The current new case backlog at the Office is 735,000.
The Office has initiated an effort to reduce the new case backlog to 699,000 by the end of the fiscal year (5 bi-weeks from now).
Ambitious? You bet. But let's try to quantify how ambitious it actually is.
According to the 2009 statistics, in 5 bi-weeks, almost 90000 utility applications were filed. In order to reduce new application backlog by 36000 in 5 bi-weeks, a total of (approx.) 126,000 new cases will need to be moved.
Approx. 6100 patent examiners at the end of 2009 (probably less than that now). Divide. Examiners, on average, will need to perform an initial examination on approx. 14.5 applications over the last 5 bi-weeks, or about 3 per bi-week.
The roll-out of the effort has been surprisingly low-key. No big kick-off meeting, no campus-wide voicemail from the Director, just an internal web page with information on the effort, and big posters in the lobbies of the buildings to track progress of the various tech centers over the next 5 bi-weeks.
From the Special Message from Bob Stoll:
"Achieving the backlog reduction goal will leverage our ability to request Congressional funding to improve the efficiency of our patent processing operations and most importantly, will help us reduce our time to first Office action. This means that the USPTO can make a real national impact by expediting technological innovation that strengthens our country's economic leadership.
Additionally, achieving the backlog reduction goal will clearly demonstrate that we are doing all we can in fulfilling our continuing commitment to provide the best possible products and services to our valued stakeholders throughout the IP community."
Although there are no special provisions to allow examiners to spend more time working on new cases (to the exclusion of other cases), it is surely no coincidence that late last week
Director Kappos is certainly nothing if not ambitious. Let's see if the examining corps can make this happen.