State of Innovation

Patents and Innovation Economics

Patent Examiner on Why Allowance Rate is so Low

This comment was posted by an Patent Examiner at Patent Prospector.  The Examiner explains why he thinks the allowance rates are so low and his explanation is consistent with my post, Patent Allowance Rate Falls to 42%.


I believe that the allowance rate is artificially low, although not due to churning…at least not exactly.

I am a current examiner. Under Dudas, the PTO pursued a policy of “increased patent quality”. The way that the PTO enforced this quality initiative was by reviewing office actions. Not reviewing all office actions, mind you, but only reviewing allowances.

Unfortunately, the PTO failed to see the problem that they were setting up. An examiner is then left with two choices:

1) An examiner could generate rejections without ever incurring quality review, or
2) An examiner could generate an allowance that would be scrutinized by quality review and possibly find themselves assessed a quality review error.

So, it has been safer for an examiner to always reject…at least until very recently. There has been some loosening of the allowance quality review rules in recent weeks as it appears that “reduced pendency” is the new key motivation under Obama.

July 6, 2009 - Posted by dbhalling | -How to, -Law, -Prosecution, Patents


  1. What is the methodology for calculating the allowance rate? Is it simply the number of allowances divided by the number of applications filed in the same period? or does a 42% allowance rate mean that there is a 58% abandonment rate during the same period?

    Comment by T. Canty | July 7, 2009 | Reply

    • T. Canty I looked to see if the Patent Office’s website,, had a definition for “allowance rate” without any luck. I think your second example is how the Patent Office calculates the allowance rate.

      Comment by dbhalling | July 7, 2009 | Reply

  2. [...] is probably the single biggest factor in the longer pendency times in the last decade.  As an examiner comment on a blog stated, it was easier under the Dudas directorship to reject applicantion than risk a [...]

    Pingback by Three Steps to Reduce Patent Pendency Times « State of Innovation | July 10, 2009 | Reply

  3. Whatever happened to the principle favoring “compact prosecution”? The idea was that the first Office Action would be a complete examination of all the claims. That was supposed to be the reason why the PTO could issue a Final Rejection on second Action and thereby require an applicant to file an RCE.

    For an example of how far away the PTO had departed from “compact prosecution” even two years ago, see

    Comment by Gerry Elman | July 10, 2009 | Reply

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