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COVID-Induced Abandonments?

After an extended COVID-induced hiatus for the BPD Blog, I decided to take a look at what’s been going on in the world of patents during this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year.

Since COVID hasn’t been around for a full 18-months yet, we are about 6 months too early to get a good picture of what has been happening with new filings. But one indicator we can look at to get a sense of the impact COVID has had on prosecution is the the rate at which published applications (i.e., generally speaking, applications with a priority date more than 18 months ago) are are being abandoned. This will be not be completely accurate because there has been more time for applications appearing in the 2019 data to publish, but I think it should be at least directionally accurate.

I haven’t been making my hay in the patent world for the past year, so admittedly, I had no idea what to expect. Anecdotal evidence seen on LinkedIn and in talking to some former colleagues suggested that patent prosecution more or less kept on trucking (after a brief pause when COVID first hit and no one had any idea what the hell was going to happen).

Turns out, this seems to be more or less accurate. As seen below, there was a massive drop in abandonments in April and May when the PTO (wisely, in terms of its own financial interests) extended deadlines. Since then, abandonments are being mailed at a slightly higher pace in 2020 than in 2019, but, on net, fewer applications were abandoned during the last 9 months of 2020 than the last 9 months of 2019.

This seems to make sense given the overall “rich get richer” impacts of COVID — industries being particularly hard hit by COVID are not ones that typically file a lot of patent applications. The traditional high-volume filers of high tech, pharma, etc. are booming during COVID and it would be expected that they at least maintain their prosecution budgets (although I would argue many should be massively increasing their IP budgets giving the massive rich in cheap capital that COVID has brought them).

One bright spot is that this seems to be one instance where micro entities were not disproportionately negatively affected — they actually had a bigger percentage decrease in abandonments during COVID (probably a lot of small pharma / bio-tech companies in there…?)

Abandonments 2019 vs. 2020

All Entity Sizes

Across all entity sizes, 6% fewer abandonments were mailed in the last 9 months of 2020 vs the last 9 months of 2019

Undiscounted Entities

Undiscounted entities had 5% fewer abandonments mailed in the last 9 months of 2020 vs the last 9 months of 2019

Small Entities

Small entities had 6% fewer abandonments mailed in the last 9 months of 2020 vs the last 9 months of 2019

Micro Entities

Micro entities had 11% fewer abandonments mailed in the last 9 months of 2020 vs the last 9 months of 2019

So there you go, not sure it was worth the 1 year wait since the last blog post, but hope you found it informative.

Also, just as a note to BigPatentData Examiner Statistics users, COVID had left those a bit stale as I dealt with home schooling and endless zoom meetings for other matters, but they are not updated as of this month and will be updated regularly (~monthly) going forward. Thanks for your patience!