Figure 1. U.S. Patent (blue) and PGPub (red) Counts, Q4
2008 was a typical year for U.S. patents and published applications, but there were some surprises. The USPTO continued to churn out huge quantities of published applications (A docs), publishing slightly more than 312,000 applications this year, a 4.2 percent increase over 2007. On October 2 it published 8,955 applications, a record for a single week. In the fourth quarter, it published a record-breaking 84,780 applications, a 17 percent jump from the previous quarter and 15 percent more than the same quarter in 2007. Approximately 1.96 million plant and utilty patent applications have been published since 2001.
The number of issued patents (B docs) in Q4 rose to 46,556, a 13.9 percent increase from the previous quarter and a 2.5 percent rise from the same quarter last year. The total number of patents in 2008 dropped to 180,435, a 1.4 percent decrease from 2007.
Some milestones to watch for in 2009 will be the two millionth published application and patent no. 7,500,000, both of which will probably appear around the end of February. Plant patent no. 20,000 will probably issue in April and design patent no. 600,000 is expected this summer.
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.