For the chart below, I collected a randomized sample of outcomes from 30,000 utility patent applications published 2001-2016. For each application, I identified the ‘disposal date’ – with the disposal date being either (1) the date that the resulting patent issued or (2) the date that the patent application was deemed abandoned. Still pending applications (even those subject to an RCE) were not given a disposal date.
For the chart below, I grouped disposals by quarter and then calculated the percent issued as patents compared with the percent abandoned. You’ll note the drop in allowance rate in 2008-2009 under Jon Dudas with the rapid rise in allowance rate once David Kappos took-over as director. Although less dramatic, allowance rate continued to rise under Michelle Lee. Of course, the allowance rate depends upon both the USPTO approach to prosecution as well as that of the applicant.
There are many different ways to calculate USPTO “allowance rate” and this is only one. The PTO typically considers the filing of an RCE to be a disposal. That approach makes the allowance rate appear substantially lower. Others look at an entire patent family — making the allowance rate appear substantially higher.