Monday, October 5, 2020

How to use Patent Examiner Statistics

I personally find patent examiner statistics enormously valuable in my practice. In this blog post, I provide a guide that you can use to get better outcomes for your clients using Patent Bots examiner statistics. 

We give many of our statistics away for free, and we also have a Premium Statistics subscription for some of our more advanced statistics. The first time you login to Patent Bots you will get a 2-week trial, and that will allow you to see all of our statistics at no charge. Afterwards, you'll need a firm-wide subscription to our Premium Statistics.

I'll walk through the different parts of our statistics pages and explain why we included each part and how it can help you. We work hard to provide you with the information you need, but also try not to overwhelm you with statistics that you don't care about.

Grant Rate and Difficulty Ranking

At a high level, the grant rate is the most important statistic.

The grant rate is our metric for comparing examiner difficulty. We compute what we call a "3-year" grant rate, which is the percentage of the examiner's applications that are granted at 3 years after the first office action. We have another blog post that explains the advantages of our 3-year grant rate over a conventional grant rate.

To put the examiner's grant rate in perspective, we rank all of the examiners at the USPTO according to their grant rate and show you the examiner's percentile. This examiner is in the 92nd percentile (harder than 92% of examiners) and this makes him an "extremely hard" examiner.

The grant rate and difficulty ranking are useful because it gives you the big picture of what you are up against. For a harder examiner, you can set client expectations, be more prepared to amend claims, and spend more time on quality arguments. For an easier examiner, you can be less inclined to amend claims and instead argue for allowance of as-filed claims.

Employment Information

We also show you is a summary of information about the examiner.

We show you the examiner's group, technology classes, and degree to give you an idea of how likely it is that the examiner will understand the technology of your invention. Applications sometimes get misclassified and you might need to do more work to get the examiner to appreciate the invention. If you have technically complicated invention, then it is very helpful to have an examiner with an advanced degree as we do here.

We also show you the contact information and location of the examiner to help you schedule interviews. Office Actions generally don't have the email address and location of the examiner.

Grant Rate Tab

In this tab, we show you a "grant rate timeline" for your examiner.

In this graph, time is on the horizontal axis, and the starting point is the date of the very first office action. For each month after the first office action, we compute the percentage of cases that are granted, pending, and abandoned. As time goes on, the percent granted and abandoned increase and the percent pending decreases. The grant rate at 3 years is exactly the 3-year grant rate described above.

I like the grant-rate timeline for two reasons. First, it provides a very clear way to set expectations with your client. If you have a hard examiner, like this one, you can tell your client that they have a 16% chance of getting an issued patent in 3 years.

Second, the grant-rate timeline concisely summarizes a lot of information about examiner behavior. We have another blog post where we summarize 5 different types of examiners based on their grant-rate timeline: the master, the ideologue, the decider, the negotiator, and the granter. This knowledge of examiner behavior helps you make better decisions about when to file an RCE, to file a notice of appeal, or to abandon a case.

In this tab, we also provide a bar chart that compares your examiner's grant rate to his or her art unit and the USPTO average. I find it useful to know if my examiner is much harder or easier than the art unit average. For example, if the examiner is much harder, I might get more sympathy from a supervisor or I may have a better chance of success with a pre-appeal conference request.

Interview Benefit Tab

In my practice, I just about always interview the examiner after each office action. I find that engaging with the examiner is very helpful in preventing misunderstandings and overcoming disagreements about the scope of the claims and the prior art. That said, there are some examiners you may not want to interview, such as this one.

To evaluate the benefit of an examiner, we compute two grant rates: (1) a grant rate over cases that had no applicant-requested interviews and (2) a grant rate over cases with at least one applicant-requested interview. Not surprisingly, for almost all examiners, the grant rate goes up when you do an interview.

For this examiner, however, her grant rate is 30% over cases without any interviews and is 22% over cases with at least one interview. Accordingly, you may be better off skipping the interview!

There are also some examiners that almost never do interviews. I don't understand how this happens, but I suppose some examiners don't like to do interviews and they actively avoid it. For these examiners, you may be better off not requesting an interview.

Recent Dispositions Tab

In this tab, we show a count of granted and abandoned cases for an examiner over the past 6 years.

