The Largest Patent Prosecution Firms in the US

Published On: 2021-10-05|4 min read|
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The United States is one of the most innovative countries in the world and a hot spot for foreign applicants seeking protection for their inventions. Following the trend, American representatives were among the leaders in the volumes of patent applications they prosecuted between 2016 and 2020.

According to IP Pilot’s data, 857 local IP law firms handled roughly 2,155,045 patent applications in the considered time frame. Overall, American representatives retained their historically strong positions in the number of prosecuted filings and underwent only a slight average decrease of about 1%. In this respect, the US agents were outperformed only by Chinese colleagues who dealt with 9,973,170 filings – the unprecedented volumes caused by the government’s initiatives to accelerate the innovation process by effectively using IP.

Top 50 US IP law firms prosecuted roughly 40% of the total filings within the considered time frame. At the same time, the upper 15 agents handled 20%, implying a somewhat high concentration of work in the American patent market (especially given the overall number of active representatives).

Among the most significant 20 US IP law firms, SUGHRUE MION, PLLC (10%), BIRCH, STEWART, KOLASCH & BIRCH, LLP (4%), BANNER & WITCOFF, LTD. (8%) underwent the highest increase in the volume of prosecuted patent filings in 2020. As for the average growth between 2016 and 2020, FISH & RICHARDSON (7%) and MORGAN, LEWIS & BOCKIUS LLP (7%) were on the surge.

The top 5 US IP law firms represented more than 6,000 patent applications per year. According to the average numbers since 2016 and up until 2020, FISH & RICHARDSON and OBLON, MCCLELLAND, MAIER & NEUSTADT, LLP were neck in neck and took the leading position, handling 7,842 and 7,237 filings yearly. The two law firms were followed by KNOBBE, MARTENS, OLSON & BEAR, LLP and CANTOR COLBURN LLP with 6,295 and 6,019 patent applications on average.

Roughly 60% of all the filings prosecuted by American representatives had domestic origins and 40% – foreign ones. This implies a relatively high focus of the representatives on the local clients, which is unsurprising given that the United States is one of the innovative nations in the world. Among the most significant IP law firms, FISH & RICHARDSON, CANTOR COLBURN LLP, FOLEY & LARDNER LLP, and KNOBBE, MARTENS, OLSON & BEAR, LLP somewhat stroke a balance between domestic and foreign filings in their portfolio.

OBLON, MCCLELLAND, MAIER & NEUSTADT, LLP, SUGHRUE MION, PLLC, BIRCH, STEWART, KOLASCH & BIRCH, LLP, and OLIFF PLC were to a certain extent more focused on patent applications coming from abroad. For those firms, the proportion of prosecuted foreign filings versus domestic ones was higher than 80%, indicating the rather inbound orientation of agents’ business strategy.

SCHWEGMAN, LUNDBERG & WOESSNER, P.A., PATTERSON + SHERIDAN were the IP law firms among the top 15, which primarily handled local filings, thus, adhering more to the outbound approach.

Between 2016 and 2020, the share of PCT-based filings (including PCTs and national or regional phase entries) was higher than 40% for most firms. American applicants were historically more focused on the domestic rather than the international market, and the relevant percentage was lower than 40% before. However, in recent years, the portion of PCT-based patent applications handled by the US representatives gradually increased, indicating the rising interest of locals in getting protection abroad.

Computer technology (501,871 patent applications), digital communication (325,319 patent applications), and medical technology (259,251 patent applications) were the technical fields with the highest numbers of filings prosecuted by the American IP law firms. To give a few examples, FISH & RICHARDSON, SCHWEGMAN, LUNDBERG & WOESSNER, P.A., KILPATRICK TOWNSEND & STOCKTON LLP, KNOBBE, MARTENS, OLSON & BEAR, LLP, and HOLLAND & HART LLP were among the prominent leaders in the these technical fields.

As for the international case exchange, Japan, China, Germany, Korea, and the UK were the primary American foreign partners in the considered time frame. The US sent most of the cases (174,789) to China, accounting for 22% of the total sent amount. At the same time, American representatives received high volumes from Japan (245,074 cases), which is 35% of the overall received filings.

All in all, the United States is one of the world’s innovation hubs and an attractive market for incoming patent applications. Unsurprisingly, American IP law firms were among the leaders in volumes of represented filings. A high proportion of the patent applications was prosecuted by the Top 50 IP law firms, indicating the relatively intense concentration of work at the hands of the most prominent agents. Given the overall innovativeness of the nation, the local representatives were slightly more focused on domestic applicants. The increasing share of PCT-based filings between 2016 and 2020 evidenced the rising importance of international protection among locals. Considering international case exchange, the leading three Asian innovators and the two most attractive markets within Europe were the key partners of the US representatives.

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