According to recently released statistics by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (attached), examiners assigned to utility, plant and reissue rose by 32% since 2008. However, the trademark examining attorneys and design patent examiner corps have stagnated at approximately 400 and 100 respectively.
However, utility, reissue, plant, and design patent application filings all rose by 14% from 2008 to 2012. The design patent examination corps only had only four more examiners in 2012 with 32,258 design applications filed than it did in 2008 with 28,217 design application filed.
In 2012, 533,308 utility, plant, and reissue applications were divided between 7,831 examiners while 32,258 design applications were divided between 104 design patent examiners. That means the average examiner workload for 2012 increased by 68.1 (new) utility, plant and reissue applications per examiner and 310.2 (new) design applications per examiner. While no well-informed practitioner believes utility patents and design patents require the same labor to examine it is interesting to see the disparity (or correction thereof) in resource allocation.