2006 was a record-breaking year for patents and pre-grant publications. In the final quarter of 2006 the USPTO published 76,032 applications, an increase of 1.49 percent over the previous quarter and a new record high. The total for the calendar year was 294,674, an increase of just 1.75 percent over 2005 but the highest annual total since the USPTO began publishing pending applications in 2001. Approximately 1.3 million applications have been published to date. Despite a slow start, 2006 was also a banner year for patents. The total for the year was 196,613, a whopping increase of 24.58 percent over 2005. The previous highest total (187,147) was set in 2003. The increase was due to very high outputs in Q2 and Q3. There was some slippage in Q4 with the USPTO issuing 46,912 patents, a decrease of 6.64 percent from the previous quarter. With the pending application backfile now over 1 million, the USPTO is expanding its workforce in order to deal with the increasing workload. According to the USPTO's FY2006 annual report, the agency hired approximately 1,218 new patent examiners this year, bringing the total to 4,779. Current plans call for the USPTO to hire 1,200 examiners per year through 2011.2006
Series Code 12 Given the huge number of new applications in 2005 (410,000) and 2006 (443,000), it is likely that the USPTO will introduce series code 12 sometime in 2007. Series codes are two-digit numbers prefixed to application serial numbers. The USPTO assigns application serial numbers from 1-999,999. Series code 11 was introduced in December 2004.
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.