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This answer claims that the average time to obtain a patent from the USPTO in 2015 was around 32 months. If a patent is pending for significantly longer than this period (say, 5 - 6 years from the filing date), then is this indication that the patent application, as written initially, was very far from being valid? In other words, is it likely the case that the patent, as initially written, requires a large amount of changes in order to be valid, and so there is a large amount of correspondence between the USPTO examiners and the inventors for changes, leading to the longer time? Especially if the organization that the patent was filed under has a large amount of financial resources and experience filing patents, since I presume that this would mean that it is unlikely that the reason for the longer time is some trivial legal technicality/issue, and more-so a fundamental issue with the patent claims themselves?

I would greatly appreciate it if people would please take the time to clarify this.

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There is no one reason. I do not see it as a measure of the quality of the patent application. If 32 months is average there will be cases that are faster and those that are longer. Some Technology Centers and art units (the groups that examiners are broken into by subject matter) have bigger backlogs than others.

The USPTO published pendency data by Technology Center. This came up quickly in a search but is for 2009. See that Semiconductors were 29.7 months while Networks was 47.7 months.

Tech Center 2800 - Semiconductor, Electrical, Optical Systems & Components total pendency average 29.7 months

Tech Center 2400 - Network, Multiplexing, Cable & Security total pendency average 47.7 months

You can look up specific applications in USPTO Public PAIR and see all of the back and forth between the applicant and the office to try to judge the reasons for yourself. Of course anything that goes to an appeal will take quite a while.

What changes during the prosecution of a patent application is not primarily the body of the appliation - no new matter can be added after filing but just the claims.

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  • Thanks, George. Using PAIR, I can see that there have been a lot of events over those 5-6 years. The ones that are particularly interesting to me are several "Non-Final Rejection", "Request for Extension of Time - Granted", and "Workflow - Request for RCE - Begin", and one "Final Rejection" and "Mail Final Rejection" around the 3-4 year mark. A quick search of these phrases seems to indicate that these are indeed likely due to the patent examiner requesting adjustments to the patent claims? What do you think these imply about the situation with the patent? – The Pointer May 20 at 21:23
  • @ThePointer I have 40 US patents. Every single one has had the claims amended before issuance. I gather a competent lawyer always tries for the broadest claim possible and nearly always has to narrow them. – Eric Shain May 20 at 23:03
  • @EricShain Given my comment above, would you say that this patent application is encountering more problems than usual? 5-6 years does seem like an extraordinarily long period of time, no? – The Pointer May 20 at 23:09
  • The second rejection you get is called a "final rejection". That means it is final until you pay more money and file an RCE. That gets you two more rejections. There is no limit to the number of RCEs. It could be a case of an unreasonable examiner, an unreasonable client a poor practitioner but most likely was just a more difficult set of claims to get allowed. – George White May 21 at 2:37
  • @GeorgeWhite ok, thanks for the clarification. – The Pointer May 21 at 2:54

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