The short answer is because the United States government ends its fiscal year at the end of September. The Patent Office follows this lead.
Each item the Patent Office (USPTO) sends has a mail date. The mail date is the date printed on the Office Action. Office Actions have traditionally been sent in the US mail. Alternate email delivery is available. In either case, the mail date starts the time period to respond.
The mail date starts the time period for the applicant to respond. For a non-final Office Action (discussed here), the time period to respond is 90 days from the mail date of the Office Action. Extensions are available for a fee.
Each of the Examiners at the Patent Office has an annual quota, a quarterly quota, and a twice monthly quota (referred to as the bye-week). Since the Patent Office follows the general government fiscal year, the Examiners need to fulfill their complete quota for the year by the end of September. So if a Patent Examiner is behind on his annual quota, he may chose to send out additional office actions to make up for the shortfall.
In general, an Examiner gets a “count” for mailing a first action, and another count for finally resolving an application. A count in a Patent Examiner's quota is different than a count in an Interference proceeding. The final resolution could be the mailing of a notice of allowance (discussed here), or the mailing of a final office action.
Another way Examiners can make up for a shortfall in their quota is to allow more cases at the end of the fiscal year. Since we are specialists in Patent Law, and registered to practice before the USPTO, our office recognizes these anomalies. We are particularly sensitive to quickly returning an Examiner’s call toward the end of the year.
Another anomaly of the count system is that if an Examiner has too many counts during a particular quarter or year, he may delay sending a notice of allowance, or an action, until the beginning of the next quarter. The extra counts sometimes help the Examiners earn a bonus, but sometimes, no additional bonus is possible so they basically “sandbag”.
In addition to the yearly quota, the quarterly quota also seems to generate more office actions. Those additional actions are nowhere near the volume that typically occurs at the end of September. As registered Patent Attorneys in the Metro Detroit Area and the Bay Area, we can ensure you have the best representations before the USPTO.
If you would like us to analyze your particular situation, call us to set up an appointment to discuss starting an engagement. Please do not send confidential information prior to negotiating an engagement.