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How Long Does It Take to Get a Patent or a Trademark?

You Want it When?
People are often surprised how long it takes to obtain a patent or a trademark. Copyright registrations often issue in less than a year. Why then, do patents and trademarks take so much longer? The primary reason is that there is no requirement that the copyrighted material be unique. Therefore, the Copyright Office does not have to hire anyone to run a search to see if anything like it has already been registered. Patent and trademark applications however, do have to be unique.

Expert examination
As you might imagine, if there is already a patent or trademark on your exact invention or name, rejecting your application takes little effort. Not surprisingly, the vetting becomes much more complex when the existing registrations are close, but not exact. Making determinations of unregistrable similarity requires someone with an undergraduate degree in engineering or science in the case of patents, and a law degree in the case of trademarks. With 467,000 patent applications and 394,000 trademark applications being filed every year, there is somewhat more demand for these jobs than there are applicants to fulfill them. Right now, the United States Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO) has a backlog of over 1 million patent applications.

Patent pending
The USPTO has just released its annual Performance and Accountability Report. The report states that, on average, it takes an average of 31.9 months to obtain your patent (or a final rejection if your invention is not patentable), and 15.1 months to obtain a trademark registration (or a final rejection). These are, of course, averages. Patents in high-tech fields like software and communications take an average of 42.9 and 43.1 months respectively.

Speeding things up
The USPTO is intent on bringing those numbers down through the hiring of new examiners. With the USPTO managing 99.9% of its patent applications and 99% of its trademark applications electronically, perhaps you can convince them to work from home, as in Des Moines. Granted Washington D.C.’s has a much higher murder rate than Des Moines, but there is really no substitute for getting a deer in the headlights look from a real deer in your actual headlights.

Sorry, I am getting all excited about deer season next week. Perhaps this year I can bring one home without one of my Suburban’s quarter panels having to give up its life in the process.

Brett Trout

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