This information is helpful because an examiner's grant rate can change greatly over time. For example, an examiner's grant rate often goes up when the examiner becomes a primary examiner since there is less review by colleagues. For another example, changes in the law (ahem, 35 U.S.C. § 101) can greatly change an examiner's grant rate.

This examiner is a great example. The examiner has a high difficulty rating (he is "very hard"), but over the last two years he is granting many more cases than he did before. From the examiner's tenure and GS level, it appears he was recently promoted to primary examiner. With this information, you may be more likely to file an RCE rather than a notice of appeal.

On this tab, we also show 20 of the examiner's recent cases that were granted or abandoned.

If I am having difficulty with an examiner, I will sometimes review patents that the examiner has recently allowed, look at the successful arguments that the patent attorney there used, and consider similar arguments in my own office action response. This is particularly helpful for 101 rejections.

We make this process easier for you in two ways. First, for each case, we show you a list of office actions and the rejections contained in each one. This saves you time because you can go directly to office actions that have the rejection you are facing. (Note that the OA Rejections column is only available with our Premium Statistics subscription.) Second, we have a button to take you directly to our PatentPlex image file wrapper page (separate subscription for this too) where you can directly download the office actions and responses that you are interested in. You don't even need to go to PAIR!

Appeals Statistics Tab

The last two tabs relating to appeals are only available with our Premium Statistics subscription. 

In the appeals statistics tab, we show statistics for three events: 
  1. The overall outcome of the appeal (at least 1 claim granted, all claims rejected, or prosecution reopened).
  2. For fully briefed appeals, the PTAB decision (examiner affirmed, affirmed in part, or reversed).
  3. The outcome of a pre-appeal conference (proceed to appeal, prosecution reopened, or claims allowed).
Here are example statistics for the overall outcome of appeals.

If you were uncertain about whether to appeal, this examiner's statistics would weigh heavily in favor of appealing. You have a 79% chance of getting claims allowed on appeal.

The combination of examiner grant rate and appeal outcomes are a very helpful combination in making appeal decisions. Here are a few examples:
  • An examiner with a low grant rate who is often affirmed on appeal. Best option may be to abandon or file a continuation and hope you get a different examiner.
  • An examiner with a low grant rate who is often reversed on appeal. Appeal early. Maybe even after the first final office action.
  • An examiner with a high grant rate who is often affirmed on appeal. File an RCE and work on reaching a compromise with the examiner.

Appeals History Tab

In the appeals history tab, we show a list of all the examiner's appeals along with a brief docket of appeal events.

Each case is color coded according to the appeal outcome (at least one claim granted, all claims rejected, or prosecution reopened). The appeal history is helpful because it tells you exactly what happened for each appeal.

For example, claims may be allowed for two reasons: (1) an examiner may be reversed by the board or (2) the examiner may change his or her mind and allow claims before the appeal goes to the board. I'll be more likely to appeal for an examiner who grants claims before it reaches the board than for an examiner who is frequently reversed by the board since the claims will be allowed much faster and you don't need to wait for the board decision.

Putting all of the above together, here is a sequence of events for a patent that I recently obtained for a client:
  1. Received a first office action with a poorly reasoned rejection of all claims.
  2. Interview benefit stats were positive so we interviewed the examiner.
  3. The examiner has a "medium" difficulty rating (59th percentile).  We filed a response without amending claims because the rejection was poorly reasoned.
  4. Received a final office action with poorly reasoned arguments.
  5. Appeal stats showed high chance of success on appeal and appeal history showed that the examiner frequently grants claims before writing his answering brief.
  6. We filed a notice of appeal and brief.
  7. Examiner calls us and offers us a very narrow dependent claim. We decline the offer.
  8. We receive a notice of allowance that allowed all of the as-filed claims.
  9. Issued patent!
Patent Bots examiner statistics helped us get broader claims allowed, get the claims allowed more quickly, and also reduce the costs of prosecution.

We hope found this guide to Patent Bots examiner statistics helpful, and that you are also able to use our statistics to get better outcomes for your clients. Please contact us if you have any suggestions for improving this guide or our examiner statistics. We love hearing from our users.

