Central Docket FAQs

Central Docket - Basics

To check current estimates on how long it will take for a first Office action to be issued on a specific patent application, enter the application serial number into the First Office Action Estimator tool. The estimates provided by the First Office Action Estimator are not guaranteed by the USPTO. A first Office action estimation will not be available for an application if a first Office action has already been issued for the application, or if the application has not yet been classified.

Alternatively, if you have an existing application and serial number, you can check estimates by logging into Patent Center. For more information, and to access, please visit the tool on USPTO.gov.

The Central Docket is a docket of mostly unexamined applications that are waiting to be docketed, or assigned, to a particular examiner. In some instances, applications may be temporarily assigned to the Central Docket once an election has been filed in response to a restriction requirement. Applications located on the Central Docket can be recognized by the following: 

  1. The application being assigned to examiner “Docket, Central” 
  2. The application being in status 30
  3. The application being in Group Art Unit, Office of Patent Application Processing (OPAP)

Yes. The phrase “Holding Docket” was initially used after the new routing scheme began to designate applications that were awaiting docketing to examiners. The Holding Docket was initially assigned to Technology Center 3600 for ease of tracking and consistency. However, we found that this was misleading to some applicants who expressed concern that their applications were being withheld from examiners, or that the underlying technology of the application was not one examined in Technology Center 3600. The change in name and location of the applications serves to alleviate these concerns and provide clarity. 

In fiscal year (FY) 2021, the USPTO moved to a new methodology for assigning applications to examiners. As a part of this change, the number of unexamined applications assigned at any one time to an examiner was reduced to ensure more of a first-in-first-out examination order. At the time of the transition, if an employee in an art unit had an extensive number of unexamined cases, some of the applications were removed from the employee’s docket and placed on the Central Docket until ready to be docketed. At the time of transition, many supervisors had unexamined applications assigned to themselves prior to docketing them to examiners in their units. These applications were removed from the supervisors and also placed on the Central Docket. Additionally, it is possible that some applications, post-election-after-restriction or with updated classification information, may be temporarily found in the Central Docket until they are assigned to a more appropriate examiner.

Applications in the Central Docket need to have a location so that they can be readily identified and treated consistently. Rather than having these applications assigned to a Technology Center (TC), where applications in status 30 were typically found prior to the new routing system, it was decided that they would remain in the Office of Patent Application Processing (OPAP, also known as “Preexam”) location. As with before the new routing system, applications having the status “30/Docketed New Case – Ready for Examination” are ready to be assigned to an examiner in turn.