In Gary's email to me, he also forwarded some interesting data and a link to a blog post which published the following information:
- As of October 2011, the USPTO had 700,000 applications under review and a backlog of over 1 million more; by comparison, other reports state that in 1998, the backlog was a little over 100,000; by 2002, it was 350,000; and by mid 2009 it was 770,000 
- The average time from the filing of a patent application to when the first office action is mailed from the USPTO is 26.9 months
- The average time from patent filing to final disposition (i.e., grant or denial of a patent): 33.9 months; to compare, reports state that in 1998 this process took about 18 months 
Now, Congress and the Obama administration recently passed legislation aimed at solving this issue (we've had some blog postings about this legislation [for example: click here]; we weren't that crazy about certain aspects of the legislation because it wasn't favorable to small businesses and individuals, in our opinion). According to the blog post Gary sent us, the USPTO is working on reducing the time from application receipt to first action to 10 months, and the time to the grant of a patent down to 20 months, both by 2015.
We think we should watch the USPTO closely over the next few years and see if the changes passed by our leaders actually help the situation. We certainly hope it does.
Invention Statistics Patent Office Backlog blog posting
 patentlyo.com blog posting