Throwback Thursday: 1993 Patent Application Pendency


1993 USPTO Annual Report


The chart above comes from the USPTO’s 1993 annual report.  Back then, applications received a first action on the merits within eight months of filing and appplications issued/abandoned in under 20 months (on average).

52 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: 1993 Patent Application Pendency

  1. 6

    Isn’t this a bit meaningless without knowing the number of patent applications s being filed, or more preferably, the number of patent applications being filed per examiner, and/or the workload (on a per-patent application basis) per examiner?

    1. 6.2

      Good point Bob, as sitting around in queue may impact the throughput calculation.

      As noted below, having or retaining examiners may have an impact.

      But the question of why would still need to be asked at that level.

      Have you ever heard of the Five Why root cause analysis?

  2. 5

    Also OT, but still waiting for 6 to speak up in defense of (or at least fork over some dough to) outgoing Attorney General Jon Bruning.

    What’s the matter, 6, you have that “convenient amnesia” thing going on again?


          K I see it.

          My take on the matter is that, as I originally stated long ago, the cease and desist might have been a bit overbroad in scope (and maybe went on too long) but other than that he’s good to go. Specifically as to this judgement this ruling will likely be overturned on appeal as this judge is no stranger to having his nonsensical rulings sent back to him. Evidence of objective baselessness was certainly present. Whether or not it was great evidence or not is another matter but it definitely is evidence that can indicate objective baselessness. This judge’s job is not to determine ultimately whether that evidence ultimately does indicate objective baselessness or not. That will be why most if not all of the ruling is reversed on appeal.

          And yes, I still support state AG’s using all the laws in their power to protect their citizens from scams in the legal world just as much as any other scams.


            6 said “Evidence of objective baselessness was certainly present….” arguing in part “… whether or not great evidence… it definitely is evidence that *can indicate* objective baselessness”

            “Evidence” that “can indicate” A is not “evidence OF A” (as against B) unless that “evidence” is indicative only of A and/or is specifically indicative (by contradiction) of not B… evidence of either A or B is not “evidence of A”.

            Here, I would presume, a careful distinction must be made between objective baselessness (A) and subjective baselessness (B).

            However to indulge you, what evidence of “objective baselessness” do you claim is “certainly present” in this case?


              “However to indulge you, what evidence of “objective baselessness” do you claim is “certainly present” in this case?”

              That noted in the article.

              And don’t worry, you needn’t indulge me brosef, but the lawlfirms will near certainly need to indulge an appeal court judge that knows his arse from his elbow. It’ll be fun to watch actually.


                No such evidence is noted in the article.

                If you read the memorandum in support of the motion for summary judgment by MPHJ when they served the defendants AG with an interrogatory for evidence of any objective or subjective baselessness, the AG did not provide any evidence or argument at all re. “objective baselessness” asserting instead its belief that no showing of objective baselessness was even required.

                I think reality is you are fabricating evidence from nothing,… sorry that actually is impossible, you are fabricating a complete fiction.

                1. “The Attorney General argued that MPHJ sent letters to 100 different Nebraska industries”

                  Nope! No evidence noted!


                2. 6,

                  You are aware that “argued that” is not the same thing as evidence to support what was argued, right?

                3. “You are aware that “argued that” is not the same thing as evidence to support what was argued, right?”

                  Yeah I sure am. I’m not sure how everything went down in the proceedings, as I don’t have all that in front of me. I was just going by what they said in the article.

                  He says that their position is that they had evidence, and I trust they did/will/have introduced it at proper times. If they didn’t, and this is merely a case about them failing to submit their evidence on time then wahmp wahmp, guess they done fed up.

                  Though, if their argument is that they didn’t need to show that evidence at that time then that’s probably the case as well but I’d have to look further into all that as I don’t really have much info on it atm and was just commenting from the article. And, if that is their argument I wouldn’t be surprised if the court will allow its submission after the fact after appeal on that issue since the courts screw parties over who aren’t the state. But, we’ll see!

                4. If you read the decision you would have seen that “your trust” was misplaced.

                  Sort of like what I told you when this was going down.

                  You did not want to listen to me then either.

                5. “If you read the decision you would have seen that “your trust” was misplaced.”

