Orange County patents increases by 32% in 2010

While the OC TechInnovation™ blog individually highlights some of the recent U.S. patents coming out of Orange County, I thought it would be interesting to take a more macroscopic view and examine some statistics for Orange County patents in this past year. 

According to the USPTO database, there was a total of 2372 new U.S. patents assigned to Orange County companies in 2010, which is a drastic increase as compared to the previous three years, as shown in the following chart.

The total number of U.S. patents from 2007 to 2008 and from 2008 to 2009 increased by about 5% and 3%, respectively.  However, the increase from 2009 to 2010 was a whopping 32%.  About 10% of these U.S. patents in 2010 are design patents, which fits with the general trend of 10-12% during the past four years.

This increase correlates with the overall increase in the total number of U.S. patents being issued by the USPTO.  In 2010, the USPTO issued approximately 244,400 patents, which is an increase of about 27% from the 191,900 U.S. patents issued in 2009.  It’s uncertain as to the reason for this significant increase, but as described below, it may be due to an increase in the number of patent applications being processed by the USPTO.

Director David Kappos, appointed to head the USPTO by President Obama in 2009, has made it a priority to reduce the backlog of patent applications pending at the USPTO, to decrease the overall time that a patent application is pending, and to improve the transparency of the USPTO to the public.  As part of this effort, this past September, the USPTO introduced its “Patent Dashboard” that provides statistics on various metrics of the USPTO’s performance.  Looking to the “Dashboard” for the underlying reason for the increased number of issued patents:

  • Backlog has only been reduced slightly (about 719,000 applications in September 2009 as compared to about 709,000 in September 2010)
  • Total pendency actually increased slightly (about 42 months in 2010, about a 1.5-month increase as compared to 2009)
  • Allowance rate has increased somewhat  (from about 57.7% in 2009 to about 59.4% in 2010), but it is not enough to account for the 27% increase in total patents issued. 

The USPTO has not yet released the data regarding the number of patent applications filed in 2010, but I expect that it will be significantly higher than the 483,000 applications filed in 2009 to reconcile the relatively flat numbers of pending applications, pendency, and allowance rate with the 27% increase in total numbers of issued patents.  In other words, while the USPTO has processed many more applications to issuance (or abandonment) in 2010, the backlog has not decreased due to an increased number of patent applications being filed.  The increase in OC patents may be due to its share of patents resulting from the USPTO’s increased processing rate.

Back to Orange County, I also looked at the top OC companies in terms of U.S. patents in 2010.











By far, Broadcom is the leader in terms of issued U.S. patents coming out of Orange County for at least the last four years, eclipsing the next prolific company (either Allergan or Western Digital) in terms of patenting by a factor of 8 to 10 each year.  The eleven top companies (Broadcom, Allergan, Western Digital, AMO, BSH Home Appliance, Qlogic, Oakley, Edwards Lifesciences, Beckman Coulter, Mindspeed Technologies, and Masimo) account for about 53% of the patents issued to OC companies in 2010.  The remaining 47% is split among 437 other OC entities. 

Being a patent attorney, I was also interested in looking at which law firms are working with these OC companies to protect their technological innovations.

The top firms in terms of total number of patents are skewed by Broadcom’s 800+ patents in 2010.  For example, McAndrews, Held & Malloy of  Chicago, IL obtained 285 U.S. patents for OC companies in 2010, all but three of which were for Broadcom.  Similarly, Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox of Washington, DC obtained 234 U.S. patents for OC companies in 2010, all but one of which were for Broadcom. 

To get a sense of the top firms for Orange County as a whole, I looked at the numbers by excluding the patents of Broadcom and the other members of the “top-11” most prolific OC companies.  The above graph shows the total number of U.S. patents obtained by various law firms (excluding McAndrews Held and Sterne Kessler) in white, and the number of U.S. patents for OC entities excluding the “top-11” OC companies in blue. 

My firm, Knobbe Martens of Irvine, CA was the clear leader in obtaining patents for OC companies.  The total number of U.S. patents obtained by Knobbe Martens in 2010 was 201, only 31 of which were issued to the “top-11” OC companies.  These results confirm what I already knew about my firm; our success is not based on servicing only a select few large companies, but is from our efforts in helping a wide range of small to mid-size clients protect their technological innovations in a variety of technologies.

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