Patents applications are getting smaller

Apparently, the death of the jumbo patent application has not been overestimated. PatentlyO breaks down some numbers based upon the number of claims filed, and they confirm that as a percentage of filings, the number of US applications with more than twenty claims have continued to decrease. According to the bar graph, in 2005 something like 32% of US applications were filed with more than twenty claims, but in 2013 only about 23% of US applications were filed with more than twenty claims. PatentlyO attributes the reduction, logically enough, to the increase in fees for claims beyond twenty and the “active restriction practice” of the Patent Office. 

I would note two other factors that may be resulting in more sharply focused patent application filings. 

First, international prosecution will, in general, be more straightforward and economical for more focused applications than for larger applications, so to the degree international rights have grown in importance over the past decade or so, there is a further incentive to file fewer claims in the US.

Second, although the graph does not show a large change for 2013, the move to a first-to-file patent system in the US incentivizes more rapid patent application filings. While not a shocking observation, drafting and adequately supporting more claims can be expected to take longer than drafting and adequately supporting fewer claims.

While large applications with many claims will continue to have their uses and values, the value proposition will likely continue to favor smaller and more focused applications.