                  We’ll see about that after appeal.

                6. That would be a neat trick for an appeal to insert evidence that was not there below.

                  (digging faster is not going to help you)

                7. “That would be a neat trick for an appeal to insert evidence that was not there below.”

                  You don’t “insert” it during the appeal. Typically they’d decide the issue of whether the evidence needed to be submitted, and if it needed to be submitted then they’d send the case back to the court below to have it be submitted. They’re not likely to let the state have to pay a million dollars simply because they lost on the question of whether it needed to be submitted. Chances of that happening are slim and none.

                  They’ve already filed an interlocutory appeal it looks like from the news.

    1. 5.2

      I guess it’s small consolation to MPHJ after losing their FTC case and having two of their patents (so far) neutered during IPR.

      1. 5.2.1

        The two are unrelated as far as I know, and I would not characterize this as a small consolation – it is a rather big deal (I can give you at least about 750,000 reasons why) that over-exuberant AG’s cannot go all Rambo and must follow the law too.

    1. 4.1

      Are you trying to say that in today’s electronic search capability augmented world that the process of examination is less efficient?

      Maybe the examination process needs an overhaul then, eh?

      1. 4.1.1

        In some fields there is simply too much prior art today for one person to effectively review it in the time allotted. Without electronic searching, effective examination today would simply be impossible – but the electronic searching tools aren’t sufficient to make searches truly good IMO.

        People are constantly thinking of small ways to improve examination efficiency, but I don’t know that anyone has come up with any actionable ideas for dramatic improvements.


          Are improvements in the classification system needed?

          Should non-patent literature be more easily accessible to examiners?


            The PTO is currently migrating from the old classification system to a new one called CPC (“Cooperative Patent Classification”) that was developed with the EPO. The CPC is a huge improvement. It’s more hierarchical which better allows for searching smaller, more specific groups of patents.

            Searching non-patent literature and foreign patents is a big problem. What is really needed is the ability to conduct full text searches of them. I don’t see that happening any time soon, as we barely have the ability to search old US patents (they were processed with optical character recognition software that, to put it politely, wasn’t the best).


              — Searching non-patent literature and foreign patents is a big problem. What is really needed is the ability to conduct full text searches of them. —

              IMO, PTO should be working on this big time.


                Agreed, but I think they really need to work on the old US patents too.

                “it is an object of this Invention to provide a new class of plasticizin and softening agents. A I 9 further object of the invention is to provide plas- ticiied compositior@s, having as a. bas6, plagticiz-. 10 able high niolecular weight matekials-., i particu- lo,i object of the invention is to provide plasti- cized vinyl chloride polymer compositions.” – US Pat. 2,536,498

                That’s an example of what examiners are conducting full text searches of. This obviously creates searching problems.

                1. and what is the PTO’s excuse

                  PTO’s excuse for not having basic functioning search tools for examiners is that management is busy doing other things. Their latest busy-work task for the manager-critters is the “Consistent Count Initiative” which is gubmint-speak for systematic harassment of examiners if their production fluctuates too much from one biweek to the next.

                2. Great – in the opposite direction from the correct “these are not all the same size widgets”….

                1. Not buying that flippant response.

                  It would be a Herculean task to make all non-patent literature full-text searchable. Even Google hasn’t done that (or at least let the public know about it). I don’t have much knowledge of copyright law, but I have thought many times that the government ought to be able to electronically organize and search published work for official purposes – maybe something the Library of Congress could do. Since examiners generally rely upon prior art that was published at least several years ago, this collection wouldn’t even necessarily need to be especially up-to-date.

                2. “Not buying that flippant response.”

                  Brosef what is being suggested is a multi-million, hundred million, or probably even billion dollar project that is outside the scope of the PTO’s mission. I’m not being flippant by saying the PTO doesn’t have the money.

                  It was estimated to simply save the classification scheme we have now would be upwards of a billion dollars. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of NPL/foreign.

                  The PTO doesn’t even have the expertise for that matter. Everyone seems to think just because google etc. has the men on board and power to organize the world’s info that everyone else has those men and power as well. They do not.

      2. 4.1.2

        “Are you trying to say that in today’s electronic search capability augmented world that the process of examination is less efficient?”

