There’s a ghost art unit at the USPTO. It has patent applications assigned to it, but it has no Examiners. If you have the bad luck to have one of your patent applications assigned to this ghost art unit, the application will never get examined. At least, it will never get examined for so long as it sits in this art unit.
At our firm we try to track the FOAPs — first office action predictions — for our pending patent applications. We try to keep track of which art units are bogged down and which ones take up new applications sooner. We stumbled upon the existence of this ghost art unit when we kept noticing that some of our pending applications had no FOAP at all.
The ghost art unit is art unit 2910. This art unit has two SPEs (supervisors) but they do not supervise any Examiners, because there are no Examiners in this art unit.
A normal art unit might have a dozen or more Examiners. Art unit 2913, for example, has sixteen Examiners supervised by one SPE.
We have fifteen applications assigned to art unit 2910. The oldest case of ours that is in this art unit was filed more than a year ago — September 23, 2013.
I phoned up one of the SPEs for art unit 2910. He answered the phone, and we talked a bit. It seems that art unit 2910 is supposed to be a mere temporary resting place for a newly filed application, while somebody figures out which “real” art unit might be the best one to examine the application. I tried to point out that it was not “temporary” at all — that we had patent applications that had been filed months ago or more than a year ago that were languishing in this art unit.
That was a couple of weeks ago. I sort of figured what might happen next is I might see our fifteen cases get moved to “real” art units. Maybe they would even get assigned to an Examiner! Maybe they would even get examined!
But no. Even now all of our cases that were in this ghost art unit are still there.
The alert reader will appreciate that because it starts with “29”, you can immediately tell that this ghost art unit is for design patent applications as distinguished from utility patent applications. I will mention that we have quite a few pending design patent applications for GUIs (graphical user interfaces) and that all of our cases that are stalled in art unit 2910 are GUI cases.
Do you have design patent applications — probably GUI applications — that are stalled in art unit 2910? If so, please post a comment. Are your applications in art unit 2910 GUI applications? How old is your oldest case that is stalled in the ghost art unit?
4 Replies to “The ghost art unit at the USPTO”
The plot thickens. I went back and looked at our fifteen or so cases that are parked in the ghost art unit 2910. It turns out (you can see it from the Filing Receipts) that each of these cases did get classified (D14) and did get assigned to a “real” art unit (2913). And only later got transferred to the ghost art unit. So it’s just not true that 2910 is a temporary resting place while the Office figures out how to classify the application. My best guess is that what’s really going on here is that art unit 2913 was developing an embarrassingly big backlog and a fiddle had to be found to hide the backlog.
Along the same lines:
We are just now learning about a secret USPTO SAWS program. Read the FOIA document…it is outrageous. Some of the criteria that allows an application to be kicked into SAWS is as nebulous as “potentially generating unwanted media coverage” or “pioneering scope.” What a travesty. Oh – and unconstitutional, as well.
I filed a design patent application for a client in Aug 2012, assigned to Art Unit 2913. Nothing happened until a Notice of Allowance was sent in Sept 2014. Not sure what others are experiencing, but I see most design applications examined about 1 year from filing. So maybe there is something to the Unit 2913 backlog theory.