In his address to the Intellectual Property Owners Virtual Annual Meeting yesterday, USPTO Director Andrei Iancu said that, despite sharp declines in filings and renewals, COVID-19 seems to have spurred innovation in some areas.
“Small and micro entity patent filings are at a historic high, with more than 112,000 filed during the first 11 months of fiscal year 2020,” Iancu said.
In an August interview with IPWatchdog Founder and CEO Gene Quinn, Iancu discussed one of the COVID-19 relief programs the Office has instituted to support small inventors during the pandemic. A pilot that offers free prioritization of COVID-19 related patent applications has been working well, Iancu told Quinn, and is expressly geared to assisting smaller entities.
The USPTO’s latest effort to help spur innovation during the pandemic was announced last week in the form of a pilot program in which patent applicants of all sizes filing provisional applications that cover inventions related to COVID-19 may be able to defer payment for those application filings if inventors agree to allow the USPTO to disclose their technical subject matter on the agency’s website.
In his remarks to IPO, Iancu provided the following most current statistics on the patent side:
- Through the end of August 2020, serialized patent filings are 0.1% above fiscal year 2019 filings for the same time period. Before the pandemic, the Office expected an increase of 2.5% this year.
- RCE filings are currently 10.4% below fiscal year 2019 through the end of August.
- These declines are expected to continue into next year.
- Patent maintenance fee collections were 4.1% lower—or $19.5 million less—than projected.
As for trademarks:
- Through the end of August 2020, trademark filings are 3.2% above filings for the same period last year and slightly higher than expected.
- August 2020 was the “biggest filing month yet, with 76,400 classes. We should see more than 700,000 classes for the year.”
Trademark renewals have been lower than expected, and a decrease in collection of $12.3 million is projected.
- “As the mix of filers shifts more towards pro se, one-time filers, and foreign filers, we expect lower trademarks renewal rates in the future.”
In addition to highlighting recent initiatives such as the Fast-Track Appeals Pilot Program, the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP) and the National Council for Expanding Innovation, Iancu went on to tout the Office’s work to decrease uncertainty on Section 101 and to better balance post grant proceedings at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board by closing loopholes that allow for multiple repeat petitions and harmonizing claim construction standards.
“IPRs and PGRs were meant to be a cheaper, faster alternative to District Court litigation,” Iancu said, adding: “They were not meant to create more expensive, prolonged, and duplicative litigation. By reducing multiple bites at the apple, these changes have worked remarkably well and have brought much-needed balance to our post-grant proceedings. They have helped return the U.S. patent system to the top levels of worldwide rankings.”
Iancu’s full remarks are available here.