Monday, August 31, 2020

How accurate is our Art Unit Predictor?

 We launched our Group and Art Unit Predictor at the beginning of the year, and we are excited to announce that we just deployed an update that greatly increases the accuracy of our predictions. 

To refresh your memory, our Predictor processes a draft of your patent application, predicts the group and art unit that will be assigned, and helps you steer your application to a preferred group and art unit. Here is an example art unit prediction result:

Of course, such predictions are only useful if they are reasonably accurate. We computed the accuracy of our Predictor over a set of 10,000 patent applications (separate from our training data), and here are the results:

  • Group Prediction (57 groups)
    • Top prediction has 67% accuracy
    • Top 3 prediction has 89% accuracy
  • Art Unit Prediction (504 art units)
    • Top prediction has 48% accuracy
    • Top 5 prediction has 80% accuracy

We worked extremely hard to achieve this level of accuracy, and are very pleased with the results. This prediction task is very challenging because of (i) the large number of groups and art units and (ii) inconsistencies in the assignments done by the USPTO (humans are involved).

As far as we know, no other providers of similar services have disclosed the accuracies of their predictions. We believe transparency is important, and we also want to show off the hard work that we've done. At Patent Bots, we are experts in big data and machine learning, and our expertise allows us to provide advanced tools, such as our Group and Art Unit Predictor

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Automated Claim Chart Generation

Before we start charging for PatentPlex we have one more feature to announce! Automated generation of claim charts for any issued U.S. patent or U.S. patent publication.

From any PatentPlex page, at the click of the button, you can download a Microsoft Word document that includes a claim chart like this:

Our claim chart includes a table with a row for each claim limitation. Although not shown here, we also add a blank row between claims.

Manual generation of a claim chart like this is fairly tedious and time consuming, but with PatentPlex, you can obtain a claim chart in just seconds.

Claim chart generation is useful not just for patent prosecutors, but also for litigators or anyone else who needs to analyze a patent.

PatentPlex subscriptions start on August 1. Contact us at if you would like to add PatentPlex to your subscription.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Patent Analyzer -- The easiest way to review a U.S. patent

We are excited to announce PatentPlex Patent Analyzer! Our Patent Analyzer is the easiest way for patent attorneys to review the details of a published U.S. application or issued patent.

I'm sure that many of you already use Google patents to analyze patents. We took a hard look at Google patents from the perspective of a patent attorney, changed the things that annoyed us, and added new features that patent attorneys want. Here is what our Patent Analyzer looks like:

Here are the improvements we think you will like:
  • We show you a list of reference labels in the patent and a text description of each. This makes it much easier to understand what is being shown in the drawings.
  • The spec, claims, reference labels, and drawings are each shown in independently scrollable columns. This makes it easy to view claim 17 and paragraph 134 of the specification side by side.
  • The columns are all resizable horizontally so that you adjust the display to your liking.
  • The highlighting of hot words. You can select any word or phrase with your mouse, and we will instantly highlight that word or phrase throughout the patent. In the example image above, the phrase "audio data" has been selected. In the first column, we show you a list of hot words and a count of the number of times they appear in the specification and the claims.
  • Multiple colors for hot words. For each hot word you select, you have a choice of four colors to make it easier to look through a patent for multiple concepts simultaneously.  "audio data" is in yellow, "utterance" is in blue and so forth.
This tool is helpful for anyone reviewing a patent.  Whether you do patent prosecution, patent litigation, or are doing transactional work, our patent analyzer is the easiest way to review a patent.

Please try out our Patent Analyzer and let us know how you like it!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Reference label auto-completions

We've added a new feature to the Patent Bots Ref Label Tracker to help you draft your patent applications more efficiently.

As a reminder, our Ref Label Tracker provides you with an always up to date list of the reference labels in your patent application.  As you are drafting, if you forget what label you need, you just glance over to quickly find it.

We now provide shortcuts to help you type your reference labels more quickly.  For example, you might need to type "voice collection system 100" more than a dozen times while drafting your patent application.

To save you time, you can now type:

The //100

and we will automatically convert it to:

The voice collection system 100

We will also automatically handle capitalization for you so if you start a sentence with:


we will automatically convert it to

Voice collection system 100

where it starts with a capital letter.

