Usually the patent application process is thought of as being conducted through written communications. You and your IP team prepare and submit the application and one of more than 8,000 USPTO examiners is assigned to your application. He or she performs the prior art search, then issues a notice of allowance or an office action, most commonly a non-final rejection. You respond to the office action with a corrective amendment, and the process continues.
This back-and-forth correspondence suffices for most applications making their way through the system. Sometimes, though, there’s no substitute for having a live conversation with patent examiners in order to work through an impasse that has not been resolved in the non-final rejection notices.
When looking at how the applications submitted to Art Unit 2624, Image Analysis, fared before and after examiner interviews, the statistics can suggest there is an appropriate time for an interview request.
Of the nearly 25,000 applications processed by the Image Analysis art unit since 2001, about 19,000 have been approved. About 27 percent of the examination processes have included at least one interview. On average, examiners filed 1.5 office actions before either they issued a patent or the applicant abandoned prosecution.
One particular examiner, who granted allowances for about 60 percent of the applications she processed, had historically responded positively to interviews, as concluded by the patent data analysis. In her particular case, requesting an interview was a statistically appropriate step to take after an applicant had received three office actions.
For other examiners, however, that may be much too long to wait.
Interviewing Sooner Rather Than Later
Another seemingly more lenient examiner processed 375 Image Analysis applications and granted patents for 305 of them, an allowance rate of more than 80 percent. We can see that he filed an average of 1.7 office actions between the receipt of a typical application and either the abandonment of the application or the issuance of a patent.
We also can see that he conducted interviews in connection with only 43, or just 11.5 percent, of those applications. For this examiner, the key figure is the average number of office actions he filed before issuing a patent without an interview: just 0.3.
This examiner, then, not only granted patents to most of the applications he processed, but he granted the great majority of those patents without conducting an interview and more than two-thirds of them without filing a single office action.
An applicant who received a single non-final rejection from this examiner could safely conclude that they were an outlier. For them, requesting an interview would seem to be strongly advisable. Indeed, of the 43 interviews this examiner conducted, 23 led directly to an allowance.
Those 23 applications had received an average of 2.2 office actions before the interview, so most of those applicants took longer than necessary — months or even years longer, according to the data — to realize what data analytics tools could have shown them: If you receive an office action, request an interview.