In the first three weeks of 2006 the USPTO published 15,973 applications and issued 7,315 patents. This is a drop of about 2,000 patents from the same period a year ago. The number of published applications in the first three weeks of 2005 was 15,830. Based on preliminary data from the USPTO web site.
I'm the librarian for research services in the Engineering and Science Library at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I've been working with patent information since 1991, including seven years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I believe that the dissemination of patent information is a public good and should be promoted, especially in the education of science and engineering students.