If Everyone’s Doing It, How Can It Be Innovative?

© 2014 Ebyabe, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0

© 2014 Ebyabe, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0

Dennis Crouch over at Patently-O reports that for Fiscal Year 2014 (which just ended), the USPTO granted a record number of utility patents, over 300,000. Dennis determines that this results in an allowance rate of about 70%.

Think about that – 70% of patent applications result in a patent. Doesn’t that seem at odds with the idea of a patent being for something new?

It seems to me that it’s simply impossible that 7 out of 10 applications are for inventions that no one has ever thought of before. Remember, a patent is only supposed to issue for an invention that’s new and wouldn’t be obvious to someone with ordinary skill in the same field.

It’s possible that the USPTO is like Lake Wobegon, where all the patent applications are above average.

But it’s more likely that, as I’ve written recently, most issued patents are invalid.


  • patentlyo

    Matt – The 70% number can be looked at a number of different ways. If you think about the fact that getting a patent regularly costs $20,000 in costs & fees (after all the inventing is done), its not surprising that folks would file applications on inventions with a fairly high chance of success.

    • Matt Levy


      I agree that there has to be some self-selection going on, but that only gets you so far. You and I both know that there are a lot of patents that should never have been issued. And considering how common independent invention is, I simply cannot believe that the allowance rate is anything but much, much too high.

      • patentlyo

        Yep – I absolutely agree that we continue to have way too many patents issued with claims that should be considered unpatentable.