
      LOL … classic USPTO-think. Damn the actual law — we’ll do whatever we can to make sure we meet our pre-determined percentages.

      BTW — unless you KNOW the art and what is getting filed, any assertion that “[t]here simply is not enough non-obvious stuff occurring” is just BS.

      I suspect that the percentages vary for the following reasons (in no specific order):
      Quality of attorneys practicing in the particular art.
      Quality of examiners (cuts both ways).
      Extra special attention given to certain fields by the USPTO (see 3620).
      Relative costs of filing application to cost of invention (e.g., for many biotech inventions it costs so much to “invent” that the incremental cost of obtaining a patent is so little that you may take more chances on less-than-stellar inventions).
      Similar to the above, the relative value of a patent (e.g., in biotech) versus cost of prosecution is so great that it is worth filing applications even on marginal inventions.
      Ease of finding prior art.
      How crowded the technological field is.
      Relative sophistication of the inventors/(real) applicants in the field.

  2. 4

    link to

    In a recent letter to the United States Sentencing Commission, Attorney Ge neral Eric H. Holder Jr. sharply criticized the growing trend of evidence-based sentencing, in which courts use data-driven predictions of defendants’ future crime risk to shape sentences….

    The basic problem is that the risk scores are not based on the defendant’s crime. They are primarily or wholly based on prior characteristics: criminal history (a legitimate criterion), but also factors unrelated to conduct. Specifics vary across states, but common factors include unemployment, marital status, age, education, finances, neighborhood, and family background, including family members’ criminal history.

    Let me guess: some awesome company has patents on methods of “using a computer” to ge nerate these “risk scores.”

    1. 4.1

      From the Justice Department report in the link, featuring the highlights of past analytics (the report DOES list several concerns):

      link to

      “In criminal justice, the use of analytics is not new, of course. CompStat, the New York City Police Department’s management tool – now replicated and deployed in many other police departments across the country – has, for example, been used for decades to allocate police resources efficiently by mapping where crime has occurred and predicting where and when crimes are most likely to occur in the future…

      Similarly, predictive analysis has been part of sentencing and corrections in the United States for many decades The rehabilitative model of sentencing and corrections, which was at the heart of the creation of the modern penitentiary and which dominated sentencing and corrections policy in the U.S. until the late 20th Century, was fundamentally based on predicting future behavior…

      First, this kind of complex human decision making is often based on errors, biases and heuristics. Second, decision makers have little insight into their own decision-making processes. And third, statistical models are more accurate and more consistent, and thus fairer, than statistical human decision making.”

  3. 3

    Depends on what is “Electrical Circuits and Systems”…

    that “Systems” can cover almost anything.

    1. 3.2

      I work in this unit a lot. It’s mainly electronic ballasts and driver circuits for LEDs, fluorescents, etc.

      1. 3.2.1

        It’s the big players patenting every driver circuit change and variation that they make.

  4. 2

    3620 — Electronic Commerce (i.e., the art unit that many “business methods” are examiner within) at around 36% (or third lowest allowance rate per the chart).

    So much for the oft-repeated notion that one need only add “by a computer” to an old process get a patent. Of course, anybody with experience in the area already knew that this “notion” was full of sht to begin with. However, whether or not someone subscribed to that notion did serve to separate the real practitioners from the poseurs.

    I’m curious to see the upcoming spin associated with this percentage.

    1. 2.1

      So much for the oft-repeated notion that one need only add “by a computer” to an old process get a patent.

      Here’s a few that issued last week. Took five minutes to find.


      1. An automated method of remotely monitoring and controlling an electronic device, the method comprising: by a computer system of a monitoring center:

      receiving a call over a network from the electronic device, said call initiated by an agent installed on the electronic device…

      in response to the call: determining, at least, whether a sale of the electronic device has been reported and whether the electronic device is reported as stolen;

      by communication with the agent, causing the electronic device to enter into a state that is dependent … upon the determination of whether a sale of the electronic device has been reported…


      1. A method comprising:

      collecting, using at least one computing device, reputation information of a requester, … the reputation information is based on blah blah blah;

      storing, using the at least one computing device, the requester’s reputation information;

      calculating, using the at least one computing device, an access decision rating based upon the requester’s reputation information;

      storing, using the at least one computing device, the access decision rating;

      determining, using the at least one computing device, a change in the requester’s reputation information, wherein the change comprises at least one of: a) the first user forming a new association with another organization or b) the first user forming a new association with a second user blah blah blah

      This one is especially funny because it tries sooooooooo hard to hide the ball. Watch this amazing compooter device “detect a change”!!!!! WOW

      1. A method for detecting changes to security classifications … in a data loss prevention system…:

      configuring, according to the policy, [a] … machine (ROTFLMAO) that defines a set of … security classification states…;

      …determining…whether a change in the security classification … has occurred, the change indicative of an attempt to subvert the enforcement rule defined by the policy;

      and if a change in the classification of the artifact has occurred, ge nerating a notification of the change in the security classification.

      1. 2.1.1

        MM, gotta luv 8,800,029. Reminds me of a proposal by big software, as a part of UCC2, to legally be able remotely disable your software if you were late on your royalty payments.

        Now where did I hear that your Xbox, or some such apparatus, would cease to work unless you logged into MS every day, and your ability to log in depended upon paying MS a fee?

        Perhaps we can do the same thing with cars. Turn them off unless you continue to pay.

        Soon, people will own nothing.

        Brave new world out there.

      2. 2.1.2

        Wake me up when MM has something (at least marginally) substantive to say — him expressing amazement over patented inventions he doesn’t understand has gotten very old.


          inventions he doesn’t understand

          Because this is stuff is really sooper dooper technical. Hey lookie there’s ten flow charts in the specification and a bunch of acronyms! Must be real science-y and stuff.


            real science-y

            LOL – reminds me of the time when Malcolm attempted to say that business method patents lacked the application of the scientific principle, only to smashed down with the likes of Deming et al.

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