The Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office (INPI) probably has the most delays in processing patent applications worldwide. Among the possible causes is the lack of patent examiners. Practitioners have always bought into this idea, but is this actually true? A closer look at the numbers indicates that the scenario is slightly different from the common belief.
We can start by using the five largest patent offices (the IP5) as a reference. An interesting metric is the comparison of the total number of examiners with the patent filings in a given year. By doing so, it is broadly possible to determine the number of applications each examiner must process per month (the ratio) in order to keep the backlog steady. The results are set out in Table 1.
While the EPO and USPTO have the lowest ratios, KIPO is leading with the highest examiner workload.
The low ratio at the USPTO is consistent with the country’s policy of regularly reducing the pendency time. However, critics are starting to question what the USPTO will do with the excess number of examiners once the backlog problem is solved.
It is possible to observe a similar trend in Europe, where the pendency time has been steadily decreasing through the years. It is important to remember that the EPO is a leading international searching authority (ISA) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
"The low ratio at the USPTO is consistent with the country’s policy of regularly reducing the pendency time."
The World Intellectual Property Organization’s data show the annual number of ISA applications from 2010 to 2013 (Table 2).
It is impossible to determine how this additional workload affects the files-to-examiner ratio. However, we should keep these numbers in mind when analysing the Brazilian position.
Otto Licks is a partner at Licks Attorneys. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
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