This report maps the patent prosecution landscape during the past five years, from January 1, 2017, through December 31, 2021. It offers various insights on the patenting trends, domestic and foreign fillings analysis, high-tech and biotech activity, etc. We have covered several key statistics for this period such as Apple’s Top Patent Attorneys in Patexia 133, Most Inventive US Cities and States in Patexia 134, and the rise of China as the Second Most Active Patentee in Patexia 136. Having already covered the companies with the largest patent growth and decline in Patexia 140, this week, we will turn to the best-performing and most active law firms during the period of our study.
From January 1, 2017, through December 31, 2021, a total of 1,823,414 patents were issued with utility patents being the most popular type, accounting for over 90% of the total patents or 1,655,076 patents. Design patents account for about 9% of the total while plant and re-issued patents cover only less than 1%. The USPTO only publishes applications 18 months after their filing date, therefore, we look at the published applications, considering them as a proxy to patent filing activity for the period. The chart below summarizes the published applications and the issued patents during the past five years:
The number of published applications has been fluctuating between a maximum of 433,868 in 2019 and a minimum of 382,362 in 2021, representing a nine percent decline from 2020. The rate of issued patents follows the same trend as the published applications and it dropped 6.8% when compared to 2020. The year 2019 has the highest number of patents issued at 395,456 while 2018 has the least with 337,697. This decline was observed even in the filing applications, especially those coming from Japanese entities, which accounted for 13% of the total filings during 2021 as covered last week in Patexia 141.
We evaluated a total of 3,591 law firms that secured these patents for 117,772 foreign and domestic entities. For each of the law firms, we measured their performance and activity in three different categories: overall, high-tech, and biotech. The full 2022 Patent Prosecution Report provides the list of the top 1000 most active and best-performing entities. The following table shows some of the best-performing and most active law firms in patent prosecution based on the report. Being ranked among the top 250 out of a total of 3,591 firms means that the firm belongs to the top seven percentile in the respective category:
The 2022 Patent Prosecution Report offers other key data related to law firms practicing during the last five years such as the top three clients, allowance, average number of office actions, extensions, pendency, etc. For the first time this year, this report provides a section dedicated to attorneys after evaluating 27,084 registered patent attorneys and agents. This was previously not possible as tens of millions of documents needed to be crunched for data extraction. Thanks to Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques combined with Machine Learning, the attorney names are now available for each patent and ongoing patent applications.
Historically it has been difficult to rank and rate patent attorneys, law firms, or patent portfolios especially when it came to performance. While past efforts have ranked law firms or companies based on their filing activity, no significant effort has been undertaken to measure the performance of an attorney or a law firm in terms of quality of work. Not only was the data not available from the patent office, but processing large datasets was expensive and difficult. Our algorithms and the presence of many data sources including those provided by the United States Patent Office and other sources, such as the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) or PACER, for patent litigation, have made this task both feasible and affordable.
In order to compare entities and ultimately, generate the rankings, the Patexia Data Science team extracted more than 20 signals from a variety of data sources. As the volume of activity by biotech companies is generally less than that of the high-tech companies, we decided to create separate metrics for biotech and high-tech. When it came to the Activity scores and rankings, we used the number of issued patents as an input. Meanwhile, to calculate the performance of all stakeholders, we added four more signals. Success is the score assigned to entities by calculating the percentage of success in obtaining a patent or patent claim. Quality was another important feature we considered — it represents the claim quality, broadness, novelty, and market coverage that determine whether a patent or a claim is valuable. The Efficiency score was defined to measure the speed and simplicity of the process of obtaining a patent. Lastly, we calculated the overall Cost, including attorney’s fee and the USPTO fees, for obtaining and maintaining a patent. The Performance score is calculated as a weighted average of the above factors.
Keeping in mind that the perspective of companies and law firms is different for patents, we differentiated the performance definition for them. Law firms can not be considered responsible for the quality of invention (the field, market, complexity, etc.). Their goal is to obtain an enforceable patent with the broadest claim possible and do this in an efficient manner. On the other side, companies are aiming for the highest quality patents, while trying to minimize the cost. They have less control over the efficiency of the process but they can control the quality of their inventions.
In the following weeks, we plan to extend the coverage of this report by analyzing some of the top attorneys in patent prosecution as well as uncovering some of the best entities coming from our Trademark Prosecution report released the previous month. Stay tuned!