Searching for those record number of utility patents

January 6, 2012

Dennis Crouch recently noted that more U.S. utility patents were issued in 2011 than in any other year. We emulated his  research by using the following queries:

On Thomson Innovation: PY=([year]) NOT KI=(S?) NOT PN=(usre*);

On Westlaw: da([year]) and u.s. in US-UTIL

The Thomson Innovation search eliminates design patents by excluding Kind Codes, “S.”  It eliminates  Reissues by excluding publication numbers beginning with, “USRE.”   Westlaw has separate collections for Design and Utility patents (US-Design, US-Util).  Our results:


Year Patents Top US Class* Class Description
2011 225,714 709/224 Computer Network Monitoring
2010 220,911 709/224 Computer Network Monitoring
2009 168,573 709/223 Computer Network Managing
2008 159,209 709/224 Computer Network Monitoring
2007 158,578 435/2301 Vector, Per Se (e.g. Plasmid, Hybrid, Cosmid…
2006 175,172 435/2301 Vector, Per Se (e.g. Plasmid, Hybrid, Cosmid…
2005 145,125 435/2301 Vector, Per Se (e.g. Plasmid, Hybrid, Cosmid…
2004 166,048 435/252.3 Escherichia
2003 170,539 435/230.1 Vector, Per Se (e.g. Plasmid, Hybrid, Cosmid…
2002 168,969 435/320.1 Vector, Per Se (e.g. Plasmid, Hybrid, Cosmid…

* We used Thomson Innovation’s US Class filter to acquire these results.

Thomson Innovation displays a maximum of 60K patents.  The Patent Office hasn’t issued fewer than 60K patents in a single year for quite some time. In 1950, there were 42,851 granted utility patents (Top US class was 346/033R or “Combined with external recording operating means”).  In 1900, there were 28,657 granted utility patents. (Top U.S. class was 431/110 or “Supported above upwardly facing fuel discharger”).  For this post, we did not do the work of breaking the  search into several parts in order to generate fewer than 60K results.  So, analysis for Top US class might vary with a more nuanced search.