The USPTO issued a record-breaking 54,749 patents from April-June and an impressive 50,253 patents in the Q3 from July-September, the first and second highest totals since early 2002. The increase is surprising given the sharp drop in patents in late 2005--only 33,637 patents were issued in Q4--and the agency's ongoing efforts to hire and train hundreds of new examiners, a process that is bound to negatively impact productivity. The USPTO hired 940 new examiners last year and will hire 1,000 more per year through 2012. If the pace continues in Q4, the USPTO could be on track to issue more than 200,000 patents in 2006, a 26 percent increase over 2005. Since 2001, the number of patents issued per year has declined in three out of four years. More than 400,000 new applications were filed in fiscal year 2005.
Published applications in 3Q totaled 74,902, breaking the previous record of 74,255 set in Q4 of 2004. However, the rate of growth has slowed considerably this year; it is likely that the number of published applications will fall between 290,000 and 293,000 in 2006, an increase of 0.4-1.4% over 2005.
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.