        It is made that way artificially so in response to the rising amounts of prior art. At least by some people.


          It [inefficiency] is made that way

          Let me make sure I understand your response: are you saying that someone choose to be more inefficient?

          How does that fly?


            “Let me make sure I understand your response: are you saying that someone choose to be more inefficient?”


            “How does that fly?”

            That depends on who you’re “flying” it in front of. If it’s one of the people making the search artificially longer to overall make examination less efficient (in the name of a super duper “complete” search/finding expedition for every app) then it flies very well for them. If it’s a normal person just trying to operate within the budget of time established or a person doing the establishing of that budget then it doesn’t fly well at all. I’m having conflict with one of the former people right now as a matter of fact.

  3. 3

    Thanks for the post; sorry to be OT here, but a Canadian foreign associate recently sent us a memo about the ‘promise doctrine,’ which was news to me but sounds like it might be a big deal. Apparently Eli Lilly is suing the Canadian government under NAFTA over what they’re calling a change in patent rules starting in 2005 that was then used to invalidate two of their patents. The idea apparently is that if you ‘promise’ a certain outcome (like curing cancer) in your spec but then your claimed invention doesn’t deliver–and this is assessed as of the filing date–then the claims may be declared invalid. But these were court decisions that invalidated the claims, so I don’t understand how Lilly can succeed unless the Canadian constitution works differently than ours, right? Anyway I was surprised to hear about this and am wondering if it’s really a problem for our Canadian cases or if the foreign associate is making a mountain out of a (relative) molehill.

    1. 3.1

      This clarifies the situation a bit:

      link to

      Looks like the promise doctrine has ben around for over a decade now in Canada. (2002 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Apotex Inc. v. Wellcome Foundation)

      The recent Eli Lilly loss and suit probably is fueling your foreign associate’s hopes that something can change. Patent rights are important so as for the “mountain/mole hill” thing … its been there a while… maybe something can change in your favor.

    2. 3.2

      Hmmm – actually having the claimed utility at the time of filing for pharma patents….

      I have heard of that concept before. 😉

  4. 2

    What happened in the 1980-1982 timeframe to account for the 50% increase in “to first action” timing?

    This was almost twenty years before “the scourge of business methods” and well before “software patents” (as the koolaid krowd would have it) – so what explains the relative high dysfunction?

      1. 2.2.1

        That is a good guess. Engineers were in short supply before mid-1982, with chemical engineering starting salaries starting to hit an unheard of level of $30K/yr. Recall that the OPEC oil shock of 1979 drove oil companies to start enhanced oil recovery programs and chemical companies to undertake energy recovery process improvements.

        But by mid-1982, the party was over and the jobs dried up. It looks like the backlog starts to be addressed beginning in 1983, when folks who wouldn’t normally have considered working at the USPTO did.

        (I was an ’83 grad who started into grad school after a summer internship to wait for a turn-around in the job market while working on my PhD…)



          But would one area alone (chem) account for a 50% degradation…? That just does not seem right.


            You may be right. It could have been changes corporate filing rates, as well, since the economy was seesawing for several years.

            But I recall that hiring in EE was brisk in the ’80s and continued to be so. (My twin brother is an ’83 EE grad.) Starting salaries caught up and passed ChE salaries, as I recall. With the software, process control, and analytical chemical electronics training that a lot of ChEs had, they could have easily been used in other art areas.

            Maybe some old time (retired?) examiners can shed some light on this.


            I do know that at least one major U.S. automaker had a hiring freeze from 1979 till 1984 for all but a few engineering positions.


                Not necessarily. A recession, as was affecting the U.S. auto industry, may cause limits in a number of sectors of the economy, including the budgeting of government funds with which to hire Examiners. We constantly heard complaints that the USPTO was not given sufficient funding by Congress.

                1. anon, In response to you comment at 7:16 AM: During the timeframe under discussion, the USPTO was not generating enough income from its own fees to be self-sufficient. Taxpayer funding was required. Eventually, USPTO fee generation grew (in part by higher fee rates), and Congress took money from the USPTO – the so-called “fee diversion” controversy.

                2. Thanks other – you are correct, as it was only at 1990, that the Office became User funded.

                  Good point!

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