I recently charted the time from filing to first action by technology center and year, and was immediately intrigued by what I saw:
Specifically, I was intrigued by the drastic decrease in time to first action for technology center (TC) 2600 (and to a lesser extent, TC 2400 and TC 2800), while other TCs made little improvement (and even went backwards in some years).
First, as a sanity check, I compared the above chart to the PTOs pendency data for the past two years, and found the 2017 values to match very well. Since I calculated all years in exactly the same way from the same data, I am pretty sure the chart is accurate (if someone else has contradicting data, I would love to hear about it!).
Perhaps there was an outsized increase in allowances or abandonments in technology centers 2400, 2600, and 2800?
Maybe TCs 2400, 2600, and 2800 are being faster with first actions but then slower in later stages of prosecution?
Another dead end. TCs 2400 and 2600 also had biggest reductions in time to allowance.
Perhaps a bunch of examiners were also added to TCs 2400, 2600, and 2800?
Again, no. While all technology centers lost examiners over the years, TCs 2600 and 2800 actually lost the most!
The previous graph only captures distinct examiners in each technology center. Many examiners work in multiple technology centers. Perhaps fewer examiners were spending more time in TCs 2400, 2600, and 2800?
Doesn’t seem to be the case. Using total actions as a proxy for total examiners working, the next chart shows that TCs 2800, 3600, and 3700 have seen higher growth in total actions generated than TC 2600 (a disproportionate number of those in TC3600 being Alice rejections).
At this point I an running out of theories. Were simply fewer applications being filed in TCs 2400, 2600, and 2800?
This one may actually explain some of it — the number of new applications in TC 3600, and TC 3700 grew at about twice the rate as TC 2600 and TC 2800. But, then again, TC 1600, TC 1700, and TC 2100 grew at about the same rate (or less) than TC 2600 and TC 2800. Moreover, TC 2400 grew the most while achieving its significant reduction in time to first action.
Did technology centers 2400, 2600, and 2800 simply get more efficient in terms of number of actions per disposal?
This may also explain part of it. The number of actions per allowance in TCs 2400 and 2600 decreased each year from 2010 to 2015, and have stayed near 2015 levels for the past three years. Other technology centers have seen lesser efficiency gains and have also bounced around a bit.
Over the past five or so years, technology center 2600 (and, to a lesser extent, 2400 and 2600) has seen a drastic reduction in time to first action and time to allowance. It appears to be partly because of slower growth in new applications in those technology centers, and partly because those technology centers are simply reaching final disposition in fewer actions. This latter point, if true, is great news (assuming patent quality remains constant or improves), because reducing the number of actions per disposal seems to be the only sustainable way to drive down delays.
If anyone has any other theories or facts about how TCs 2400, 2600, and 2800 have achieved their success, I would love to hear them!