We hope you find this useful, and please let us know what other features you would like to see in our Ref Label Tracker or other products.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Does my outside patent counsel care about me?

As in-house counsel, your priorities are to develop a high quality patent portfolio for your company while staying within the company's IP budget.

By contrast, the priority of outside counsel is more closely tied to basic economics. A law firm desires to maximize its profits, but higher quality work at a lower price may reduce profits.

As in-house counsel, it is important to take actions to ensure that your outside counsel is taking care to do high quality work.  This is especially the case with fixed-fee billing where there are higher incentives for law firms to cut corners.

One way to get higher quality work from your outside counsel is to carefully review all of their patent applications and office action responses.  But, this is quite time consuming and it is their job not yours to do that.

Fortunately, there are easier ways to make sure that your outside counsel provides high quality work, and in this blog post we provide some tips.

Use automated patent proofreading

Many issued patents have errors in the claims (even after certificates of correction). Your patents are valuable, and outside counsel is expensive. Issued patents should not have errors.

It is tedious work to remove errors from patents claims, but automated patent proofreading tools like Patent Bots make it much easier to do so. You can use Patent Bots proofreading to see in seconds whether or not your patent drafts have errors in them.

You can also require outside counsel to use automated patent proofreading tools and provide you with a proofreading report for each patent application and office action response.

Outside counsel billing rates are hundreds of dollars an hour. Demanding use of a tool that costs $34/month to obtain higher quality patents is an eminently reasonable request.  Automated proofreading also makes outside counsel more efficient so that they can spend more time adding substantive value.

Use patent examiner statistics

Knowing your patent examiner will allow you to get stronger patents and also get them faster. Patent examiner statistics allow your outside counsel to:
  • avoid unnecessary amendments to obtain broader patents,
  • make better decisions regarding if and when to appeal,
  • predict appeal outcomes, and
  • make better decisions regarding abandonment of applications, especially for applications in business method and other difficult art units.
Patent Bots provides some patent examiner statistics for free and paid statistics are inexpensive.  These statistics allow you and your outside counsel to make better strategic decisions during prosecution.

Impose guidelines for prosecution strategy

Keeping an eye on prosecution strategy will also help you get better outcomes. There are a few easy things you can do:
  • Require examiner interviews for almost every office action (unless you have an examiner like this one whose grant rate goes down with an interview).  Interviews allow examiners and attorneys to overcome misunderstandings in written arguments and reach agreements more quickly.
  • Don't allow extensions for office action responses and certainly require outside counsel to pay extension fees when there are extensions.
  • Review claim amendments to make sure they are worthwhile. Examiners will indicate that very narrow claims are allowable, and some outside counsel are too eager to accept such narrow claims.
  • Keep an eye on the number of RCEs being filed.  Too many RCEs may indicate limited novelty, and it may be better to abandon than to throw good money after bad.
By doing these things, you can greatly increase the quality of work done by your outside patent counsel and get better results for your company.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Office Action Rejection Data

At Patent Bots, we provide patent examiner statistics to help patent attorneys get better outcomes for their clients during prosecution. One part of our statistics is the Recent Dispositions tab where you can see a list of recent allowed and abandoned cases for your patent examiner.

I find it particularly helpful to have easy access to recent patents allowed by my examiner. If I am having trouble persuading an examiner to allow claims, I look at recently allowed patents by that examiner and review the successful arguments made there. This way, I can learn from other patent attorneys and hopefully get a better outcome for my client.

We've added a new feature to make this process even easier. Our Recent Dispositions tab now includes a list of office actions and the rejections made in each office action:

With our office action rejection details, you can quickly find the arguments you need. If your only rejection is 101, then skip the first patent above and go to the second one. Further, for a particular patent, some office actions may have 101 rejections and others may not and can go directly to the ones that do.

As a bonus, the View button on each row takes you directly to our PatentPlex page for the patent that includes the image file wrapper. When we show you the image file wrapper, we again show you the list of rejections for each office action:

As another bonus, we've made our image file wrapper retrieval much faster and more robust. It now works even when PAIR is not working.  It is More Reliable than PAIR!TM