How long it takes USPTO to issue a patent these days

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I am gobsmacked to see how consistently quickly USPTO is issuing patents these days. Design patents are taking less than five weeks. Utility patents are taking less than six weeks.

We are all in the habit of telling our clients that once we pay an Issue Fee, we can expect that it might take the USPTO around six weeks (around 42 days) to issue a patent.  One might speculate that the disruptions of work-from-home in the year 2020 would lead to situations where recurring tasks at the USPTO would take longer than usual.   Maybe the average interval between payment of Issue Fee and issuance would, during these challenging times, be observed to grow longer than 42 days?

But at least in this narrow area, the USPTO seems to be carrying out a particular recurring task somewhat faster than usual.  I will explain.

When an Issue Fee gets paid, the application lands on the desk of the Issue Branch.  The case goes through a process called Final Data Capture.  Eventually the Issue Branch picks a particular Tuesday on which the patent is going to issue.  The Issue Branch then mails out an Issue Notification which informs the applicant of the patent number and the issue date.

Here we see how it went in the Issue Branch for a dozen of our recently issued US design patents.  (I tossed out one outlying data point where it took 120 days for a design patent to issue;  the inordinate delay in that case was due to factors outside of the control of the Issue Branch.)

issue fee
Paid
issue
Notification
interval
(days)
issued interval
(days)
interval
(days)
09/10/20 09/16/20 6 10/06/20 26 20
07/10/20 07/22/20 12 08/11/20 32 20
05/25/20 06/17/20 23 07/07/20 43 20
05/12/20 05/20/20 8 06/09/20 28 20
04/26/20 05/06/20 10 05/26/20 30 20
04/23/20 05/06/20 13 05/26/20 33 20
04/28/20 05/06/20 8 05/26/20 28 20
04/23/20 04/29/20 6 05/19/20 26 20
02/27/20 03/18/20 20 04/07/20 40 20
01/03/20 01/22/20 19 02/11/20 39 20
12/11/19 01/08/20 28 01/28/20 48 20
12/11/19 01/01/20 21 01/21/20 41 20
    14.5   34.5  

The first column is the date that we paid the Issue Fee.  Next is the date the Issue Branch mailed the Issue Notification.  The fourth column is the date the patent issued.  

The third column is the most interesting column.  It tells us how many days passed between the payment of the Issue Fee and the mailing of the Issue Notification.  For these dozen cases, that interval averaged 14½ days.  This is the interval within which the Issue Fee payment is “verified” and within which FDC (final data capture) takes place.  Astonishingly in two cases it took a mere six days for the Issue Branch to carry out the entirety of the Issue Fee verification and the final data capture.  This third column is what I plotted in the graph at the top of the article.  The line in the graph looks jagged, but the main point of the graph is that all of these numbers are small numbers.  The numbers average 14½ and two of the numbers are a mere 6.

The sixth column is the interval between the mailing of the Issue Notification and the issuance of the design patent.  As you can see this is a rock-steady twenty days.  Adding this number to the previously mentioned 14½ days matches the observed average of 34½ days between payment of the Issue Fee and the issuance of the design patent.  This is just under five weeks.

Now let’s take a look at half a dozen of our recently issued US utility patents.

issue fee
Paid
issue
Notification
interval
(days)
issued interval
(days)
interval
(days)
07/24/20 08/12/20 19 09/01/20 39 20
06/05/20 06/24/20 19 07/14/20 39 20
05/12/20 06/03/20 22 06/23/20 42 20
05/18/20 06/03/20 16 06/23/20 36 20
04/30/20 05/20/20 20 06/09/20 40 20
04/08/20 04/29/20 21 05/19/20 41 20
03/20/20 04/08/20 19 04/28/20 39 20
    19.4   39.4  

(For this table I also tossed out one outlying data point — a case with very long delays due to something out of the control of the Issue Branch.)

What we see for utility patents is that the Issue Fee verification and final data capture took an average of 19.4 days.  This is longer than the 14½-day interval observed for design patent applications, but I am not surprised that it is longer, given that utility patent applications are generally more complicated than design patent applications.  Again we see a rock-steady twenty days between the mailing of the Issue Notification and the issuance of the patent.  When we add 20 to 19.4, we match the observed average 39.4-day interval between payment of a utility patent Issue Fee and issuance of the utility patent.

I had an opportunity to speak by telephone a few weeks ago with the woman at the USPTO who manages most of the Final Data Capture process (you know who you are!).  I offered her my observations on the USPTO’s having functioned so well in recent months in this area of Issue Fee verification and FDC, and I asked her to please pass along my compliments to the appropriate people.  She said she would do that.  

One thought on “How long it takes USPTO to issue a patent these days

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