Here are some interesting facts from the FY 2006 USPTO annual report:
# of new applications: 443,652 (up from 409,532 in FY05)
# of pending applications: 1,077,042 (up from 885,002 in FY05)
# of provisional applications: 121,307 (up from 111,753 in FY05)
# of issued patents: 183,187 (up from 165,483 in FY05)
Average pendency: 31.1 months (up from 29.1 in FY05)
Although the USPTO is hiring patent examiners like crazy (1,218 in 2006) , it can’t possibly train them fast enough to keep up with new filings *and* maintain quality *and* shorten review times. The number of published applications is going to continue to surpass issued patents 1.5-2.0 to 1. There will probably be more than 295,000 published applications in calendar year 2006 and perhaps 325,000 in 2007.
The bottom line: more outsourcing and fast-track examination programs.