Three New Metrics for Patent Examiner Activity

Three New Metrics for Patent Examiner Activity: Office Actions per Grant Ratio (OGR), Office Actions per Disposal Ratio (ODR), and Grant to Examiner Ratio (GER)

Shine Sean Tu

The current metric for examiner prosecution activity is allowance rate, which is calculated by dividing the total number of allowances by the sum of the allowances and abandonments (allowance rate = total allowance / (total allowances + total abandonments)). Importantly, however, allowance rates do not consider an examiner’s pending docket. Specifically, allowance rates do not fully capture if the examiner is simply writing office actions thereby prolonging prosecution or allowing cases. This study rectifies this failure by creating and analyzing a dataset that captures every active examiner’s current docket. Calculating the Office Action per Grant Ratio (OGR = Total # of Office Actions / Total # of Grants), this study’s new metric for measuring patent examiner activity, captures not only pending cases, but also helps decipher which examiners are spending their time allowing cases or writing Office Actions. This new metric indirectly helps determine if specific examiners are prolonging prosecution compared with peers within their Art Unit, Workgroup and Technology Center. Using the OGR score, this study elucidates how examiners in certain art units and Workgroups behave- specifically, which examiners in certain art units are more likely to write office actions or allow cases. To calculate the OGR, this study captures 8,537,660 office actions, 2,812,177 granted patents and 1,255,552 abandonments from 9,535 examiners from January 1, 2001 to June 8, 2017.

This study finds that, overall, there is a wide range of OGR scores across the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), commonly ranging from approximately 0.2 to 23. Furthermore, overall, most examiners have an OGR of 3.0 or below, which means that most examiners write 3 Office Actions before granting a patent. These OGR scores roughly correlate to allowance rates, but there are a significant number of examiners that do not have an allowance rate that corresponds with OGR scores. There are more examiners with high OGR scores in Technology Centers 16001 and 17002, which may reflect the complex nature associated with biotechnology and chemical patents. In contrast, there are a higher number of examiners with low OGR scores in Technology Center 2800, which corresponds to Semiconductors, Electrical and Optical Systems and Components.

Interestingly, when broken down into Workgroups, this study finds that there can be large variation in OGR scores. For example, in Technology Center 1600, Workgroups 1610 and 16203 have a disproportionate number of examiners with high OGR scores. Similarly, in Technology Center 3600, Workgroups 3620 and 36804 have many examiners with high OGR scores, which is unsurprising since both Workgroups encompass “Data Processing: Financial, Business Practice, Management, or Cost/Price Determination” or business methods type applications.

100 J. Pat. & Trademark Off. Soc’y 277(2018)

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